One of the must-have experiences in Thailand is to get a Thai massage. So what exactly is a traditional Thai massage? A Thai massage is a little bit different from your typical sports, deep tissue, or Swedish massages that use oil. Thai massage does not use any oils and you are fully clothed while receiving the massage. The therapist will push and apply pressure along the meridian lines of your body as well as stretch you during the massage. Thai massage is a 2,500-year-old practice with origins in ancient Ayurvedic principles.
Licensed massage therapists must complete 800 hours of training and register with the Public Health Ministry’s Department of Health Service Support in Thailand.
What to Expect from Your First Thai Massage in Thailand
What should you expect from your Thai massage? Because traditional full body Thai massage is quite different from western style massages I’ve given a step by step of what to expect. Each time I go to Thailand I generally get a massage every 2 to 3 days! So as a consumer of massage I’m pretty well versed.
Traditionally Thai massages last 2 hours but they have 1-hour sessions too, which is what I usually opt for. If you have never had a Thai massage, you will need to expect a ton of intense pressure. I love a deep tissue massage and lots of pressure, but the pressure of a Thai massage is even too much for me sometimes and I have to tell the therapist to ease up.
Your Thai massage will begin by changing into a loose shirt and fisherman pants that tie with a string. Next, you will be lead to a mat on the floor where you will receive your massage. I’ve been to spas where they work on massage tables with mats on them as well.
You start your Thai massage on your back and the therapist will work on your feet and legs first. For me, this is usually the most painful part! If you are expecting a gentle Swedish massage, then you will be sorely mistaken. The therapist will utilize their body weight to push elbows, knuckles and sometimes even feet into your pressure points. She will also give you some mega stretching on your legs by pulling and twisting.
Once the therapist finishes your legs and feet, she will have you turn over so you are face down with your face to one side. This is when she will work on your back and usually my favorite part of the massage because I love lots of deep pressure on my back. I’ve never met anyone with stronger fingers than a masseuse in Thailand! But again she will not only be using her fingers, so don’t be surprised if you find your therapist stepping on you!
She will also pull your arms back for the ultimate backstretch!
Next, she’s going to have you lay on a pillow on her lap to work on your neck and head.
In the last part you will sit up and the therapist usually finishes up by stretching your upper back and giving your whole back a crack with some side twists. I usually have a really hard time cracking my back, but it’s as if the whole massage has to lead to this point, and my back cracks like a nut! The therapist will finish up with some tipotment and you are all done.
A Thai massage is pretty systematic and you will not find too much variation. The sequence I just described is what you can expect from almost any massage parlor in Thailand. There are some places that vary the sequence but they will still cover all the same steps.
Why Get a Thai Massage
I’m going to be completely honest that Thai massages HURT! And I usually like a super deep massage. Even when I tell the therapist I want less pressure, the pressure is still pretty intense. BUT OMG do you feel amazing after!! With a typical massage in the USA I never feel like they have worked out the knots. I think this is because there’s no stretching involved. The stretching combined with the deep acupressure of a Thai massage works out all the knots like no other massage I have ever had. This is why I keep going back for more!
You will feel completely re-energized after getting a Thai massage and have so much more flexibility and sleep better! I usually love getting a Thai massage right after I arrive in Bangkok to work out all the kinks in my back and neck from the 25-hour flight from Washington DC.
Best Places to Get a Thai Massage in Bangkok
So we go to Bangkok every year and there’s basically a massage parlor around every corner with varying prices. Typically for a 1 hour Thai massage prices will range from 250 to 400 Baht depending on where you are in Bangkok.
I usually get massages around the Sukhumvit area and pay around 350 to 400 Baht.
The Silk Spa Bangkok
Silk Spa is possibly my favorite place to get Thai massages in Bangkok. They are on the higher end price-wise at 400 baht for 1 hour, but it’s well worth it! The environment is more like a spa with soft music and that lovely spa smell.
They welcome you with a nice foot wash and cold tea and towel then lead you over to one of the mats separated by curtains for your massage. Your service finishes with a nice cup of hot tea and an equally hot towel. I’ve also gotten foot massages here and it’s amazing too!
They do offer other spa services such as facials, body scrubs, and oil massages, but I’ve only had their Thai massage and foot massage. Both are excellent!
Their website: http://www.thesilkspa.com/
Hot Stone Spa
Another excellent little spa in Bangkok with prices about the same as Silk Spa. The Thai massage here is a bit different here. At Hot Stone Spa they use massage tables with mats that have the little hole for your head. Also, I found the Thai massage sequence a bit different here as well but all they covered all the basis of a traditional Thai massage just not in the same sequence.
They also offer spa services such as oil massage, body scrubs etc.
Health Land Bangkok
Health Land is a huge chain spa with several locations in Bangkok. One of my friends that live in Bangkok actually recommended it when I had asked about it. Their facilities are truely a spa with a beautiful lobby and many spa services. Health Land only offers the 2 hour Thai massage and they typically require a reservation.
Health Land is the only spa I’ve been to in Bangkok that requires a reservation. I think because this is where Chinese tour groups usually go to get their Thai massages. Honestly, this is probably the only facility that could accommodate a group of 20+ people at one time.
I’ve only been to Health Land once, and though the massage was great it wasn’t any better than Silk. And I really don’t like making appointments so I haven’t been back since.
More info here: https://www.healthlandspa.com/en/spa-&-massage/Treatments
Little Tree Thai Massage
Little Tree Thai Massage is a bit off the beaten bath in Bangkok. It’s actually on the outskirts of the city limit, but if you happen to be out that way their prices can’t be beat. For 250 baht you can get a 1-hour Thai massage. I’ll have to say though their therapists use even MORE pressure than any of the massage places mentioned above! If you like a hard massage then this is the place to go.
How to Find a Good Thai Massage Place in Thailand
What if you can’t make it to any of the massage places I recommended above in Bangkok? Well, you will find that thai massage places (especially food massages) are a dime a dozen in Thailand! It’s pretty easy to find one but how to do you know if the massage place is any good?
I’m in several travel groups on Facebook and I’ve read horror stories about therapists taking pictures, talking loudly, and plain gawking at customers during their foot massage. I personally have never experienced any of this while getting a massage, but that’s because I know how to pick massage palors in Thailand, so here’s a few tips on how to have a good Thai massage.
The first thing I look for in a spa or massage parlor in Thailand is how the therapists are dressed. I prefer spas in Thailand where the therapists are all wearing nice uniforms, especially the traditional thai outfit type uniforms. This shows that the spa or massage parlor has invested more money into their employees and it’s more likely the therapists are better trained in customer service. Meaning they are not going to take pictures of you or talk loudly during your Thai massage or foot massage.
Find a massage parlor that’s not on the main drag. This tip can be hit or miss but I find the massage places on main streets to be more geared toward tourists and their actual massages are subpar. If you combine this tip with the above tip you should be able to get a good massage experience.
My last tip is on how to avoid “special massages.” It’s not secret that many tourist go to Thailand looking for a happy ending massage. And my first trip there, I was totally worried I would accidentally walk into one not knowing! It’s actually quite easy to distinguish. If the massage parlor or spa has all it’s windows covered then it’s not a true massage place so keep on walking!
Other Massages in Thailand Besides Thai Massage
You will find that spas and massage shops in Thailand offer more than just the Traditional Thai massage. Other popular services include foot massages, oil massages, back massages, and even body scrubs. After a long day of walking and sight seeing nothing beats a foot massage in Thailand. A food massage in Thailand also includes legs, arms, shoulders and back. This is a super relaxing way to end the day if a full body Thai massage is not for you. If find that the pressure masseuses use for a foot massage far less than the full body thai massage.
Oil massages in Thailand are very similar to their western counterparts, except the therapist will usually included some Thai massage techniques and utilize stronger pressure. I’ve gotten an oil massage once at Hot Stone Spa, and though I enjoyed it I still prefer Thai massages.
Thai Massage Prices
How much does a Thai massage cost in Thailand? Prices vary depending on the spa and where you are in Thailand. I’ve found in Bangkok prices range from 250 to 500 Baht, which is about $7 to $15 USA for a 1 hour massage. Prices for massage in Thailand are generally not negotiable and spas will have prices clearly printed on their window or in a menu of their services, so you won’t have to worry about being scammed on prices. High end hotels usually offer Thai massage onsite in their spa, but expect to pay more in the $100 range for a Thai massage.