If you’ve been considering a Thai massage whilst in Bangkok, expecting a nice relaxing experience, you may want to read this. Thai massage can be either torture or pleasure, or both simultaneously. I have been for Thai massage before, so when I arrived for my appointment at the start of the week, I wasn’t too surprised as I knew what to expect. But if you’ve never been for one, let me describe my experience with you.
You’re greeting a lovely, smiling little Thai lady. (Never seen any men give massages. Looks like it is ladies only). But don’t be fooled, dynamite comes in small packages.
You get taken into a room divided into small cubicles. A curtain separates each cubicle, and there is a firm mattress on the floor, on top of which lies a loose set of clothes you need to change into: loose shirt and loose 3/4 trousers with drawstring top.
Once undressed, your smiley Thai lady returns, dons a mask (to avoid germ transfer), dims the light and asks you to turn onto you stomach. She slowly washes your feet and you start to chill out. You’re filled with relaxed anticipation, but nothing prepares you for the moment she starts crawling up your legs on all fours. Think of the feeling when you’re lying on a floor, and a toddler crawls over you, now imagine the toddler weighing 50kgs. And with every move, her knees are pushing down into pressure points you didn’t know you had in your legs. You’d think she’d fall off! But she’s suckered onto you like a gecko climbing a wall.
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The shock of what you might have let yourself in for hits you around the same time she starts to knead your back. Not in the way you’d expect from traditional massage, but more like a method used by artisan bakers working their dough: kneading, flicking, pushing. If you’ve got a mental picture of what’s happening here, and you’re thinking all this kneading is done by hand, you’d be mistaken. Think forearms, elbows, palms of hands and knees! This dough now needs to be stretched. More knees, palms and forearms as each muscle is stretched. You can feel the muscles elongating.
You’re almost enjoying it when she moves your arms around, gets you into a vice grip and pulls you backwards. This is the yoga cobra pose, but you didn’t get yourself into it. She pulls you backwards a little further and you think you’ll snap in half. Just before it becomes unbearable, she releases you. Relief! But not for long. The vice grip changes, as she wraps her one leg around you and pulls you towards the side. You feel you’re going to snap in half. “Pain?”, she asks? And “Pain!!”, you almost hiss, but realise there is barely enough air in your lungs to make any sound at all. She almost shows sympathy, whilst rubbing the muscles down for you. When she repeats it the other side, at least you know what you’re in for.
“Turn over”, she requests, as you turn onto your back. You realise you’re probably half way through the hour-long massage. You can of course elect 90/120 minutes, and they charged you for the extra time, pro-rata, but I don’t know whether I could survive much more than 60 minutes at a time!
Time for some extra stretching. Before I continue, it is probably fair to mention that, if you suffer from any body conservatism (is that even a word?), this next bit will be a challenge. See the procedure as more ‘medical’ rather than ‘pleasure’. Perhaps if you’ve been for a bikini wax (or back-sack-and-crack for the boys!), you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, let me explain.
Smiley Thai lady sits herself down between your legs, and positions her one foot almost into your groin. She pulls back hard on your leg, whilst pushing her foot into you. Now, for anyone who has ever shared a bed with a 4-year old, will know that you’re kicked to pieces in sleep – their legs get your everywhere! Well, Thai lady’s legs too. She finds those pressure points again from a different angle, and pushes back – almost kicking you.
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Shortly after she gets you to sit up, cross legged. Finally a bit of back massage. She finds some knots and works them. Ahhhh. As you’re lured into a false sense of relaxation, she grabs your muscles between neck and shoulder, and pinches … hard! She pinches, flicks, twists. You just start to think that it was painful, and she is doing the lovely massage again. But that is not to last.
She takes in the position behind you, as if you’re riding pillion on a bike. Next thing, both her legs are stretched over yours. She’s got your arms behind your head, before pulling you upwards and backwards. She pulls you even further, until you’re lying on top of her!
“Pain?”, she asks.
“Nope, OK”. All you’re thinking thought is: jeepers creepers that’s intimate! But within 2 seconds the positions change again, and you’re ready for your wind down.
All throughout the session, you’re alternating between pleasure, pain, enjoyment, torture, relaxation, agony. And that is when you ask yourself, should you be paying someone 380 Bhat an hour (£9 / $11 / R150) to put yourself through this unusual Thai Massage experience? Well, herein lies the answer: I have been for 2 massages thus far, and I am hoping to squeeze in another 3 sessions before we fly out next Saturday night. When I come out, I feel good – very good. It’s not called lazy man’s yoga for nothing.
Travelling is all about experiences. Thai people have massage parlours in every neighbourhood. They very much see it as part of a healthy life, and I can see why they do it. It’s a pity that massage, especially Thai massage, is so unaffordable in the UK, and can only be done as a treat!
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