Getting to Know the Pain and Pleasure of A Traditional Thai Massage

Bangkok, Thailand

We really didn’t know what to expect when we decided to come to Thailand, that was why a lot of the things about Thailand came as such a nice surprise.

One of these nice surprises was discovering traditional Thai massage. We got addicted to this (and for $7/hr, it’s hard not to) and got one at least every other day (what a tough life traveling can be).

Places offering Thai massage are everywhere, and some sidewalks have been converted into an impromptu spa simply by placing some reclining chairs.

Sidewalk Thai foot massage in Chiang Mai
Sidewalk Thai foot massage in Chiang Mai

I have always found that even the deep tissue massage one gets here in the States is never – and not trying to sound too masochistic here – painful enough. Some of you will know what I mean, no?

waiting for traditional Thai massage
Waiting for my Thai massage

Thankfully, I never had that problem with traditional Thai massages. This is the massage for those who crave that invigorating feeling, that ‘Oh, it hurts so good’ sensation.

My first time getting a Thai massage came as a mild shock. It was a lot different than what I was used to.

First, they ask you to change into a pajama/robe thingy and proceed to wash your feet.

Second, the masseuse use not only her hands, but her arms, elbows, knees and feet – that’s right, feet – to apply the pressures.

Traditional Thai massage method

Third, some of the areas they work on are just simply more intimate than your regular Western massage. Your butt, inner thighs, outer thighs, and your groin area are all fair game. And not only that, they get pretty close to you – physically. As in, they get all over your body while pulling, stretching, and bending limbs.

And fourth – I had the skinniest Thai women with an amazing vice-like grip that made me go ‘Oh my holy mother gaaawd’. I mean, the one masseuse I liked to go to in the states was this burly Mexican guy (who has sadly moved to Texas) and whom compared to these Thai ladies, had a grip as soft and gentle as a fluffy kitten. How did they get so strong?

And if the vice like grip is not enough, they stand on you. I found out about this as I was laying face down and noticed an out-of-this-world strong pressure on my pelvis. I was like, “What the heck?” – craning my neck I noticed the shadow cast on the wall.

“Eeeek, she’s standing on my back!!”

Thai massage in Bangkok

Which, was awesome. If you like hard massages.

Thai massage is for you if you:

– find regular deep tissue massage is not deep enough
– are looking for an invigorating more than a relaxing massage
– are not particularly ticklish or shy

Thai massage? One more reason why we love traveling in Thailand so much.

Where to find a good Thai massage place in Bangkok and Chiang Mai

Unfortunately, not all Thai massage places are created equal. If you ever had to endure a bad massage (where 1 hour feels like an eternity), you know it’s important to find a place that works for you.

For a Thai massage place in Bangkok, we love Boonsita in Soi 1, Sukhumvit (the best Thai massage yet!), and in Chiang Mai, we like Lila Thai Massage (3 locations in Chiang Mai) that employs rehabilitated women prisoners. Some hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai also offer good Thai massage but these will be more expensive.

Would you consider getting a Thai massage?

Valuable Resources

  • Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, for those who love anything weird and offbeat.
  • Resource Toolbox: How I find cheap flights, accommodations, and other travel hacks.

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17 Replies to “Getting to Know the Pain and Pleasure of A Traditional Thai Massage”

  1. Okay, so I'm sitting here reading this in bed with a heating pad and craving a good massage and now? Well, now I must have a Thai massage. Deep tissue is not deep enough. My boyfriend actually tells me he won't do it harder because he feels like he's hurting me. I told him I have to go to Thailand if only for the massages!

  2. I tried so hard to love Thai massage – in 7 days in Chiang Mai I had 3 massages – one at a temple massage school, one at a standard spa in town, and one at an upscale spa – I just couldn't get over their focus on the legs! My shins were bruised and sore after each massage. Can you ask them to not touch the legs? I was too timid to do that because I wanted the "authentic" experience.

  3. Oh I love me a Thai massage! Last time, my masseuse asked me what kind of pressure I wanted and I said HARD, which was all fine and dandy until she made it to my head. I had bruises behind my ears from her thumbs!

  4. I miss Thai massage, and the foot massages (I think the foot massages I had in Laos were better than those in Thailand though). Your piece brings back good memories!

  5. I like the oily one, and you go naked in that one. THe finishing move, when we are in sitting position, hands on head, and they swing our body far back left then far back right, is heavenly!!!
    Arghhh, I miss that!

  6. I'm so ticklish I get squirmy just thinking about this. Definitely not something I'd go for.

  7. oOoo.. we're headed that way. Less than a week to be exact and Gerard can't wait to get Thai massages! I'm not sure I want a woman on my back just yet. Lol. Last time I was in BKK, I came out with more aches than initially started. Haha. I'm looking forward to the foot massages though. 😉

  8. We were in Phuket in December and had one. That was plenty! A Thai massage and driving a scooter in Phuket both made me feel that I might break a bone at any moment, but the scooter at least got me to a new destination. 🙂

  9. You are such a masochist!! =P As much as I hate to admit this, I'm sort of missing the massages in Thailand — we got a massage in Cambodia last week and there was no pressure at all! I can see the benefit of a little pain…

  10. haha! This is great! It seems well worth it! My back is always out of whack as an archaeologist…digging really does a number on the body, normally on digs we take turns stepping on each others backs, it'd probably feel a lot better from someone who knows what they're doing rather than my trench mates who don't! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  11. I would definitely get a Thai massage. I had a bunch of foot massages when I went to Goa, India and they cost a couple of dollars each time. It sounds like Thailand has similar bargains…awesome!

  12. I had a traditional foot massage in Phuket, it was so good I fell asleep and begged Kieran to let me go back again! I got Kieran into the fish spas too!

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