Behind The Green Door
Me: Sabaadii mai? (How are you?)
Massage girl: Mai sabaai. (not well)
I just came back from my second trip to Thailand in six months, and one of the things I enjoyed the most were the traditional Thai massages I had in Bangkok. In a span of two weeks, I had a total of six massages: two at the very popular Wat Po temple, one at a massage place in Sukhumvit / 6th off the Asoke station; and three other at a massage fishbowl parlour place in Ratchada / Hwei Kwan MRT station.
Back in October of 2005 I felt so compelled by a two hour massage session at a massage parlour in Ratchada that I kept looking forward to my upcoming trip just for that. It was the best massage I had ever had that I was basically floating in air for the next several months, and the massage actually 'fixed' a neck cramp I had had for the past three years. So, to me a Thai body massage is like medicine.
Anyway, here is my comparison of some of the various Thai traditional massage places that you may find in Bangkok, and the subtle differences that you might experience.
First of all, the Wat Po massage place is 300 baht for a one hour body massage. There are two buildings inside the temple grounds, and being non-Thai you have to pay 40 baht just to get inside the grounds. You may be able to get away from paying the 40
baht if you tell them you did not come to see the temple, but only to get a massage. The Wat Po massage center is located in the back of the temple grounds, and consists of two rectangular, one-storey buildings with about forty beds in each building.
There are no doors or curtains between the massage beds, so you will see other folks being massaged as well right next to you. The masseuses and masseurs wear bright yellow shirts and all is very straightforward and assembly line style. The advantage
of Wat Po is that you know what you are going to get (a reliable Thai massage), and it is in a very relaxing environment due to the fact that there is plenty of daylight filtered in the buildings since it is open air, with windows open, and fans
spinning on the ceiling to cool you off the sweltering Bangkok heat. The disadvantage is that you do not get to select the person that will get to massage you. Instead they will be assigned to you, and this means you may get stuck with either
a guy massaging you; or a not so attractive masseuse. Most of the time it turns out to be a so-so looking masseuse. Another disadvantage is that it is very touristy so you will see dozens of Western and Japanese tourists, and middle aged Asian
folks getting massaged to deal with their arthritis. Also, it is out of the way and it is not that easily accessible. Instead you have to take the skytrain, then get off at the Saphan Taksin station and take the ferry. <You could just take a taxi direct to Wat Po from wherever – Stick> Nonetheless, it is still worth the trip, and I would rate this place as a seven out of ten for being good value and being hassle free and predictable. Final cost, is about 440 per hour since a sixty baht tip suffices
plus the additional forty baht for the ferry round trip.
The second place to get a Thai massage is in one of the hundreds of small shop massage parlours all over Bangkok with the masseuses sitting outside the parlour trying to lure the customers in. In my experience these are very mediocre places to get a massage, because the two times I have gotten a massage, the touch was not that great; and the technique very general. They do the job, but it is just not up to Wat Po standards; and thus I would rate it as 4 out of 10. Cost is about 250 baht per hour, with fifty to sixty baht for tip. <If you hunt around, you can get them from as little as 80 baht an hour outside of Bangkok and 100 baht an hour in Bangkok – Stick> The masseuses are generally country girls from the provinces, and are just not experienced enough in this skill. One advantage is that you can insist in pointing to the girl you want as masseuse. The other advantage of course is location. They may be off popular hangouts like soi 33 off Sukhumvit so you do not have to travel far like Wat Po.
My favorite place surprisingly is a fishbowl Thai traditional massage place off Ratchada. It is in the adult entertainment area, next to Nataree. So, wait a minute you say, you want me to take my wife and kids to an area that is famous for its whorehouses? Well, if you've got family with you, I'd agree that this may not be the best place since actually this fish bowl massage parlour is targeted at Asian male clients. This particular fishbowl massage parlour place which is located off the Hwei Kwang MRT-Emerald Hotel exit, has no English signs, but the only way to identify it is by the two green Heineken beer signs posted in the entrance doors. The Thai name for this parlour comes up as being pronounced as 'Ratchadaweet….' Anyway, the interesting part of this massage parlour is that first of all it is a fishbowl place which means that there is a glass window separating the girls who are sitting down lined up with each wearing a pin with a number. This is identical to what you would see at a whorehouse like Poseidon, Nataree or Emmanuelle. However, what keeps the client guessing is that the girls are not dressed up in skimpy dresses or mini skirts; instead they are required to wear conservative clothes like blue jeans or pants. Also, the girls range from pretty (young, mid 20's, white skin) to unattractive (older, chunky, etc). So, what to make of this place? Well this place turns out to be both a place to get a good Thai massage, and extras if you so desire. What I like about this place is that the price is only 300 baht for a two hour massage. This is really a great advantage; secondly the massage you get is both therapeutic ala Wat Po; but also semi erotic. The session includes some techniques which are designed to get a man a hard on without actually making contact with one's erotic areas. For example, it includes a focus on putting their forearm near the sides of one's inner thighs and this pretty much guarantees a hard on. Secondly, it includes a massage of ones buttocks where the masseuse uses her pubic area. All I can say is this feels really good and every man in this world should experience it. Aside from being an erotic massage, the beauty is that you do not have to get extras if you do not desire, and you can walk out with a 300 baht massage plus a 100-200 baht tip feeling relaxed. Most of the time, of course, the masseuses will be disappointed if you do not ask for extras since they make their money off that. In the middle of the massage, when I asked one of them, 'sabaaidi mai' (How are you?); if they say mai sabaai (not well) that may mean that she is getting impatient and wants you to ask for extras. I found the real cost of those extras as one of them was very explicit in it especially since I speak some passable Thai. Hand jobs are five hundred; 'smoking' or oral is 1,000 and full service ('make love') is 2,000 baht. Price is negotiable of course, especially is she likes you. This often includes the 300 baht that is paid at the desk at the end.
My three experiences varied. The first one was a very straight forward prostitute since she spent most of her time fondling me rather than massaging me or doing the traditional Thai massage stretches. It was ok, since she had good, soft skin, spoke good English, and knew how to kid around like any savvy bar girl from Nana or the Beergarden. However, it kept me a little unfulfilled because I also wanted a good Thai massage, and just getting laid does not guarantee you will be relaxed. My second experience turned out to be the best of both worlds. It was a Chiang Rai girl in her low 30's and she did a 1 1/2 hour Thai massage that was superb in touch, and technique. Wat Po masseuses pale in comparison
to her in skills. The final part where the masseuse does left and right side stretches of your back was superb that it bettered any stretch from my US chiropractor. The beauty is that after I was done with the therapeutic massage, we agreed on the extras, and she was awesome in that aspect too. She was sensual, and knew a lot of how to use touch as a means to 'make love.' If you do not particularly want to get laid, you could choose to just cuddle, hug / kiss for an additional three hundred baht which is a great way to be with another girl while still being faithful to your loved one. The third girl I had at this place turned out to be a dead fish who had low skills in both Thai massage, and did not interest me in the extras either although she sure tried to get me into them. The moral of the story, is once you find a good masseuse, it's best to stick with her; and well, some of best Thai traditional massage you will find in unexpected places.
A good report.