The day I get sick of massage is the day I die. Atcherly, now 66 years old and I’d never heard of massage till 6 years ago, 2005 that is. Not a true statement exactly but in the sense of ever having had one, not far from the truth. 2005 was my first time in LOS, just 3 sleeps as a stop-over on the way back to Aus from the UK. It was then that I had a life changing experience – the traditional Thai massage – pan boraan (scheme ancient). As a bloke who likes to keep fit with lots of bike riding, that first massage was a mind expanding experience.
A number of writers lately have talked about their love of massage (including Caveman, some of whose views I have major issues with, particularly his intolerance of the ‘effeminate’ side of masculinity, but I’m his best buddy when it comes to massage) and I’d like to add my 2 satang worth to the ‘communal sum of knowledge’ in this area.
Background: after that first massage (which was at the Manhora Hotel where the practitioner was a slip of a girl who could somehow wreak havoc with my body) a year later I happened to be travelling (2006) to the UK for a 6 month visit and of course availed myself of a few more massages in BKK on the way. While in the UK my wife suggested I learn how to do it ‘cos she wanted some action as well, so I enrolled in courses at Wat Po and in a 3 week stopover on the way back did Thai massage and Foot massage. I got lovely certificates to prove it. 2007 saw me get more serious about the whole subject and I did a one year course in Aus which got me a Diploma of Remedial Massage (sufficient qualification to practise under the umbrella of Medicare, if I registered that is; never did). Also that year a 2 week visit to BKK and Wat Po got me another certificate – oil massage. So now I’ve got four lovely certificates on the wall.
The point of this bit of background is: I now know something about massage. In some ways that knowledge is a two edged sword – the upside is that I can immediately identify a practitioner who has been trained and is willing to work hard within that discipline and I can appreciate the effort she’s putting into her work – more than I otherwise might. The downside is that I can immediately identify the charlatan (of whom there are plenty in Thailand and other parts of the world, including Australia). I usually go along with them for the allotted time however so as not to destroy their day – more difficult to remain cool in Australia though where I’m being gouged at the same time!
Moving right along I’ll tell about some good experiences and where they are, as well as a few not so good. As I write this I am living for 6 months in Korat. Not included here is anything to do with ‘soapy’ massage – I tried this once a while back and failed to get excited about any part of it.
When in BKK I usually stay at ThongLo. The Qantas flights I take get me to BKK just before midnight, so I get to my hotel around 1 AM or so. Dilemma – do I need a massage right now or can it wait till tomorrow? Hey, it’s been a long flight, I’m wide awake, and what the hell did I come here for anyway? I tell the taxi driver to wait while I check in, and then direct him up Suk Rd, not too far on the right-hand side is Neo massage – fairly poxy and inconsistent but on occasion you can get a good massage there at that time of night. The door is locked but knocking gets it open.
Next day skytrain inbound one stop from ThongLo, into Soi 33 and the first massage shop on the left is Leelawadee – good quality there and the venue is not shabby. Working on the principle that once a day is enough (sometimes difficult to stick to principles), next day it’s nearer the hotel – Hat Yai massage close to exit 4 of ThongLo station – good quality oil in there always. In the short stretch between Soi 55 and Soi 57 is a scummy looking place, you can get a male to do the job in there, I skip past it (does Caveman skip? can’t resist having a dig). Take exit 3 of that station and try Tulip? – don’t bother. Walk outbound on Suk Rd to Soi 63 and just up there on the left get yourself a Thai massage from a blind practitioner, male or female, bloody good quality. I don’t stick around in BKK too long so can’t offer much more there.
Prices this season are lower than before it seems, an oil massage for one hour can be had for 300b, down 100b from last year at this time I reckon. Trad is the same – around 250b for 2 hrs. Up in Korat – 250k NE of BKK, surprisingly prices are a little higher, being 400-500 for a one hour oil massage. <Jump on the skytrain and go down to Onnut, and then walk back a little on the odd-numbered soi side and there is a lane with perhaps 15 massage houses where an oil massage will cost you 250 baht, a traditional massage much less – Stick>
Question: is there a ‘type’ of practitioner which on average gives the best massage? My experience suggests that a woman maybe on the heavy side is best, but not too heavy. Age has a lot to do with the quality. I’ve had few good massages from young people (say under 30) while the best trad massage I’ve had yet is in Korat – the woman is 53 years old, not large and has a really good touch – slow and steady (can’t stand the frenetic pace of some) the touch involves initial and final hand contact for any stroke being light and progressive, the application of weight is in the middle of the stroke. All movements on the mat are slow and steady and you’re never wondering where the next ‘hit’ will be. Named Rung, find her in a fairly crappy shop called ‘Rung Massage Traditional Thai’ some way from the centre of town opposite the Raya Grand hotel. Oddly enough her oil massage is so-so. The best oil massage I’ve found in Korat is in a shop called Dala Massage further out of town on the road south, right hand side when outbound – a woman there named Dook works hard and doesn’t get lazy with repeated visits. That shop also has a table for oil massage which I like (many don’t have a table) as there is a place for my long farang nose, and my old and stiff farang neck doesn’t have to get a crick in it. That last point about laziness – I have found sometimes the woman starts to take you for granted on the 3rd or 4th time and gets lazy. Guess what, there isn’t a 5th.
Korat has some good and bad places – worst of all was when a young lady in Hitech Massage thought she could receive then make multiple phone calls while I’m paying her for the massage. She got a hell of a shock when I finally exploded, jumped up, put my clothes on and left. I’m not too bothered if a call comes and the woman takes the call, tells the caller she’s at work and hangs up – even the good ones will usually still take a call like that. All places get to the black list immediately if the woman starts pestering for a bigger tip (I usually give a tip of 100b for a decent no sex massage, but this is not enough for some). This happened recently at the place opposite the Chaopraya Hotel in Korat – the oldish woman had given me good oil massages and despite me turning down her offers of extras she seemed happy enough for several massages, but then started pestering for more money. Black listed immediately. I wonder about this – they’ve got a good repeat customer and then go and spoil it by starting to whine.
After a while you can pick the places where you will be less likely to find quality, but you can never be sure . . . give them a go once or twice, just because you can, you might chance a good one. The dodgiest places I’ve come across are those where the woman says she doesn’t get paid by the management – your tip is all there is for her. I don’t know if this is true, but I wouldn’t put it past some of the scumbag shop owners here.
For sure, a good Thai massage is hard to beat and it's nice to get some recommendations of places to go from someone who has actually trained in Thai massage themselves.