My Chiang Mai Thai Massage Experience
My back has been bothering me as of late, so I thought a Thai massage would do the trick in fixing a stubborn ailment which has been plaguing me off and on for several years.
I went to a shop near Chiang Mai gate that I’ve passed many times before, where a sign outside grabs my attention every time I pass by: “Thai Massage – 120 baht hour”. Damn, that’s a deal. Actually, nearly all Thai massages
are less than an oil massage and are priced very reasonably, but 120 baht is the cheapest that I’ve seen anywhere in Thailand. This equates to just $4. After spotting the green beacon which also doubled as a sign touting the deal of
the decade, I parked my motorbike on the sidewalk near the front of the shop, where sidewalks in Chiang Mai should be renamed to ‘sideparks’, because sometimes this is the only place to park a bike, at least in the old city.
I stopped the bike, locked the steering, placed my helmet on the side mirror, and then meandered in the large shop, where it seemed the only other soul in here was a lady in her 40’s that greeted me with a giant grin and a “Sawatdee ka!”
I’ve done a good amount of reading on well-known Thailand internet forums, and some of the cynical expats will say that Thai people really don’t like farang. Some say the smiles are fake and they’d rather see us all go back home. I’m certainly a Thailand newbie compared to many of these people, but I just don’t agree with this statement. Well, not 100%. Certainly there are some Thai people that I’ve met that just didn’t seem to like me, either because I’ve plucked a high-profile Thai girl out of circulation (fair-skinned, young and striking), or they simply just didn’t like the way farang (or I) looked. But this has been an unusual occurrence for me. And even if the smiles are not genuine, that’s okay, as I’d rather see a genuine-appearing smile thrown my way than a grimace.
But this lady had a nice big smile, sincere or not. She was glad to see me, or maybe just glad to see any customer. This large place was nearly hollow, it was just her, me and a tan and white cat that appeared in front of me moments after I walked in. This cat might be holding the record for having the loudest purr in Thailand. I’ve never heard a purr this loud, and I kept looking for an amplifier that might be enhancing this feline’s vibrations. Maybe even the purrs from cats are counterfeit as well? Perchance Thailand’s people and its fuzzy little critters are just putting on a giant mutt and mare show, where nothing is real except for white smoke and silvery mirrors.
But I’ll take a bet at 2:1 odds that the massage lady and the cat were indeed friendly and happy that I had gone here.
The lady probably had an English vocabulary of about 100 words, but it was enough to confirm that a one hour massage is just 120 baht, and a two hour massage is 240 baht. I’ve been told numerous times by numerous people that a good Thai massage should be at least 90 minutes, so I opted for the two-hour experience.
I changed into the typical Thai massage costume; baggy ¾ length cotton pants (brown) and a cotton V-neck short-sleeved shirt, off-white in color. While donning my outfit, I remembered when I prepared for my first Thai massage two years ago. I had no idea how to properly wear Thai pants — all Thai massage pants have a very long pair of draw-strings on the waist-band, and like a dumb ogre, I put the pants on backwards thinking the drawstring should go in the front. But that’s not how it works. The strings are designed to wrap around the waist on either side, and meet on the opposite side, so the strings should initially be on the backside so they can meet at the front for easy binding. But I’m stubborn and sometimes rash. I spent a while trying to tie the string on the back instead of simply flipping my pants around. Four or five minutes later I did finally get the string tied properly so that my pants with a 58 waist size would not fall down to my ankles three steps later. There’s almost no doubt that my very first Thai massage lady in Bangkok was snickering at me because I had my pants on backwards.
But not on this fine day! I was armed with the acute and crucial knowledge of how to properly “suit-up” cotton clown pants.
I laid down on my stomach, which is where all massages begin; oil or no oil. Miss happy massage lady began applying acupressure to my feet, calves and legs, followed by some stretching and bending. She then applied pressure to my back and arms, followed by more flexibility acrobatics. By this time, I began wondering where purr-o-matic went, but as time went by; I never saw nor heard any signs of it. I could hear a TV in the background, in a different room, so I presumed the cat was sleeping to the sound of Thai soap opera drama, as it was probably taking a much needed rest after doing its duty as a massage shop greeter (and a proficient one at that).
After an hour, the lady had me flip over similar to a hamburger, because my backside was “done”. With any Thai massage, and no exception with this one, this is when the real stretching and bending begins, as she had me doing a half-headstand at one point, with my legs flailing up in the air, and then a coil and a twist was gently applied. I’ve always thought that a Thai massage is similar to Yoga, but with an assistant. Throw in some acupressure, and this is exactly what a Thai massage is all about.
After getting bent out of shape for exactly two hours, my massage was over. I wondered how she can “time” the massage to end at exactly the two hour mark, with no apparent abrupt ending. While some massage ladies master the happy ending, she has mastered the fluid ending. She gave me an excellent massage, where I was never really uncomfortable, even while I was almost upside-down looking like a sapling with my legs imitating withered branches at odd angles.
After changing out of the joker jeans and back into my civilian clothes, I gave her 300 baht and told her to keep the change. I’m very happy with this massage experience; my back feels much better, and I have a more energy. I just had a perfect Thai massage crowned with a good price and a purring kitty.
For comments, you can contact the author at www.TominThailand.com.