Getting a massage is a popular pastime for tourists in Thailand. The offerings are aplenty, it is cheap (usually), and you can choose from many different types of massages, for example, foot massage, oil massage, muscle massage, and Thai massage. And, of course, there is the naughty massage, which I will not write about in this article.
Thai Massage (Nuad Thai)
When you are in Thailand, you might think it would be obvious to choose a Thai massage; however, you should know that Thai massage is not a relaxing massage; you can be utterly sure that you will not fall asleep during the massage. Some will argue that the best part of Thai massage is when it's over.
When you get a Thai massage, you are fully clothed (make sure to wear loose clothing). The masseur does not use oil, cream or lotion as in soft skin and muscle massage; instead, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked by the masseur. Some masseurs pull the fingers and toes and walk on the back of the customer – or the victim, I am tempted to say.
A license is mandatory for the masseur; the masseur must complete at least 800 hours of training to get a license. However, you can easily be offered a Thai massage by masseurs who do not have a license, read more about that in the section The Price for a Massage.
Unesco has inscribed Thai massage (nuad Thai) as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on the UNESCO World Heritage list; the Thai masked dance, khon, is already on the list.
Other Types of Massages
Oil massage is probably the most popular choice for most people. The oil is used to reduce the friction between the body and the masseur's hands, giving you a gentle, soft and relaxing massage. You are undressed or partially undressed during the massage.
Usually, you can choose from different oils, for example, oil with aloe vera, vitamins, herbs or oils with different aromas. An oil massage can be refreshing and enhance your well-being.
An oil massage includes the entire body; however, you can choose a massage for certain parts of the body, such as face massage, back and neck massage, and foot massage, the latter approaching a foot treatment with nail clippings and removal of dead skin.
Massage and Health
Some claim that getting a massage is good for your health; however, clinical studies do not support that. If you get a massage, get it for the sake of your well-being, not for your health.
In fact, getting a massage can be dangerous. A Thai massage performed by an inexperienced person can cause injury, which is why a license is mandatory. The masseurs at the cheap massage parlours may not have a license; however, the Thai massage they offer will typically be a mild form of Thai massage, and thus not that dangerous.
In February 2019, a spokesman for the Thai Ministry of Traditional and Alternative Medicine warned against pregnant women getting a massage. However, the warning only relies on a single case where a pregnant woman had a heart attack and went into a coma during a foot massage. It is not known whether the ministry found a connection between the massage and the heart attack, or whether there may have been another cause of the heart attack.
The Price for a Massage
Most massage parlours and massage cabins at the various tourist sites offer some very reasonable prices of between 200 and 500 baht (200 baht and 500 baht) for an hour, depending on which kind of massage you choose. Typically, Thai massage is at the cheap end of the prices, which shows that the masseur probably does not have a license.
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However, you can also find prices that vastly differs from the above; typically, at upscale hotels and at various spa and beauty centres. Here, the price for a massage can easily be 5-10 times higher than at the cheap massage parlours. On the other hand, you can be reasonably sure that the masseur in those places has an education as a masseur.
I wrote earlier that I would not write about naughty massages in this article; however, I will mention this: Some massage parlours offer both regular massage and naughty massage. If you want to avoid the latter, try to evaluate the massage parlour from the outside. The more clean and clinical it seems, the greater the chance that you will avoid hearing heavy breathing and groans from behind a curtain.