If you’ve never experienced a traditional Thai massage before, think of it as yoga for the mind and body. There are many health benefits to this ancient form of massage which is one of the core components in traditional Thai medicine along with herbal medicine, a balanced diet and meditation. Traditional Thai medicine takes a preventative approach and it’s believed that massage helps the positive flow of energy throughout the body which in turn helps prevent illness.
You can find traditional Thai massage practitioners in every town, city and beach resort in Thailand. We’ve put together these suggestions for you to try out when you next visit Thailand.
Wat Pho, Bangkok
If you are visiting Bangkok be sure to visit Wat Pho. Although the main attraction is the magnificent Reclining Buddha, the temple grounds are fascinating to explore. After a day of sightseeing in Bangkok what better way to end the day than by enjoying a massage at the spiritual home of traditional Thai medicine and massage.
Long before Bangkok was established as the Thai capital, there was a temple at Wat Pho. And before the original temple was established the site was a school for traditional medicine. The Wat Pho that visitors see today was restored and enlarged in the early 1800s. Further restoration took place during the reign of King Rama III with the Thai monarch establishing what is regarded as Thailand’s first university in the temple grounds. It was at this seat of learning where the traditions of Thai medicine and massage would be preserved and taught to future generations. To this day, Wat Pho is the national headquarters for the preservation and teaching of traditional Thai medicine and massage.
Perception Blind Massage, Bangkok
The aim of Perception Blind Massage is to provide employment for blind or visually impaired massage therapists. Although there are other blind massage therapists working in Bangkok and other locations around Thailand, the shops where they work aren’t always easy for tourists to find. Perception aims to provide an easily accessible and modern treatment facility that benefits the therapist and the person receiving the massage. Perception have two branches in Bangkok (Sathorn and Silom) and another in Chiang Mai (Thapae Road).
Ban Rai Khong Khing, Chiang Mai
Located in the Hang Dong district of Chiang Mai, the small village of Baan Rai Kong Khing is an excellent example of community based tourism in action. The villagers have adopted organic farming techniques and promote the use of herbal plants and traditional Thai remedies. The holistic approach adopted by the community has been such a success that the village now acts as an education centre sharing local knowledge about traditional medicine and herbal products. The community at Baan Rai Kong Khing are also helping to preserve an old massage tradition of northern Thailand known as ‘yam kang‘. Although this Lanna-style hot oil fire massage looks uncomfortable, it is extremely soothing.
For the yam kang massage, a clay pot holds the hot coals with the iron blade of a plough, known as a ‘kang‘, placed on top of that. Using a wooden staff for balance, the therapist dips one foot into specially prepared herb-infused oil. Depending on what symptoms are being treated, different herbs are used. After coating their foot with oil, the therapist then stamps on the iron blade and uses the warmth from the foot to skilfully massage the patient.
Fah Lanna Spa, Chiang Mai
The award-winning Fah Lanna Spa in Chiang Mai has earned praise not just for the quality of the massage treatments, but also for their proactive approach to responsible tourism. Fah Lanna promotes traditional Lanna (northern Thai) culture both within the spa and the wider community. Products used at Fah Lanna and sold in their shops are produced by local artisans. The spa uses natural products made from local herbs and plants and strives to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
Treat yourself to an amazing Thai massage, either on its own or as an add-on to one of the tempting spa treatments. And as you’re in Chiang Mai, why not try the ancient wisdom of the Tok Sen massage which is unique to this region of Thailand. The treatment may look unusual with the therapist skilfully wielding a special wooden ‘hammer’ that is used to gently tap away on the meridian lines. The physical tapping motions and the sound vibrations created combine to ease muscle tension and clear energy blockages in the body.
Swasana Spa, Ko Samui
Chaweng Noi Beach on Ko Samui is the lovely location for Impiana Resort and the highly rated Swasana Spa. Visitors can choose from a range of treatments including the signature Thai Yoga Massage. Relax in the hands of the highly trained therapists as they go to work with a combination of gentle movements and stretches to aid your physical and mental wellbeing.
If you’re holidaying in Phuket and looking to pamper yourself, the Shambhala Retreat at COMO Point Yamu Phuket is an excellent choice. With delightful views over the Andaman Sea this luxury health and wellness retreat offers a range of treatments including traditional Thai massage.
The Slate, Phuket
Another outstanding choice for a traditional massage treatment in Phuket can be found at The Slate on Nai Yang Beach. The charming tropical garden setting at the Coqoon Spa is the ideal environment to relax and let the skilled therapists work their magic with a massage treatment tailored to your individual requirements.
Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, Prachinburi
Originally built in the early 1900s for a royal visit, this historic site was renovated by Thailand’s Department of Fine Arts in the 1990s and opened as the Abhaibhubejhr Thai Traditional Medicine Museum. Named after a former governor of Prachinburi province, the elegant building sits adjacent to a modern hospital and hosts a museum with an interesting display of artefacts and traditional medicines.
Although this is a popular location for Thai visitors, only a handful of foreign tourists make their way here during the year. Located 90 miles east of Bangkok, this isn’t the easiest location to reach unless you have your own transport. However, if you are in the area this is an interesting diversion and an excellent opportunity to enjoy a traditional Thai massage in historic surroundings. In addition to massage treatments, visitors can also book acupuncture sessions, herbal compresses and steam therapies.
More details (website in Thai)
Chong Chang Thun eco spa, Trat
Trat in eastern Thailand is the location for one of the more unusual wellness treatments you can find in Thailand. The form of Thai massage used at the Spa de Chong in Ban Chang Thun is traditional, but the ‘spa sum gai‘ that precedes it is extraordinary. ‘Spa sum gai’’translates as ‘chicken coop spa’. If you pay a visit to the Thai countryside you will see bamboo cages that are used for roosters and it is these bamboo cages that are used for the spa. Covered with insulation and a hole cut out for the head to poke through, the sum gai transforms into a personalised sauna as steamed herbs are fed through.
The 15-minute process stimulates circulation and removes impurities from the skin. It also eases muscle tension and adds to the benefit of the traditional Thai massage that follows the steam treatment. This is a rustic, no-frills setting that is popular with Thai visitors and there isn’t too much information available in English either online or at Ban Chang Thun itself. Ban Chang Thun is located in the Bo Rai district of Trat province and is approximately a one hour drive north of Trat town. Contact travel agents in Trat town or the local TAT information office. Alternatively, you can book a tailor-made trip with Local Alike.
Tourism Authority of Thailand (Trat)
100 Mu. 1, Trat-Laem Ngob Road, Tambon Laem Ngob , Amphoe Laem Ngob, Trat 23120
Tel: +66 3959 7259-60
Any beach, Thailand
High end spas will have full trained staff and offer a more luxurious experience. As good as these venues can be, you may just find the perfect massage waiting for you in a simple bamboo sala on the beach. You’ll find these basic massage salas at beach resorts all around Thailand. The quality of the massage can be hit and miss, but the beach massage venues can be wonderful places to relax. There is something special about unwinding in simple surroundings with the comfort of a warm sea breeze and the gentle sound of the waves breaking on the shore.
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