Rule number two of the Thai Massage Practitioner Code of Ethics mentions the following: “Do not practice in a public place or in a place that is otherwise unsuitable”.
Now, the first part of the rule is unambiguously clear— a public place is considered unsuitable, but the second part (otherwise unsuitable) can be explained quite differently.
In Thailand today, the rule is massively violated anyway—there is a whole lot of Thai Massage done in a public place, like on the tourist beaches, at markets, in the malls… in the streets. You just can’t miss it.
It’s a remarkable phenomenon as Thai Massages traditionally used to be given basically in temples, private cabinets, or at home only. But Thai Massage practice in Thailand developed quite a bit in past years. It changed immensely in volume, appearance, reputation and quality, for both the better and for the worse.
Thai Massage has become an everyday consumer commodity. A little bit like consuming hamburgers. In the West, on the other hand, it has not yet become this public fast-food facility as it often shows in Thailand. Not yet, but it is changing rapidly—not only Thai Massage but massage in general is becoming a simple day-to-day commodity.
So—is this development a bad thing?
I suppose it depends on the goal of the massage session. If it’s practiced with the traditional idea (a meditative healing practice), you would naturally prefer a somewhat more isolated and quiet, say peaceful environment. If it’s more like a quick relaxing foot-massage or focused shoulder- and neck treatment, well, if you can handle the noise and hustle around you, why not? Be my guest!
But then, if not the public place, how should the ambiance look like? What you usually see in the West is a salon or spa with small, relatively dark, a bit gloomy, quiet, pleasantly heated and Orientally decorated rooms or curtain-separated sections, small mattresses, a bunch of towels and soft pillows in a myriad of colors, burning incense, soft, spiritual, oriental background music and of course (generally female) personnel wearing the proper Thai clothing welcoming you with the most beautiful smiles.
Sounds familiar? Well, I—I don’t fancy this kind of ambiance. Not for my massage sessions. I prefer a warm, spacious and bright room, no music, no incense, a pillow and a towel, and a huge double-triple-over-sized mattress. Furthermore, just comfortable cotton leisure clothing which shouldn’t be Thai necessarily. And of course it would be nice if the environment is not too noisy—one can imagine that a full blown drilling, hammering construction-site neighboring you is not the thing anyone would appreciate in any situation.
Moreover, I feel Traditional Thai Massage should be a (healing) commodity, it shouldn’t be positioned as a luxury-spa-service and it shouldn’t be dressed up with a dozen of unnecessary frizzles and sizzles. Nevertheless, I do think it’s best to practice in surroundings with a certain meditative, and preferably rustic quality.
In my scenario, a simple open bamboo hut near a tranquil beach would do nicely. It would be perfect. But if not… what the heck!