The Pa Kao Mah (Pa Kao Ma or Pa Kao Mai) is a Thai Sarong, Scarf, or Loincloth. It is a rectangular piece of cloth with the size of a large bath towel and originally made of hand-woven cotton in 2 to 3 colors, usually with a checkered pattern.
In the old days, the cloth was dyed with fruit rind and bark and the more exclusive versions were made of silk. Today however, most fabrics are rather factory-made and dyed with a variety of bright synthetic colors.
It was (and still is) used by Thai men mostly, especially those from the Northern regions of Thailand, although you can see it being used everywhere across the country. Thai men typically wrap the Pa Kao Mah around the waist as clothing (mostly for comfort at home), yet, they also use it as a towel to go take a shower or swim, wipe off sweat whilst working on the land or in construction, or use it as a hat/head-cover, head-band or scarf.
The Pa Kao Mah is a truly multi-purpose piece of cloth that apart from the applications mentioned above is used as a table cloth, decoration, a rope, a bed sheet or blanket, a hammock, a pillow, a rag or bag, a scarf, or a face-mask against dust, among other uses.
Of late, using the cloth in a Thai Massage session is rising in popularity. During the session, the Pa Kao Mah is wrapped around the body or certain body parts, such as the neck or legs, and with slowly pulling, sliding and lifting movements the receiver is gently stretched.
The application can add to help reducing back, neck and shoulder pains, hip pain, knee pain and other joint problems.
In addition, the therapist can better position him or herself performing the stretch without extra strain.