Well, big topic, but let’s start! Basically, you can expect anything. In Thailand you can have a Thai Massage just exactly as you wish for, your way, it’s all available and possible.
Then again, if you are a newbie to the topic, your expectations will often not match the reality. It all depends on where you get a Thai Massage, what kind of massage you venture in, from whom you get it, and with what aims. So let’s go through it:
1. Where You Get a Thai Massage
It’s said that Thailand is perhaps the most dangerous place to have a Thai Massage. In a way that’s true, because “everybody” does it, skilled or not skilled, certified or not, experienced or not, and moreover communication with the therapists/masseurs is more often than not rather difficult. It’s one of the prices to be paid in one of the most touristic countries in the world, for one of their top tourist and perhaps most commercialized products — Thai Massage.
The list of places of where you can have a Thai Massage in Thailand is sheer endless and includes beaches, shopping malls, outdoor markets, massage parlors, day spas, retreats, wellness centers, street front Thai Massage shops, temples, Thai Massage Schools, local healers, Blind Thai Massage shops, hotels, guesthouses, floating markets, medical clinics, hospitals, you name it.
Obviously, depending on the place, both offerings and quality will vary. For instance, a full body Thai Oil Massage on the markets or beaches is unlikely, a genital massage in a temple would be awkward, Thai Fire Therapy in a shopping mall is absent.
Also, depending on the place, you can have shorter or longer sessions, which again limits the kind of sessions available. Generally, you will find qualified practitioners at Thai Massage schools, in temples, high-end day spas, luxury resorts and retreats, traditional hospitals, medical clinics and the like.
In a guesthouse, on the markets, or on the beach you may get an excellent masseur, but… your guess is as good as mine when it comes to be sure of having a safe massage.
Moreover, the place, environment or establishment will much attribute to the ambiance of the session. It can be serene, loud, busy, tranquil, dirty, clean, done with attention or not, and so on. Surely, in an upscale Thai day spa you can expect the same ambiance as in fancy Western establishments boasting an atmosphere of dimmed light, incense, soft talking and whispering personnel, launching you in a pampering paradise, or something like that.
Then again, Thai Massage in Thailand is a very common and cheap everyday commodity, something like buying a hamburger, and with local healers, blind massage shops, markets, shopping malls, small day spas, street front massage shops and even clinics, you can expect something as going to the barber or hairdresser — a bit messy, lots of talking, loud, crowded. Of course, this says nothing about the quality of the massages given — it can be good or not, which depends on other factors.
2. The Kind of Thai Massage
There are many, many types of Thai Massage treatment modalities. To give some examples: Thai Foot Massage & Reflexology, Thai Herbal Compress Massage, Thai Fire Therapy, Thai Abdominal Massage, Thai Genital Massage, Thai Tok Sen Hammer Massage, Thai Pregnancy Massage, Thai Facial Massage, Thai Aromatherapy, Thai Neck, Back & Shoulder Massage, Thai Oil Massage, and so on, and so on.
Depending on the kind of massage you go for, different things can be expected. Some massages are clothed, some are applied without clothes. Some are oily and slippery, others are applied without any oils. Some are done on a table, others on the floor on a mat or even sitting.
Be careful when getting a Thai Foot Massage. Preferably don’t let the masseur use wooden sticks: you might not be able to walk normally for a few days after the session. With a Thai Hot Herbal Compress Massage or Thai Oil Massage you might get your clothes dirty, unless the establishment supplies you with session clothing.
Also, if you don’t get massages regularly or do serious bodywork yourself, prepare for some muscle soreness in the days after a Thai Massage session. Of course, this depends on the duration of the session taken, and the sort of session (lots of stretches, lots of acupressure, and the like), but if the session is longer than say, an hour, and not a full-fledged pampering treatment, be sure to feel somewhat groggy and soreness in the days after.
3. From Whom You Get a Thai Massage
So, this of course is very important: is the masseur experienced, licensed, certified, and so on? As said before, in Thailand (and this is a bit exaggerated) anybody can give a massage to tourists, surely depending again on the type of establishment. You may expect qualified therapists in clinics, hospitals, Thai Massage schools, upscale hotels and spas, and the like. Of course, you can always ask what are the credentials of the therapist.
For deep therapeutic work, you will need to ask around, or of course look here on our website where we have many posts and a database with regard to a range of Thai traditional therapeutic treatment sessions (and training courses). Nevertheless, be sure that most offerings in the therapeutic realm are without any doubt to be found in the city of Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand). Mind also that many of the famous master healers and Thai treatment gurus don’t have any official qualification at all, so if you’d only go for “certified” masseurs you would most likely miss out on some excellent Thai therapy offerings.
4. Your Goals of the Session
Depending on your goals of a session, such as relaxation, wellness, total indulgence and pampering, or serious therapy, you should choose the right establishment i.e. healer/therapist, that is, make an informed decision about where to have your treatment.
To give some examples: don’t expect to get a serious therapeutic massage on the Sunday market or at the beach. And, on the other hand, don’t expect to get a pampering, chocolate mousse filled signature Thai Oil Massage with a local folk healer in Chiang Mai.
Also depending on the goal, the massage session can be tough or soft, painful or painless. In general, when it’s a therapeutic massage, be prepared for some deep work and some pain-in-the-moment. Whatever is said commercially in the media about a “relaxing and paradisiacal” Thai Massage, well, just really count on it that a genuine therapeutic Traditional Thai Massage will most likely be somewhat painful.
5. And Finally
Taking into consideration the proper precautions and contraindications, and the pointers mentioned above, you can and will have an amazing massage experience. Traditional Thai Massage is a very rich bodywork modality, very complete, with not only exquisite options for deep relaxation, but also for healing.
In any case, we hope to have made things a bit clearer. In addition, below, we have listed some related posts, which can help you to get even more insights in the wonders of getting a Thai Massage in Thailand!