Video #4 | September 19, 2017
In this video you’ll learn about traditional Thai massage, and one of my favorite areas to get the best traditional Thai massage in Bangkok; ‘Soi Surawongse Plaza’ in Silom. [This soi has many good body massage shops].
The video is broken into the following sections.
– A background into the history of traditional Thai massage.
– The practice of traditional Thai massage.
– Where to get the best traditional Thai massage in Bangkok!
– How to get to ‘Soi Surawongse Plaza’, in Silom.
– Some “do’s” and “don’ts”.
– What a massage shop looks like. [Footage from inside ‘Surawong Massage Center’].
– What a traditional Thai massage looks like. [Footage with my masseuse, ‘Pat’, from ‘Surawong Massage Center’].
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Alrighty then! Welcome to the forth video of Bangkok Unmasked! Today we’re going to cover one of my very favorite things; traditional Thai massage. My first traditional Thai massage was around 18 years ago, and I have been hooked since then. I have a couple of shops, and masseuses that I trust, and will list the shops that I rate as solid later on in this video.
Before I begin, I want to emphasize that this VLOG post is about traditional Thai massage. Not the type of massage which has a ‘happy ending’! While Bangkok is famous for the ‘happy ending’ massage, there are literally hundreds of shops spread through the city which absolutely do not offer this type of service. Traditional Thai massage is incredibly popular with Bangkok locals, and it’s the go-to solution for most types of body pain, or to make oneself simply feel ‘better’, or ‘relaxed’.
First off, some background into the history of Thai massage.
Thai massage, is an ancient healing system which combines acupressure, Indian Ayurvedic principles, and assisted yoga postures.
In the Thai language it is usually called nuat phaen thai [best translated as “Thai-style massage”], or nuat phaen boran [best translated as “ancient-style massage”].Though its formal name is nuat thai [best translated as “Thai massage”].
The Ministry of Health’s Department for Development of Thai Traditional and Alternative Medicine regulates Thai traditional massage venues and practitioners. As of 2016 the department lists 913 traditional clinics which have registered throughout Thailand.
One thing to note is that there is considerable variation from region to region across Thailand, and no single routine or theoretical framework that is universally accepted among healers. I have had massages in a good number of shops through Bangkok, and there is considerable variation even from shop-to-shop! Part of the reason is because a masseuse will generally learn a set variation within their shop from a senior, hence it will follow their ‘style’, or format. The one thing that IS universal is a 2 hour body massage will start at your feet, and end at your head! 2 hours is the perfect time-frame for a full massage, and trust me, the time will go WAY quicker than you might imagine. If you’re suffering from jet-lag, a 2 hour massage is the perfect antidote! [I will usually snooze, or even sleep, during a 2 hour body massage].
Another note. If a traditional massage practitioner is to be fully qualified, they are required to complete at least 800 hours of training. Be very wary of where you go for traditional Thai massage, as an unqualified masseuse can literally do your body damage.
Next, the practice of traditional Thai massage…
Traditional Thai massage uses no oils or lotions. The recipient remains clothed during a treatment. There is constant body contact between the giver and receiver, but rather than rubbing on muscles, the body is compressed, pulled, stretched and rocked.
The recipient wears loose, comfortable clothing [usually supplied by the massage shop] and lies on a mat or firm mattress on the floor. In Thailand, a dozen or so subjects may be receiving massage simultaneously in one large room. [This is the framework in the shops that I go to]. The true ancient style of the massage requires that the massage be performed solo with just the giver and receiver. [Though if you want a ‘four hands massage’, this can easily found]. The receiver will be positioned in a variety of yoga-like positions during the course of the massage, that is also combined with deep static and rhythmic pressures.
The massage generally follows designated lines [“sen”] in the body. The legs and feet of the giver can be used to position the body or limbs of the recipient. In other positions, hands fix the body, while the feet do the massaging. A full Thai massage session generally includes rhythmic pressing and stretching of the entire body. This may include pulling fingers, toes, ears, cracking knuckles, walking on the recipient’s back, and moving the recipient’s body into many different positions. There is a standard procedure and rhythm to the massage, which the giver will adjust to fit the receiver.
My favorite spot for Traditional Thai massage in Bangkok is Soi Surawongse Plaza in Silom; this soi has a number of very good massage shops, which are mostly frequented by Japanese. [For what it’s worth Surawong Massage Center and Body Care are my 2 favorite shops on the soi]. So you can see what a Traditional Thai massage shop looks like, what follows is some footage from my last visit to Surawong Massage Center. On the tape I’ll also show you how to get to Soi Surawongse Plaza.
Finally some “do’s” and “don’ts”…
…give your masseuse a tip – it doesn’t have to be much, but the gesture will be much appreciated. At “Surawong Massage Center” a 2 hour Traditional Thai Massage only costs 430 Thai Baht [this is about USD13 or GBP10]; remember that the masseuse probably only gets about half of this. I know from speaking with the girls that they literally live on their tips.
…tell them if you suffer with back pain, or any sort of pain for that matter. They’ll modify the massage accordingly.
…eat before a massage. Just trust me on this!
Before I close this video, so you know roughly what to expect in terms of a Traditional Thai massage, what follows is some footage of my masseur [Pat], at Surawong Massage Center, working on my legs. I’m afraid that I can’t show you a good number of massage moves, as holding the camera while receiving the massage would require an agility that I just don’t have!
Anyway…That’s it for this video. Expect a new video shortly. It should be posted in about a week, or so.
For all you techies out there, this video was shot on a Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus, and edited using HitFilm Express.
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