Wednesday, 17 April 2013

A Different Kind of Happy Finish

So, after being beaten up in groups, on aone-to-one basis and completely without outside intervention, our bodies werein need of some repair. And that is where Thai Massage comes in handy

Rather like Starbucks on the UK high street,massage parlours are everywhere in Thailand. Every third building will houseone (the other two buildings will be a laundry and a minimart, with food and bike services tacked on the side).  Thegoing rate for a one-hour thai massage is around 250TB (£6) which is less thanit probably costs you to say hello to a therapist in the UK.

There are some crucial differences betweenthe British and South East Asian versions however, and it’s worth knowing thesein advance, to save on awkward cultural clashes (if you’re a fan of ‘Carry On’style hilarity, feel free to skip to the next post).

First up, the parlour itself.  Put any white robe and dolphin music spa idylls to the back of your mind, this is most likely going to look like someone’s front room.  In fact there’s a good chance that it is literally that, and you might have to wake someone up from where they are napping to serve you (Thais don’t have too much embarrassment when it comes to sleeping in the workplace).  

The massage“bed’ is likely to be a foam mat with a sarong type scarf laid over it, and theroom will probably house quite a few mats and other customers.

Before you baulk at the idea of stripping inpublic, let’s talk about the next point. Thai Massage is clothed. The masseusemight leave you alone for a minute to settle in, but she won’t be chuffed toreturn and find you sporting a hand towel and a smile. 

In terms of what to wear, something loose ispretty much the only sartorial consideration. Occasionally a massage place mightprovide some Thai fisherman’s trousers (one size fits all wraparound affairs)but in general baggy shorts, track pants and t shirts/vests are all good, tightbooty riders, lycra running gear (too slippery) or anything that gapes open andexposes your crotch easily are all bad.

The looseness isn’t just a comfort issue.What many people don’t know is that Thai Massage is quite an active procedure.The concepts behind it combine manual stimulation with energy channels and thelike, but the reality is that you will be doing second-hand yoga, with thetherapist twisting you into various positions and using her hands, feet, legs,knees and elbows to hold you there. Those various limbs will also be used toprod and knead regions you might not know you had, and at times during themassage would probably wish you could forget. 

Cracking noises are not uncommon,sighs and whimpering are also acceptable, and in the right circumstances caneven be taken as a compliment by the masseuse.  

There might be limited English depending on the massage parlour, but thewords “strong” and “pain” are pretty universally understood, and can be usedboth at the beginning of the massage to signal how deep and hard you want totake it or in emergency “I’m about to start crying” situations.

Some masseuses will tailor their trade to amore Farang-friendly gentle level as a matter of course, so if you fancysomething extreme it’s worth mentioning at the beginning of the session, andmaking diving style “A-Ok” gestures when they go to walk on your back.  And for the masochists/martial artspractitioners amongst us, bypass the pretty slender therapists and headstraight for the older, chunkier models, chances are they’ve had a lifetime ofsadism and will know what they’re doing.

So, in the Chalong area, Intana was my parlourof choice, and I was lucky enough to find this woman, who looks harmless buttook finding the far reaches of my pain threshold as some kind of personalchallenge.  It wasn’t pretty but my bodycertainly thanked her for it (although not necessarily the next day, a bit of falloutbruising is, I like to think, a good sign).

There are no proverbial “happy finishes” inthis establishment (be aware that most of these kinds of massage parlours don’toffer “extras” and some even print that on the menu) but there was the standardpost-massage cup of herbal tea, and a range of exotically labelled and colouredbiscuits.

They even gave me a jar of Tiger Balm as a going away present.


  1. Hi Lisa!

    I just happened to stumble upon your blog while doing some research about Tiger Muay Thai (and the other gyms in Phuket) and I just wanted to say your posts are hilarious!! Great summaries and reviews of the various places too.. Keep them coming, and all the best for your travels with Andy!


  2. Glad you enjoyed it, Leona! Been a bit slack of late, but hopefully some more updates coming soon. And good luck with your own travels, where are you off to? Lisa

  3. Hopefully off to Phuket for a month in October if time and (the lack of) work allow me to :) Just hoping to cross "Train in Random Fight Camp For A Month" off my bucket list while I still can haha. Living in Singapore makes it that much easier too.. Looking forward to more of your travel stories for now! - Leona

  4. Hi Leona

    Thanks for the comment. It's certainly worth doing those bucket list kind of activities - took me 38 3/4 years to take the first step and I never looked back! Good luck with that training camp, drop me a line if you need any advice! x