A Backpacker’s Guide to Thai Massage: No Pain, No Gain

Everything a Backpacker Needs to Know About Thai Massage

Thai massage is an ancient art still practiced in the modern day. Healing hands from the Land of Smiles do the body good. When done with care, it can heal injuries and rejuvenate your body. When done badly it can hurt! How can you get the best from this essential part of Thai culture you must experience first-hand?

Thai massage is an essential part of the culture in the land of smiles. It’s been around for a while, more than 2,500 years to be exact, and legend has it that the technique was invented by none other than the physician to Buddha himself. As illustrious beginnings go that’s a good one!

Nowadays it’s big business. Tourists flock to salons and massage shops all over the country, with the cheap prices and great health benefits drawing them back again and again. Here’s the low-down on the hows, whys and wherefores of a great Thai massage.

What makes Thai massage different?

If you go for a massage in the west you can expect a relaxing experience involving scented oils, soothing music and gentle hands. A Thai massage is a little different! There is no oil involved and instead of rubbing and massaging the muscles, the body is moved into a range of positions and stretches using the strength of the practitioners’ hands and the weight of their body.

If you’re a fan of yoga then it might feel familiar, as many of the positions used in Thai massage are very similar to some of the most popular yoga asanas. The idea is to release energy flow around the body and each of the 10 main ‘sens’, or energy lines, are worked on in turn.

What to Expect For Your First Time

Don’t just focus on price when you choose your first Thai massage. Ask around for recommendations and talk to the therapists to get an idea of their style and technique. Ideally, you’ll be able to have a consultation about your health before the massage starts, to make sure your masseur is sympathetic to existing injuries or sore spots and to allow you to get maximum benefit from the experience. If you don’t have a language in common then sign language is the way to go!

When it’s time to start, don’t strip down! Thai massages are carried out fully clothed as the treatment is more about body movement than muscle massage. Make sure you wear something light and non-restrictive and you’ll be fine. Your therapist will start on a rhythmic sequence of kneading, stretching and re-alignment. It shouldn’t be painful, but occasionally you may come across a particularly uncomfortable maneuver. Just remember the phrase “bao-bao” if you want them to ease up a bit!
The benefits are endless

backpackers guide to Thai massage

A full Thai massage can last more than 2 hours so you’ll have plenty of time to ponder all the health benefits you’ll be receiving. It’s worth it, don’t worry! You can look forward to better circulation, improved lymphatic drainage, a big increase in flexibility and a high dose of mental peace. A good massage is akin to a session of meditation and many people report better sleep patterns in the days following a treatment.

The Best Places to Get a Thai Massage

You can get a Thai massage just about everywhere in Thailand, but as we suggested earlier, make sure you ask around to find a reputable place. There are plenty of beach-side locations where you can have a sunset massage overlooking the ocean but some of these are just geared up to move tourists through as quickly as possible rather than focusing on giving an authentic treatment. Hunt a bit further and you’ll find some wonderful local places offering a great experience.

The most famous location for a massage is Wat Pho temple in Bangkok. The monks there are highly trained and pass their knowledge on by teaching massage techniques to others. It’s a wonderful place to get an insight into this ancient art.

Read more about where to get a massage in Chiang Mai!

#BodegaHostels Insider Tip

If you decide you want to become an expert in Thai massage then Wat Pho offers courses for overseas visitors. Ranging from 10 to 15 days long, they’re an intense experience but a great way to immerse yourself into this ancient Thai art. Go along and learn a bit. Your friends will thank you for it!

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