Renowned for services ranging from eyelash extensions and laser hair removal to chakra balancing and chi revitalizing, Bangkok is host to an exotic and bizarre array of treatments and therapies. A quintessential component to this multi-faceted jamboree, traditional Thai massage is perhaps the most well-known and celebrated of Bangkok's pampering services. As the Japanese delicately knead flesh in accordance with Shiatsu and the Chinese offer rubs following principles of Tui-Na, Thailand presents a signature massage technique involving traditional systems of holistic beliefs.
Types of Massage
- Aromatherapy & Oil Massage
Though the standard technique varies little, there are a few sub-styles within the traditional Thai massage context. Some practices include the external application of water, lubricants, salt scrubs and other topical preparations and devices that mimic or improve the actions of hands. Essential oils are a common supplement to Thai massage, and incorporating aspects of aromatherapy in conjunction may provide further benefits.
Many establishments in Bangkok offer aromatherapy separately or as an addition intended to enhance another style of massage. An aromatherapy massage is a treatment involving oils that are naturally extracted from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of body and mind. Distinct fragrances are thought to trigger memory and enhance an individual's responses to the aroma; perhaps calming, inducing relaxation, or restoring energy. The oils used in each session are usually determined with input from both the masseur and client, seeking to remedy specific needs. Several oils are decided upon after a consultation and blended into a massage oil to be used during the treatment.
- Facial Massage
Another variation to the Thai massage is a facial massage treatment. Just like any other form of massage, facial massage relieves tension, promotes relaxation and restores energy to the face and body by increasing circulation. During sleep, circulation is decreased in the body, meaning less blood flow to the face which results in puffiness and a drained complexion. Facial massage stimulates blood flow in facial tissue, restoring a healthy glow and maintaining a firm and smooth appearance. Thai facial therapy uses gentle, circular strokes along differing regions of the head, face, and neck. Finger movement is always in an upward motion and, when performed regularly, keeps skin appearing tight and youthful. The forehead and nose are targeted to reduce the appearance of horizontal lines and the nostril area receives focused rubbing to unclog pores and reduce blemishes. Mouth and cheeks receive wider, sweeping strokes to prevent wrinkles and the sagging of facial muscles, while the chin and neck are targeted to promote muscle tone. The gestures aimed at the neck area are often performed in order to thwart the vile and loathsome double chin. With gentle fingers gliding over closed eyes, Thai facial massage makes relaxation virtually inevitable and couples the experience with improvements in skin texture and appearance.
- Foot Massage
Nearly as common as the body massage, Thai foot massage options appear almost everywhere the former is available. Though the title implies only feet are tended to, in actuality legs, lower thighs, hands and forearms also receive attention during a traditional Thai foot massage. After cleansing, the feet are anointed with a skin lotion or oil and reflex points are stimulated with fingers and occasionally a small wooden stick. Force is applied tenderly and precisely to specific nerve endings at the bottom of the feet. Each part of the foot is reputably linked to another, often distant part of the body, with influence extending to vital organs as well as muscles. Pressing at the base of the second toe is thought to rouse the nerve controlling the lungs and bronchial system, while drawing a knuckle along the instep eases pain in the spine and promotes better posture. Thai foot massage ensures that feet and legs are lavished with the consideration and attentiveness they deserve. They are the pillars of the human body, after all.
Wat Po Traditional Massage
If you want to try the real thing, Wat Po (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha) offers Thai massage in its most traditional form, taken from the original inscriptions in stone commissioned by King Rama III, great-grandfather of the present king. If you are interested in learning the techniques, The Wat Pho Massage School offers a ten-day course too, for around 6,000 baht. Contact the school located in the temple compound. The easiest way to get to Wat Po is by boat. Take the Chao Phraya River Express to the Tha Thien pier, then walk through the market and up the short street. Wat Po is directly across the intersection, on your right. On the left is the rear wall of the Grand Palace.
Open: 08:00 - 17:00 (massage available until 18:00).
Location: Maharat Road, about a half mile south of the Grand Palace
(Visitors must pay an entrance fee of 20 baht at the booths just inside the north or south, entrances.)