Koh Samui22

For one whole hour I was put in questionable positions that I never thought would give me intense pleasure.


Now, before you get any funny ideas, this is not one of those massages, where the ending is a happy one (wink, wink). Thailand, known for her islands, cheap food, and friendly locals, is also famed for massages. If you have experienced it at home then you are well prepared for the crazy poses and crackling spines that these petite masseuses will be performing on you.

You may have heard your friends describe it and shudder at the thought of hearing someone twist you or to have someone drill their elbow with their full body weight on your naked back. But one cannot deny the fact that a visit to Thailand is never complete without the quintessential Thai massage experience.

Thai massage or Nuat Thai is a system of massage and manipulation influenced by the traditional medicine systems of India, China, and Southeast Asia, as well as yoga. The founder of Thai massage and medicine is said to have been Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha, who was believed to be Buddha’s physician over 2,500 years ago.

Even today, it has a considerable variation from region to region across Thailand, and no single routine or theoretical framework that is universally accepted among healers.

There are various styles of massages with clear distinctions, like the royal style (“rajasamnak”) historically is only used to treat the aristocracy and royal family, is a very codified style involving acupressure on specific points and a clear distinction between giver and receiver. The popular-style (“chalosiak”) with its many regional variations is what is commonly known as Thai massage.

I am pretty sure there is a science behind this method of therapy or a logic that gives comfort to the receiver and that it is not just all about the pleasure of pressure.

If, however you are a virgin to this experience, it would be quite daunting to be riddled with the personal responsibility of choosing the right establishment since they all promise the best time in brochures and posters and they are all lined up on the street like a buffet table, a buffet table with the same dish done by several chefs.

Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind:

Aloe Vera Massage

Pain Rating: 1 star

This is the go-to massage for those who had a little sunburn since it can get nasty and the pain sometimes lasts for days. If you’re in the mood for a massage but your skin is too tender to be subjected to any kind of kneading and rubbing, opt for the Aloe Vera Massage. It is more like a spa treatment—not a bad thing for those with painful, inflamed skin!

Thai Massage (with Oil)

Pain Rating: 2 stars

The masseuse starts applying oil on your back and rubs in long, gentle strokes. It’s not painful or demanding, in fact, most people doze off until the masseuse prompts you to sit upright, and proceeds to ‘pop’ your neck. If you’re looking to be pampered and fussed over, this is the massage for you.

Relaxing Foot Massage

Pain rating: 3 stars (one star for the massage stick)

Regular visitors of Bali will find this experience lacking the “wow” factor; nevertheless it still packs a punch. The masseuse will use an apparatus that looks like a stabbing instrument with a blunt end, to get the circulation going.  After walking hours on end in the beach and shopping, there is nothing like a good old foot massage.  About 45 minutes will be spent on your feet, and the last 15 minutes on a quick shoulder and head massage. If you like it hard, ask for the Oriental Foot Massage, most parlors will be able to provide this.

Sports Massage

Pain Rating: 3 – 4 stars (you sporty folks can take the heat, I know)

Swimming, diving or even just sun bathing can take a lot out of you especially if you have spend a lot of time in the sun. 

The sports massage usually targets often-used areas such as hamstrings, shoulders, and arms. Somewhat of a cross between oil massages and a Thai massage, the sports massage usually uses some form of heat rub to relax your aching muscles, which are then kneaded with ferocity. This may just be what you need to relax those stiff muscles! 

Traditional Thai Massage

Pain Rating: 4.5 stars (if you ask for a strong masseuse, give it five stars, and bravo to you)

You may be asked to change into a loose fitting outfit provided by the parlor, usually a pair of knee length drawstring pants and a t-shirt. This massage is fast and furious and is easily one of my favorite types. Expect lots of cracking (fingers, toes, spine, neck), lots of elbow and knee jabs (on sensitive points like the small of your back) and even some body-to-body contortion. You can ask the masseuse to tone it down a bit, but if you’re a guy, suck it up and take it like a man, another tip is to relax and go limp, resisting will only make it worse. The pay-off is feeling wonderfully relaxed, almost like an out of body experience.