Take time out for a traditional Thai massage when you next visit Bangkok. Experience the relaxation of having your muscles rubbed and pressed and come away feeling invigorated and with a spring in your step.
If you have never had a Thai massage then you may be wondering what is involved.
For many people on there first visit to Bangkok this will be the first time to experience the inside of a massage shop.
Let me outline a typical Bangkok massage experience that is readily available, when you visit one of the many Bangkok massage shops in this city.
Step 1. Choose your Thai massage
After entering the shop and taking off your shoes, you need to make your choice of Thai massage style; either traditional Thai massage or the Oil massage.
In Bangkok, the Traditional Thai massage or the Oil massage generally come as a one hour or two hour session.
Just decide how long you want to relax for and go for it.
These two types of massages are similar, but the Oil massage requires you to be naked, or nearly so. After showering, you may be given some disposable underwear to put on, or simply covered with a cloth as the massage progresses.
I will just describe the Traditional Thai massage now to give you the flavour of what is involved.
Step 2. Change your clothes
Usually the massage room is set out with a number of mattresses on a raised base with the beds segregated by curtains and they will have some relaxing music playing in the background.
After a masseuse is allocated, you will first be given a pair of loose fitting trousers and a shirt to change into.
Some places will have a small change room, and in other massage shops you can draw the curtains around your massage mattress and change in there.
If you use a change room, then remember to take all your belongings into your massage cubicle with you, after you change. You can either lay them near the pillow, or you may find a hanger on the wall.
If you keep your belongings with you, then you will have no worries about any valuables you have brought along.
Whilst you are changing your clothes, the masseur will go and get a bowl and some warm water. She will then return and proceed to wash your feet to clean them.
Step 3. Wash your feet
In some Thai massage shops she will use her hands and sea salt and at other places you might find she will use a scrubbing brush.
If you are at all ticklish this washing process could be more than you can bear.
After washing, your feet will be dried off with a towel, the bowl put away and the massage will start.
The massage that you get will be very specific to the masseur and the school where she was taught. It is unlikely that that you will get the exact same massage anywhere else.
Although all Thai massages are different, they basically follow the same format.
Some masseurs will do the bottom half of the body and then the top and others will do the left side and then the right side.
Personally I prefer them doing the legs first and then working up from top to bottom, rather than massaging all the left side an then the right side.
First she will start by massaging the feet, legs, then arms and hands, followed by getting you to turn over onto your front and massaging your back.
The traditional Thai massage is generally done through the pyjamas without the masseur touching the skin.
If the massage room has air-conditioning the masseur may also cover you with a light blanket to prevent you getting too cold.
At various stages the masseur will perform a technique to stop the blood flow for about 30 seconds by constricting the artery.
She may do this by pressing on the groin or just near the armpit.
Step 4. Lie down and relax
When the pressure is released and the blood flows there is a sense of relaxation and warmth that flows over the body. This technique is not recommended for people with diabetes or heart conditions.
Very often the masseur uses her hands, forearms, elbows and feet to loosen up those tense muscles, as she works her way around your body.
Some of the smaller ladies will walk along your back using their full body weight to crack the joints in your spine. It sounds strange, but it feels so good.
If during the massage you experience some pain or discomfort, then the masseur may apply some heat gel, such as Tiger Balm, directly to the skin.
You can even request that certain areas are focussed on more than others, if necessary. You can request more or less pressure as needed to relax those knotted muscles.
After the massage of the torso is complete, the next place to be massaged is your head and face, but before doing so the masseur will go and wash her hands.
The head is considered a very sacred part of the body, so it is important to massage the head with clean hands. Also, if she has used any heat balm, you wouldn't want that all over your face, so it makes sense.
In some traditional Thai massage shops the masseur will also ask your permission before touching your head.
At this point the masseur will be seated at the head of the bed and you will lay down with your head on a cushion placed strategically on her lap, between your head and her body.
Very often the head massage will send you to sleep, as it can be so relaxing. Here the focus is on pressure points around the sinus and the other meridian lines.
Step 5. Make like a Pretzel
After the head massage is completed you will sit up cross legged and this is when you will probably get turned and twisted into a pretzel.
If you do have any back problems, then you may need to skip this part, or at least advise the masseur of your condition.
Up until now the whole massage has been very relaxing, but this last stage can involve a lot of stretching and twisting.
Before you know it your traditional Thai massage will be over and this is signified by hand chops on the back followed by stroking and a "finished Sir or finished Madam".
The masseur will now leave so you can get changed back into your street clothes.
After getting changed, just place your pyjamas on the mattress and go to the front of the shop, where there will be a warm cup of tea and your shoes waiting for you.
Drink your tea in a leisurely manner, put on your shoes and pay the cashier.
Step 6. Don't forget to tip
The masseuse will probably hold the door open for you as you leave and this is a great point to give her a tip, to show your appreciation.
When you next visit Bangkok set some time aside to treat yourself to a Traditional Thai Massage and enjoy the culture of the Far East.
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