The clock says it’s 3 p.m., but to my confused body, it feels anything but mid-afternoon. I’m lying on a mattress on the floor, but instead of being lulled to sleep with a rhythmic rubdown, I’m being slapped, prodded and poked, all in the name of relaxation. Grunting along beside me is a fellow traveller I’ve only just met, who’s contorted into a position I can only describe as a half nelson. Craving an escape from bustling Bangkok and an antidote to jet lag, we’ve made a beeline to the Rarin Jinda Wellness Spa for a traditional Thai massage.
We begin with a tea foot bath and quick salt scrub at the pedicure station, before being ushered to our designated room with two single mattresses on the floor. We’re instructed to change into a pajama-type outfit of fisherman pants and a wraparound top made of Thai silk. But there’s a dilemma: Underwear – on or off? We hedge our bets – one goes commando, the other doesn’t, figuring the one who made the error will be laughed at by our therapists.
Then we lay down and have small heated rice pillows placed under us. It feels odd not knowing what to expect next. I try to relax to the drone of the AC, but then I hear a groan from the room next door I start to feel a tad anxious. Just what have we signed up for?
Unbeknownst to many, Thai massage involves deep pressure and assisted stretching, without applying oil. While it’s not a work out, you’ll certainly be worked over, as masseuses throw their whole body into the treatment. “It’s like having yoga performed on your body,” explains Marina McCutcheon, Spa Director at Temple Mountain Spa at the Post Hotel in Lake Louise, who offers it closer to home.
Some massages use Luk Pra Kob, a herbal cotton compress that’s steamed and applied to the body during the session. These herbal stems are filled with lemon grass, tumeric, galanga and kaffir lime – the same ingredients used as a base in most Thai soups, making me wonder if they recycle.
After two hours of pretzel like contortions we’re released to the lobby, given ginger tea and my favourite Thai dessert: rice topped with sweetened condensed milk and mango slices. I didn’t expect the treatment to last two hours, and worry the massage (plus snack) is going to eat up my traveler’s budget. But the full treatments here (in the heart of Bangkok!) starts at a mere 1000 baht (approximately $30 CND).
In case you’re wondering, yeah, it is kind of weird to get massaged, poked and prodded while nearly naked beside someone you don’t really know, but we quickly got over it. You might even say we bonded from the experience. If what you’re really wondering is if these massages involve a little something on the side, this prominent sign at the entrance to another massage studio should set you straight.
Here’s a video that demonstrates what you’re in for.
Have you ever had a Thai massage? What did you think?
Top two images via Tourism Authority of Thailand.