The clock says it’s 3 p.m., but to my confused body, it feels anything but mid-afternoon. I’m in Bangkok, 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. She’s contorted into a position I can only describe as a half nelson. You guessed it! We’re getting a Thai massage.

Why you need to get a Thai massage the next time you're in Bangkok

Sadly, I did not get mustard paste applied to my back.(Photo credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Where to get the best Thai massage in Bangkok

Craving an escape from our day trip to ancient capital of Ayutthaya and an antidote to jet lag, we’ve made a beeline to the Rarin Jinda Wellness Spa in Bangkok for a traditional Thai massage. We begin with a tea foot bath and a 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 pyjama-type outfit of fisherman pants and a wraparound top made of Thai silk that the spa provides. 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.

The best spa treatment in Bangkok: Thai massage

Pro tip: Don’t wear make up to your Thai massage or it’ll end up all over their silk pillows.

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?

What is Thai massage?

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 my home in Calgary, Canada.

Many Thai massages begin with a foot bath. (Photo credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand)

Luk Pra Kob

Some Thai massage therapists 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).

Happy ending massage?

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, you know, a happy ending… this prominent sign at the entrance to another Bangkok massage parlour should set you straight.

No Sex Sign

You don’t need to be afraid of getting a Thai massage. Most places are completely legit.

You don’t have to be in Bangkok or even Thailand in order to get a Thai massage. You can get an excellent Thai massage in Calgary or throughout Southeast Asia. And if you’re headed to Malaysia, check out Dive Into Malaysia, one of the most comprehensive travel sites I’ve come across.

Have you ever had a Thai massage? What did you think?

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