How much should I pay?
In Chiang Mai, our rule is to never pay more than 150 baht ($5) for a 1-hour Thai massage. Prices range from from 120 – 200 baht at the many local massage parlors.
At spas in Chiang Mai, 1-hour massages will be closer to 1,000 baht ($30).
In Karon Beach, Phuket, 300 baht seemed to be the going rate for the side of the road local shops. I remember when we thought $10 was cheap!
On our honeymoon, the resorts charged sky-high rates… I think I paid 4,500 baht for a one-hour body scrub and a two-hour massage.
How many massage parlors are there in Chiang Mai?
A lot. There are two on our street alone, and we don’t even live in the touristy part of town. Massage parlors are more common that 7-11 type convenient stores in Chiang Mai. Within the Old City, you can find one on almost every street.
Do traditional Thai massages happen on tables?
No. If you go to a spa, your massage will be on a table with a face hole. Traditional Thai massages, however, take place on mats on the ground. This makes it slightly uncomfortable at times when you’re lying on your stomach because the pillow turns your head sideways and elevates your head and shoulders as opposed to lying flat.
Do the massage parlors make you get naked?
No, not completely. In Phuket they made us get into our underwear. At the honeymoon resorts, they put us these panty-hose material tighty-whities. In Chiang Mai, you either stay in the clothes you’re wearing or change into scrubs provided by the parlor. Some make you change, some don’t.
For the ladies, even if the massage parlor wouldn’t normally make you change, they’ll give you a pair of scrubs if you’re wearing a dress or skirt. Thai massages involve a lot of leg stretching… not conducive to dress-wearing.
Are the extracurricular massage activities real in Thailand?
I don’t know. I would assume you could find a place to get a “happy ending” massage if that’s what you’re into. We are not seeking those kind of massages, so from our experiences, we haven’t seen any. Because we’re immature, we do however joke about the “milky massages” we see advertised at a couple of places around town. I don’t think that’s what they’re referring to, but in all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if “milky” really did mean… well, you know.
Ok, but what about butt touching?
Oh, that happens all the time. It’s not a big deal to the masseuses, so it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me anymore. But they’re all over it. The butt massage actually feels really good.
How close do they get to your er… junk?
Very close. In fact, while they never intentionally touch them, I think I’ve been grazed almost every time. Most masseuses do this technique where they press down and hold with both hands right on your groin. It feels awesome, but the back of their hands are almost always nudging me a bit.
Believe it or not, the honeymoon resorts got even closer. The small local parlors seem to prioritize not crossing boundaries, while the high-end resorts seemed to prioritize customer satisfaction, even if that means getting into really really personal places.
What is your go-to massage parlor?
We haven’t found any parlor that’s been head and shoulders above the rest, but the one we go to the most is in the food court of Kad Suan Kaew mall (yes, we realize that sounds lame). We go there the most as much for convenience as quality of the massage. We have the go to the mall to get groceries at Tops anyways, so sometimes we add in a massage to the trip.
The location does have a few benefits though, no street noise chief among them. A few places we’ve gone to have been so loud and distracting from outside noise that it ruins the experience. The food court is never really loud so your massage stays pretty peaceful… besides the constant Thai chatter of the masseuses that is, but that’s going to happen no matter where you go.