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Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Thailand March 14, 2012

Getting to Know the Pain and Pleasure of A Traditional Thai Massage

Bangkok, Thailand

We really didn’t know what to expect when we decided to come to Thailand, that was why a lot of the things about Thailand came as such a nice surprise.

One of these nice surprises was discovering traditional Thai massage. We got addicted to this (and for $7/hr, it’s hard not to) and got one at least every other day (what a tough life traveling can be).

Places offering Thai massage are everywhere, and some sidewalks have been converted into an impromptu spa simply by placing some reclining chairs.

Sidewalk Thai foot massage in Chiang Mai

Sidewalk Thai foot massage in Chiang Mai

I have always found that even the deep tissue massage one gets here in the States is never – and not trying to sound too masochistic here – painful enough. Some of you will know what I mean, no?

waiting for traditional Thai massage

Waiting for my Thai massage

Thankfully, I never had that problem with traditional Thai massages. This is the massage for those who crave that invigorating feeling, that ‘Oh, it hurts so good’ sensation.

My first time getting a Thai massage came as a mild shock. It was a lot different than what I was used to.

First, they ask you to change into a pajama/robe thingy and proceed to wash your feet.

Second, the masseuse use not only her hands, but her arms, elbows, knees and feet – that’s right, feet – to apply the pressures.

Traditional Thai massage method

Third, some of the areas they work on are just simply more intimate than your regular Western massage. Your butt, inner thighs, outer thighs, and your groin area are all fair game. And not only that, they get pretty close to you – physically. As in, they get all over your body while pulling, stretching, and bending limbs.

And fourth – I had the skinniest Thai women with an amazing vice-like grip that made me go ‘Oh my holy mother gaaawd’. I mean, the one masseuse I liked to go to in the states was this burly Mexican guy (who has sadly moved to Texas) and whom compared to these Thai ladies, had a grip as soft and gentle as a fluffy kitten. How did they get so strong?

And if the vice like grip is not enough, they stand on you. I found out about this as I was laying face down and noticed an out-of-this-world strong pressure on my pelvis. I was like, “What the heck?” – craning my neck I noticed the shadow cast on the wall.

“Eeeek, she’s standing on my back!!”

Thai massage in Bangkok

Which, was awesome. If you like hard massages.

Thai massage is for you if you:

– find regular deep tissue massage is not deep enough
– are looking for an invigorating more than a relaxing massage
– are not particularly ticklish or shy

Thai massage? One more reason why we love traveling in Thailand so much.

Where to find a good Thai massage place in Bangkok and Chiang Mai

Unfortunately, not all Thai massage places are created equal. If you ever had to endure a bad massage (where 1 hour feels like an eternity), you know it’s important to find a place that works for you.

For a Thai massage place in Bangkok, we love Boonsita in Soi 1, Sukhumvit (the best Thai massage yet!), and in Chiang Mai, we like Lila Thai Massage (3 locations in Chiang Mai) that employs rehabilitated women prisoners. Some hotels in Bangkok and Chiang Mai also offer good Thai massage but these will be more expensive.

Would you consider getting a Thai massage?

Bangkok, Thailand January 31, 2012

On Sexy Buddha and Underestimating Bangkok

We didn’t have a long list of things to do in Bangkok. My brother and I arrived in Bangkok, the first city in our SE Asia trip, with only one thing in mind:

Eat Thai food

We quickly realised it wasn’t an ambitious enough list. Not by a long shot.

The thing is, I sort of underestimated Bangkok: To be honest, I was expecting Bangkok to be your typical Asian capital city: hot and dusty, legendary traffic jams, uninspiring and dusty concrete buildings…

But Bangkok surprised us. (Even though the hot part and the traffic jam parts are also true).

The thing about having an unambitious to-do list is that all the other extra stuff we ended up enjoying about Bangkok was just extra bonus points.

The Grand Palace was a wow-zer in its over the top way – Bonus point!

Thai Grand Palace complex

Thai Grand Palace

Bangkok Grand Palace

The giant reclining Buddha was well… big and horizontal. Very cool, indeed. Bonus point!

The fact that Buddha has a come-hither look that makes this the sexiest Buddha statue I’ve ever seen? Double bonus point!

Bangkok Giant Reclining Buddha

Sexy Buddha

Many of Bangkok’s points of interest are located within walking distance from Chao Phraya river. You can jump on a public boat and get on and off at any pier that looks interesting all for 15 Baht (50 cents) a trip – Bonus point!

We took a trip on a long boat tour through the residential part of Bangkok canals. The idea is that you get to see the life of those who live by the river. It would’ve been interesting, but we must’ve picked a bad time because we didn’t see any ‘life’ so to speak. The only people we saw on this trip were people in the laughable ‘floating market’ – 3 boats selling overpriced bananas. This was just ok and does not merit a bonus point.

And then there’s the famous Bangkok’s nightlife. I took my brother out to a bar on Nana district. We saw men the age of our fathers acting like frat boys: going crazy on the dance floor with beer in one hand and a young Asian girl my brother’s age on the other. Rocking it, grinding it, and in general having a grand old time. I found it all very fascinating. My brother found it shocking. I almost can never shock my brother so – Bonus point!

And of course we ate a bunch of Thai food. The wonderful Thai people makes it so easy. Empty sidewalk is considered a disgrace and when not taken by souvenir stalls, it’s filled with stands selling fresh fruit, fish cake, grilled fish, grilled meat and other types of deliciousness that makes my mouth water just writing about it – GIANT Bonus point!

Delicious Thai spring rolls

Delicious Thai spring rolls - one of our nibbles

My brother and I have adapted a grazing style of eating while we were there. We never sat down to eat, we just kind of… nibbled. A little bit here and there.

So many things about Bangkok came as a pleasant surprise.

The only thing that was NOT a pleasant surprise? The heat and the humidity. My brother and I are probably the only non heat-resistant Asians out there. In Bangkok’s relentless humidity, my face turns into an oil slick OPEC would be interested in. My brother sweats so much he often looks like he’s just fallen into one of the canals.

People say you’ll get used to it. We’re still waiting for it to happen. (Our guide at the Grand Palace said that Bangkok has 3 seasons: hot, hotter, and hottest).

Despite the heat, I have to say I kind of like Bangkok. It’s a fun city and I never thought I’d say that about any capital city in Asia. As we’re traveling through Cambodia and Vietnam (where we’re currently at) – we keep saying to each other: “Oh, can’t wait to get back to Bangkok!”

TLDR: Bangkok

1 hr long boat trip: 300 Baht a person
Bangkok Grand Palace admission fee: 400 Baht
Bangkok Reclining Buddha admission fee: 100 Baht
A tip on which area to stay in Bangkok: We stayed in Sukhumvit district and loved it! Staying close to a BTS station makes a huge difference.