A massage gone wrong in Thailand and what to do about it
The easy and very affordable access to massage in Thailand is one of the bonuses for living here. Like everywhere in the world, the quality of massage varies greatly. I have received many great Thai massage sessions in Thailand, but I also had some rather bizarre experiences.
This story is from the lower end of the massage spectrum. When I think of it now, it seems quite funny, but when it actually happened, it did not seem funny at all.
I walked into a massage shop in Bangkok. It was the typical setup of the basic kind, one big room with several massage mats next to each other on the floor.
The air conditioner was turned up to freezing, and when I was lying down on my mat, the therapist placed a fan next to us which blew even more chilled air on me.
I knew that I would be freezing pretty soon, so I asked the therapist if he could turn off the fan. He declined and told me that he was warm and needed it. End of discussion. Where does that leave me as a client?
After maybe ten minutes, he stood up, walked across the room and prepared a pot of tea for everyone’s use. I was just left there wondering what was going on. Then he picked up his massage where he had left off without offering any explanation. This was my first red flag.
A few minutes later one of his colleagues finished her session. To my surprise my therapist interrupted our session again, got up and collected the fee from the other client. Apparently he was the cashier for the entire place. The second red flag went up.
At this point I should have just abandoned the session and walked out. However I was curious how this strange session was going to develop. Since the price was only about US $5 for one hour, I decided to stay with it.
During the rest of the session my therapist got up several more times to collect payments, and never bothered to comment on this or apologize for the interruptions.
On top of all the interruptions, my therapist kept chatting away with his colleagues throughout the session, oblivious of the fact that it might have bothered me or any other clients.
I felt like my presence was not much more than a necessary evil, and only justified because I had money in my pocket. Not surprisingly the session was purely mechanical and I felt mostly like a slab of meat being pushed around.
What’s the moral of the story? If you are looking for a massage in Thailand, you can be lucky and end up with a good therapist. Or you can be unlucky and get a session which borders on absurd. It is best to not simply walk into any shop and accept whatever happens.
Here are some tips which will help you avoid a session like the one I suffered trough:
- First ask around to get recommendations for a good massage shop
- If possible, get the name of a specific therapist. Most shops have quite a few on staff, and it is perfectly acceptable to request a specific one.
- Have a look at the place first. Do you like the energy? Does it look clean and pleasant? Is there a TV blaring in the background? Is the receptionist (if there is one) curteous, friendly and helpful?
- Are there massage therapists sprawled out sleeping in plain view (quite common in Thailand, but not very professional)
- Request a therapist who speaks some English. Without any communication it will be very difficult to explain what you want and what you don’t want.
- Make sure to tell the therapist if you have any problems, pre-conditions (they won’t ask you about such things), and if you like the massage strong, medium or soft
- Don’t be afraid to speak up if the therapist causes you pain
- Indicate clearly if you want some specific work done
- Don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars extra on a place that looks clean, professional, organized, has uniformed therapists and clean sheets.
- I prefer older therapists over young ones. This can increase your chances of getting a more experienced therapist versus someone who just learned massage a few months before.
If you follow these guidelines, your chances of getting a good Thai Massage will be much better than if you just walk into the next shop and lie down on the mat.
For a humorous and enlightening explanation of the various types of massage therapists which you will encounter in Thailand, please click here