After a week of volunteering and endless sightseeing, I decided to treat myself to a Thai massage and manicure in Chiang Mai. As you walk through the Old City, it feels as though every other store offers a Thai massage, the options are never ending. I did some trusty trip advisor searching and chose the Fah Lanna Spa in the northeast corner of the Old City. Although slightly more expensive than the average street options, it seemed to offer the best overall experience. When it came to my first-ever Thai massage I wanted the 'real deal'. Not surprisingly, as a newbie to the Thai massage world I faced a few quandaries.
First, how do I put on these sumo pants? Upon arrival at the spa I was shown to my own personal room where my feet were washed, I showered, and then attempted to put on the Thai massage clothing. The shirt was easy, a basic tunic. The pants, however, could fit about three of me standing side by side and the only resemblance of a way to make them fit were two strings hanging off the side. I came to a solution that at least kept the pants on and my masseuse didn't make a comment; I'm taking that as a sign I did it right.
Second, am I supposed to be in pain? On my pre-spa form I indicated I wanted a medium pressure massage, a classification I thought was a safe bet. However at the start, Thai massages feel like someone is pressing on the knots in your muscles, except that you have knots everywhere. The massage is described as firm, that is a euphemism. I also found myself contorted into positions for stretches that I didn't think were physically possible. And yet, I was relaxed the entire time. There is something nice about the intense pressure a Thai massage provides and I mentally thanked my semi-regular yoga practice for allowing me to stretch to such extremes. The end result feels amazing, the methods just take some getting used to.
Finally, can I afford to do this every day? From start to finish, my spa massage experience was like no other. For less than $50 USD, I received two and a half hours of total pampering. When you start with a cold pressed juice as a welcome and end with hot tea and crackers, you know you've been spoiled.
I feel a true Thai massage is a must for the traveler visiting Thailand. Trust me, after a full day of sightseeing you deserve this experience.