Thailand has a long and esteemed heritage of traditional massage which is considered an essential and important part of everybody’s health regimen. Massage in Thailand has a complex and ancient history with origins in both Chinese and Indian medicine. The therapeutic effects are supposedly strong and it can benefit the mind and the body. Many people regularly use massage as an effective way to relieve daily the stresses and tensions on the body, and after experiencing one in Thailand you’ll no doubt agree that it gives a feeling of invigoration, and those niggling aches and pains can melt away. Many visitors to Thailand will appreciate the unique experience of a real Thai massage and Phuket is a good place in which to try, as there is a huge choice of massage parlours and spas. Compared to most Western countries, massage in Phuket is inexpensive and can be found both in the tourist areas and the villages that cater to the locals.
A traditional Thai massage does not use any oil but instead relies on stimulating the various pressure points found all over the body. There are several variations on the technique and many complimentary therapies have become popular in recent years, in Phuket and elsewhere in Thailand, especially where tourists are common. Luxurious health spas are a modern development in Phuket that provide a calm and pleasant environment in which to enjoy the full range of health treatments and therapy. As an art and science, massage is known to have many beneficial effects on the body, such as pain relief, reduction in stress levels, blood pressure and heart rate. The benefits are said to increase significantly over time when multiple sessions are taken.
The majority of massage parlours offer the popular body and facial treatments including Thai and oil massage, aromatherapy, body scrubs, reflexology and foot massage, saunas and much more. The most professional (and expensive) establishments are able to customise the program based on the patient’s health and history, so they can determine which areas to focus on. Before you start any serious massage program (in other words, not just a quick oil massage) it’s wise to let them know if you have any health issues and try to use a professional masseuse, as they have more expertise and proper training.
The Types of Massage in Phuket
Various types of massage can be found in Phuket, each quite different in style and experience, from a soothing oil massage to an energetic Thai massage where your body gets pulled, stretched and pummelled. Choose the massage type based on what you think you will enjoy and whether you are trying to resolve any health problems such as a back ache or to relieve sunburn. Each massage style is unique and enjoyable in its own way. It’s also common to integrate variations into the massage such as a Thai massage with a hot stone, followed by a body scrub.
Traditional Thai Massage
The most famous type of massage and available just about everywhere in Thailand, this technique involves using the hands, elbows and even feet to apply pressure to the so called sen lines in the body (an idea similar to meridians or energy lines) to stimulate those particular areas. It can also include stretching and pulling of body parts and limbs, and tends to use many yoga-like positions in the process. A Thai massage may also involve cracking the finger and toe joints, a head massage, standing on the patient’s back, and all manner of other possibly painful manoeuvres. A Thai massage is normally performed while the patient lies down flat on a mattress on the floor, or a raised bed, and typically lasts between one and two hours. Most decent and respectable venues insist that customers are partially clothed and provide loose cotton pants, or at the very least a small towel to cover your modesty.
In Thailand, massage is considered a medical skill and is integrated into Thai medicine as a whole. Many practitioners are extremely skilled and properly trained (Wat Po in Bangkok is probably the most famous massage teaching school), and their expert hands can help to ease many physiological problems such as joint aches and pains. More often than not a Thai massage is given by a woman, and it’s usually the more experienced ones who can give the most effective massage. If the masseuse is being too vigorous and it hurts, you can always ask her to be more gentle.
Thai foot massage is a form of reflexology which involves applying pressure to the various reflex points on the foot, corresponding to the organs of the body such as the eyes, neck, glands, lungs and kidneys. Specialist foot massage parlours are found all over Phuket where you’ll see rows of comfortable reclining lazy boy chairs and footstools lined up, and tourists sat half asleep with a look of bliss on their face! The massage normally includes a gentle wash of the feet before the massage begins, and the whole experience is quite enjoyable. As well as the foot massage, they’ll happily perform a pedicure (for an additional fee of course).
An oil massage involves rubbing various soothing oils deeply into the skin, which is a very sensual and relaxing experience with less of the pulling and bending of a traditional Thai massage. Aromatic oils are used, or aloe vera which is especially good at relieving the effects of sunburn. An oil massage normally lasts only an hour but you’ll probably be so relaxed by the end that you may want to continue for longer. Just like the traditional Thai massage, the patient lies down on a mattress and is also provided with a towel. In the more risqué massage parlours, customers will be naked during the entire massage (more on that side of things later).
Cost of Massage in Phuket
As mentioned earlier, a decent massage is relatively inexpensive in Phuket compared to having one in western countries, a fact which has encouraged the availability of massage parlours in the tourism industry. The cost can vary widely depending on the type of massage and the location, for example at an upmarket spa it’s likely to cost much more than just a regular parlour or beach massage that provides rudimentary facilities. Typical prices for a massage in a small, uncomplicated place start at around 300-400 baht for an hour, but be as high as 800 or 900 baht in a more stylish spa or hotel. The most expensive places can set you back a few thousand baht, but they provide very unique experiences.
Typical prices for the massage treatments in Phuket are as follows.
Thai massage: 250 baht
Foot massage: 250 baht
Oil massage: 300 baht
Aromatherapy: 450 baht
Body scrub: 500 baht
Where to Have a Massage in Phuket
Phuket has an abundance of massage parlours (and spas – please see our related article in the health section), the majority of which are located in the central tourist areas such as Patong Beach, Kata and the surrounding areas. There are more parlours all over Phuket which cater to the locals and every village will have a place where massage is available. There are broadly a few classes of massage in Phuket, each typified by varying levels of expertise and skill. The tiny massage parlours with just a few staff and only a few small room are all over the tourist districts and side streets everywhere, and they provide the basic massage styles already mentioned.
There are also more upmarket venues which have highly trained staff and a more intimate knowledge of the various massage techniques. Finally, the luxurious and specialist spa resorts offer comprehensive treatments to anyone that’s looking for an all encompassing spa experience on holiday. Most of the better hotels can provide massage services in one form or another, but you don’t need to go far in Phuket to find a massage parlour – simply walk down the street and you’ll find a place in minutes. On the island’s beaches it’s possible to have a massage with a great sea view, as there are usually a few small tented areas with Thai women offering their massage services for several hundred baht.
In the tourist areas there are many respectable massage parlours that can give a very capable massage, but most venues will offer additional “naughty” services too. Most places have several of the best looking girls outside that try to entice the male passers by, with various degrees of eagerness that can even include physically pulling the customer into the shop. They can be quite persistent in their efforts especially in Patong Beach.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of reputable massage parlous to be found in Phuket, which have a great selection of treatments with good facilities and clean premises. These are the typical places that holidaymakers will find, and they offer reasonable prices and fairly high standards. As well as the ubiquitous Thai and oil massage, you can find sports massage, Swedish massage, body scrubs (with tea, milk, salt, sugar, aloe and other natural ingredients), hot stone massage, mud and fruit body wraps, facial treatments, saunas and much more. Most places will offer 60, 90 and 120 minute programs.
Phuket Massage Parlours
There are quite literally hundreds or even thousands of massage parlours in Phuket. Here are the details of just a few that offer traditional Thai massage. For a list of spas, check out our other article in the health section.
Boo’s Original Thai Massage
Address: 78/12 Moo 3, Kamala Main Road
Tel: +66 (0) 76 385 821
Daow Thai Traditional Massage
Address: Soi Kep Sub 212/13, Rat-U-Thit Road, Patong Beach
Tel: +66 (0) 76 344 554
Hutavat Thai Massage
Address: 45/12 Phrabamee Road, Patong Beach
Tel: +66 (0) 76 342 427
The Royal Spa and Health Club
Address: 367/63-64 Yaowarat Road, Phuket Town
Tel: +66 (0) 76 236 663
Happy Ending Massage Parlours
No accurate and truthful article on massage in Phuket would be complete without a brief mention of the happy ending or naughty massages which are available everywhere, especially around Patong Beach. Unless they clearly state otherwise, most small massage parlours near the town centre will offer happy endings to their male customers for an additional fee of around 500 baht and upwards, depending on the particular service.
The fee doesn’t normally go as far as full sex and takes place in a small private room, or simply a larger room with curtains or thin walls separating you from the other customers. If you’re shy then it’s better to request a completely private room. When the masseuse asks you to strip completely naked for the massage, you know that you could be in for some special attention. Most massage parlours will happily perform just a plain old massage and won’t be offended if you decline the extras.
Body Massage Parlours
Another variation on the regular massage available in Phuket is the infamous body massage. These places provide full sex and a sensual naked massage in a private and sometimes luxurious room that comes complete with a bath, a rubber mattress and a bed. The experience starts with choosing a girl from a lineup of candidates that sit behind a glass room (the “fishbowl”), with each girl wearing a numbered badge to make it easier to choose. The most attractive and desirable girls will of course charge more, but prices are typically between 1500 and 3000 baht for an hour of adult fun.
Once you have selected a girl that takes your fancy, she takes you to a private hotel-like room in the same building and fills the bath with warm water. There is usually some brief bath playtime at first, followed by a full soapy body massage on the rubber mat where she rubs her body all over the customer, then moves to the bed to continue the experience. Some customers enjoy the convenience and discreet nature of this kind of short time sexual meeting, in contrast with finding a girl in the bars and discos. With the body massage there is no bar fine and the room is included in the price, and there is none of the “by me a drink” mentality that exists with girls in the beer bars.
There are one or two well known body massage parlours in Phuket (but nowhere near as many as in Pattaya) with prices starting at around 1500 baht. In Patong Beach, by far the largest and most famous is Christin Massage. It’s quite hard to miss this large purple coloured building and all the tuk-tuk drivers know where to find it. There are several other establishments in Phuket Town such as the Grand Plaza, which has a massive selection of masseuses and over one hundred rooms. Details of both places are as follows.
Open: 14.00-midnight, daily
Address: 206 Rat-U-Thit Road, Patong Beach
Tel: +66 (0) 76 340 369
Grand Plaza Massage
Open: 12.00-midnight, daily
Address: 23 Tilok-U-Thit Road, Phuket Town
Tel: +66 (0) 76 214 921