World weary travelers are always happy to disembark in Thailand where relief from travel stress, aching muscles or a bad back is just a massage away. The Thai people mastered the art of massage centuries ago, and are more than happy to share their knowledge of the human body with visitors.
Thai massage is based upon the principle of Chi, which is the flow of energy through the body. Tension blocks the Chi, resulting in an imbalance of energy, and dis-ease. By focusing their massage on pressure points, they can release the blocks and allow the Chi to flow easily again, thus restoring your body's health and putting a smile back on your face.
Traditional Thai massage flexes your limbs while applying pressure to specific points. This increases the blood flow to the area and stretches your muscles. Some of the positions may cause discomfort at first if you're not in good shape or have a physical problem which should be mentioned at the start of the massage so they can be more careful where necessary.
Oil massage is another option. This type of massage uses scented oil applied liberally all over your body, from head to toes. It's far more relaxing than Thai massage and can really mellow you out. If you can't tolerate certain scents (like floral), be sure to tell your masseuse right away. They can usually substitute a non-floral scent or let you sniff what they have available. Rosemary oil is a nice herbal scent to try.
The Thai also practice reflexology, which focuses attention on your feet, where pressure points for the entire body can be found. A Thai foot massage is very effective at getting at the internal problems not accessible by massaging the musculature.
Another type of massage covers your head and shoulders and is a good introduction to Thai massage. This is recommended when you first arrive to relieve all that travel induced tension. It will take care of that headache, neck ache or backache from dragging your luggage around airports.
The Thai can also do western style Swedish massage, which treats those aching muscles with deep and vigorous tissue work. While this is not part of the Thai school of massage, they do a good job, and it's recommended for those who don't like Thai massage.
When asking for a Thai massage make clear which type you prefer. Sometimes a different masseuse will be assigned or it may take place in a different room. You are usually expected to undress completely for certain procedures (like oil massage) and a towel is provided to cover your privates. However if you are shy, you can keep your underwear on.
If you've never had a massage before, we recommend the head and shoulder massage to get accustomed to the techniques used. The best thing you can do is just let go. Relax and enjoy being pampered.
There are massage schools everywhere, some rather large, even multistoried with a dozen or more masseuses or masseurs on their staff. Or you can often get a massage right on the beach, if you don't mind being in public view. Beach massages aren't always the cheapest or the best around, but very convenient.
The best part of Thai massage is the price. For as little as 200 bhat (US$5) you can get an hour massage. At that price you may want to make a habit of it while you're there. There are so many different types of massage to try, you should give them all a go if you have the time. In many places, especially spas, you can purchase a package with several types of massage and other relaxing activities, usually extending two or more hours.
So don't be shy, give it a try!
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