Evolution of Spa in Thailand

By Keiko and Laura

Spa Concept Emerges from Thai Massage

If you want to talk about Spa industry in Thailand, you cannot ignore Thai Massage. The hospitality / tourism country, Thailand, has a huge spa industry. You will see many “health land”, “Spa” and “Thai massage” shops around shopping malls, hotels and on many street corners. Thailand began its spa history with the Thai massage 2500 years ago. It came to Thailand with Buddhism from India. This type of massage is known as an authentic Thai massage. Thai massages are so popular that many people come to Thailand get spa treatments, specifically, Thai massages. Thus, demand of Thai massage increased. Since its orgin, the massage industry in Thailand has expanded its business to not only provide Thai authentic massage, but also to encompass broader spa concepts: rejuvenating, beauty, health, wellness and anti-aging. Consequently, spas not only offer Thai massages, but also sculpture treatments, oil treatments and hot stone massages that are not originally from Thailand. Interestingly, Thai massages have some superficial similarities to Chinese meridian theory. Nowadays, Thai massage is popular among different countries such as Japan, The U.S., New Zealand and Canada.

Varioutypes of Spa
Thai Massage
Spas in Thailand have different styles. As most of you already know, Thailand is famous for Thai Massages. Thai massage is a type of massage that involves stretching and deep tissue massage. It generally follows the energy (Sen) lines on the body and stimulates/improves the internal organs. It also helps relieve pain from aching muscles and improves blood circulation.This form of bodywork is usually performed on the floor, with the client wearing comfortable clothes that allow for movement. Usually, you can get Thai massage in a small place with casual touch. The place may be unclean, crowded, probably with no fancy decorations and no extra services such as hot herb tea after the massage or hot wet towels. It can be done solo or in a group of a dozen or so patients in the same large room. The downside of going to these places is that the general skill level of the therapists greatly vary.

However, as the industry grows, some places have begun to provide fabulous decorations with scents and private rooms for the massage/ treatment. These places train therapists well, ensuring that their skills are consistent. Many women and middle class locals prefer middle to upper scale places like this.

The use of herbal balls against pressure points is also Thai-style. It enhances the effects of the massage and herb help to relieve stress. Usually, oils are not used in Thai massage.

Thai massages normally cost 200-400 THB (US$7-$14) an hour, which is very inexpensive compared to most nations. For example, in Japan, costs US$ 100 at minimum for a one hour massage. In luxury Thai spas, Thai massages may be as expensive as 3000THB  (US$100) above.

Hotel Spa
Most of hotels in Thailand offer spa packages. Luxury spas are typically very popular among tourists. They offer variety of treatments in a luxurious environment.

Day Spa
People can choose to spend a day at a house. The house is designed just for spa treatments, and it usually contains a flower bath. Day spas typically involve a full-service spa treatment including lunch and tea, and most people spend a day in the house.

Medical Spa
Medical spa is a trend for anti-aging and well-being. It is a mixture of Asian medication and Western medication. Medical spa is the newest spa concept in Thailand. Under a doctor’s consideration, you can combine spa treatments based on your condition and specific needs. It provides benefits such as whitening, beauty, stress-relief and increased health. Some spas have restaurants inside the building where people can eat healthy food and relax before and after treatments. The restaurants provide a healthy food menu, using lots of fruits and vegetables. Some spas use only organic fruits and vegetables. On top of that, Thai food uses lots of herbs and is thought of as healthy food.
Just a taste – History of Thai massage

Thai massage and medicine is said to have come down from Buddha’s physician over 2,500 years ago. In reality, the history of Thai massage is more complex than this legend of a single founder would suggest. Thai massage is a combination of influences from Indian, Chinese, Southeast Asian cultural spheres and traditions of medicine. The art as it is practiced today is likely to be the product of a 19th century synthesis of various healing traditions from all over the kingdom. Even today, there is considerable variation from region to region across Thailand, and no single routine or theoretical framework is universally accepted among healers.

Future of Thailand Spa industry-Sunny

In Thailand, Thai massage is one of the branches of Thai traditional medicine (TTM), now recognized and regulated by the government, and is widely considered to be a medical discipline used for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments. Thailand spa industry will likely continue to grow. Thai people’s hospitality helps to increase this industry as well. In addition, recently, Medical Spa is getting more attention. Generally, people are getting more concerned about their health and well-being than before. Therefore, the demand for spa is increasing and Thailand will be the great place to continue providing a variety of spas. As Medical spa grows, chemical-free spa environment will likely become trend in the near future.

One sad fact is that, some spas provide sexual services and thus some people associate Thai spas with said services. Contrary to this emerging theme, Thai Massage therapists are typically very profession and well trained. In Thailand, there are many schools that teach Thai traditional massages. However, still, there are places that degrade therapists’ position by providing sexual service. To protect this huge industry’s reputation, Thailand needs to differentiate these types of spas from others. At the glance, both look similar, making it difficult to tell from the exterior what kind of spa it is.

Salguero, C. Pierce, Traditional Thai Medicine: Buddhism, Animism, Ayurveda, Hohm Press, 2007
Wikipedia-Thai massage
Thai Spa Association-http://thaispaassociation.com/
All about-Japan magazine-http://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/20545/
Amazing THAILAND-Tourism Authority of Thailand-http://www.thailandtravel.or.jp/activity/massage.html
Youtube-Thai Spa, Asian Downunder -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-p76UMaQBQ&feature=player_embedded
All Images are taken from Google image search



12 thoughts on “Evolution of Spa in Thailand

  1. Some pointers if it is your first time visiting a spa or massage shop in Bangkok:

    1.) If you are doing a thai massage, they will give you a set of pajamas to change into. You are expected to use them as it makes massaging and bending you a lot easier. Please keep your clothes on as well (unless you’re in a different kind of spa off the conventional tourist grid).
    2.) don’t talk loudly and please turn off your phone (obvious but you’d be surprised by how inconsiderate some people can be).
    3.) for foot massages, the masseuse will start by doing a wipe down of your feet with a towel or scrub your feet with a brush in a basin of warm water. Thais consider the feet the lowest part of the body and they must be cleaned before they are worked on. For head and shoulder massages, the masseuse will ask for your permission to touch your head out of respect since the head is considered the highest part of your body.
    4.) the typical pattern for a thai massage session starts from the feet, then moves up your body in zones, finishing with work on your back and head. It is ok to ask the masseuse beforehand to focus on particular areas that you are experiencing discomfort.
    5.) many people find Thai massage to be rather painful due to the pressure put on certain points on your body (particularly one move that presses on the inner thighs to temporarily stop the flow of blood to your legs). A good masseuse will be constantly checking you for feedback so make sure you tell them to lighten up if they are hurting you. It is not unusual for some bruising to occur the next day particularly if you have fair skin.
    6.) for beginners, it is probably better to start with a foot, facial, or head and shoulder. Then if you like it you can try the 1 hour thai and progress to the 2 hour thai.
    7.) tipping- i get this question a lot. Your masseuse escorts you to the cashier and waits to send you off at the door. Generally tip about 10-20% is very generous. So if your massage is 300 baht, i’d say tipping 50-60 baht will make you a superstar in the eyes of your masseuse.

  2. The best Thai massage I had was after riding an elephant–and trust me, it was much needed!

    How is Thai massage different than the massage practiced in other countries? You mentioned the deep tissue and pressure points, but are there other differences? And, how long do people have to train in order to become a licensed masseuse?

  3. One of the main differences between a Thai massage and the massages performed in other regions of the world seems to be the fact that the client wears clothing during the massage. As you probably know from experience, during a Thai massage, the masseuse bends and stretches different parts of your body, while also using pressure points and manipulating blood circulation at different stages. There are also no oils or lotions used during a Thai massage, which is a key point of differentiation.

    The amount of training required largely depends on the type of accreditation being pursued. According to the government accredited ‘Thai Massage School, Thailand,’ Foundation of Thai Massage, Thai Massage Enhancement, Therapeutic Thai Massage, and Comprehensive Thai Massage 3 certificates take 90 hours of training. Intensive Professional Thai Massage levels 4 and 5 require 150 hours and Thai Massage Teaching Certificates require 300-600 hours.

    It is also my understanding that Thai massage techniques are also something passed down from generation to generation. While this may not always be the case, it is my understanding that it is quite common for mothers to teach their daughters traditional Thai massage techniques. While this form of teaching would not come with any formal accreditation, it will most certainly ensure an authentic massage!

  4. Funny you mention accrediation Laura. I was always under the impression that if you get enough of them you’ll eventually figure it out! Very few places actually display the accreditation certificates of their staff. The only one I know of is Heath land which is an upscale brand with multiple locations throughout Bangkok. Most of the cheaper places that you will encounter on the streets of the popular tourist areas won’t display cetificates.

    I’m not sure what our agenda for the temple and river tour will be but if we visit Wat Pho (which Ingrid wrote about in her blog), that is the site of one of the most well known traditional massage schools in Bangkok. I can point it out to you guys as it is tucked away in the back of the temple grounds.

    One thing that I do notice about Thai massage is that the practitioner uses gravity to their advantage. By lying the custom on a low bed rather than a massage table, they have a mechanical advantage. Instead of kneading with only hands, which can get tiring pretty quickly, they use the base of their palms, elbows, forearms, heels of their feet, and knees to apply pressre. That is why they can massage so many clients a day without serious fatigue.

    Pay attention to their technique when you guys are getting massaged. I expect you to learn a few tricks that we can use on each other when back in Singapore!

  5. Spa Treatment and Thai massage are the must do in Thaialnd. I thought Thai massage is quite similar to osteopathy? But seeing so many spa and massage on the street, it is quite difficult determine which one is better especially to people with no experience in Thai massage.

  6. There is nothing better then a spa treatment. I just bought my own spa and with my luck I broke it. I had to get some new spa parts. Now it works great!

  7. Great article!
    We are also a couple writing about places we love and this post really inspires us! We have made several in-dept pages about Bangkok and some places you would find interesting, check https://tipspots.com/
    Marcel and Denise

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