If you are going to get a Thai massage, what better place than Thailand?
That was our thinking when we knew we would be visiting Bangkok (and Myanmar) with Abercrombie & Kent luxury tours, so after our first full day touring Bangkok, we arranged for a Thai massage in one of the most convenient spas we've ever come across: our stunning suite in the five-star lebua at State Tower. It's not only max-spacious, but this sweet suite comes with its own massage room sporting two massage tables, shown at left, a pre-programmed iPod and flat-screen TV.
Our 30-plus hours on four flights the day before had really done a number on our backs, and fronts, and sides, shoulders, necks, arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers and toes. We were beat, and coping with the radical time change that flips the clock on you, as in when it's 2 a.m. here, it's 1 p.m. the previous day in North Carolina. When we found out we could have masseuses deliver a Thai-syle couples session right in our room, we jumped at the chance. (Below, living room, kitchen and bath in our suite.)
Prior to our in-suite appointment, we jumped into our super spacious shower, taking full advantage of the Bulgari products. Afterward, in our fluffy robes, we stepped out on our 55th-floor balcony and watched the bustling city as well as traffic on the Chao Phraya River that flows near the hotel. (Interesting note: We had to sign a waiver to have the balcony doors unlocked.)
Masseuses Ayo and Anne arrived right on time, bringing along two pairs of linen Thai pajamas featuring a tunic top and baggy drawstring pants. But our western style bodies proved too much for the smallish Thai PJs, so we improvised and were quickly on the tables. Thai massage does not use oil, and because of the intense movements, you need to wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes as you will be turned and twisted in all kinds of ways.
Thai massage, which originated in India over 2,500 years ago, is not for the faint of heart, so to speak. It is deep, physical massage with a series of stretches and pulls. In order to maneuver you into the necessary positions, the practitioners has to climb up on the table with you (though some perform Thai massage with you on the floor or on a futon).
According to the website, whatisholistic.com, Thai massage blends massage, acupressure, energy work, and gentle yoga stretches. Therapists use compressions, pressure on specific points and stretches to release blockages. The theoretical basis for this style of bodywork is the existence of the "energy body" which includes "sen" or "energy lines" through which life force flows. A Thai massage supposedly releases those blockages to restore a free flow of energy.
Our life flows definitely had some blockages from those long flights so Ayo and Anne had their work cut out for them.
A full Thai massage session typically lasts two hours or more - ours was 90 minutes - and near the end, the therapist performs an arching of your back into "bhujangasana" or cobra position. Ayo and Anne performed this move three times on each of us: From a face-down position, you reach your arms out behind you and grab the masseuse around her wrists. She, standing or kneeling on the table behind you, then pulls you far, far back with your torso up off the table, stretching you fully.
One bonus of this no-oil treatment is you don't need to wash off afterward. Another is that it's like a cheap chiropractic session, because of the joint cracking. (Speaking of pricing: We were told by an ex-pat that you can get a good, two-hour Thai massage at Health Land Spa and Massage for around $13 - tip is extra. We also were recommended the Meden Spa near the lebua hotel where the price is about $20 with tip included. Even for the luxury of our in-room massage, the price was only about $43 per person.)
"Why do we even get massages in America?" Fletcher asked at one point between moans of mixed pleasure/pain, to which Kathy replied, "Because the flight here takes so long."
Very intimate, very physical. Stretching. Tugging. Pulling. Pushing, Bending. Twisting. Poking. It is amazing how much force these small women can exert.
Though our Thailand experience is only one day in, so far we have found that the Thai people very service oriented, eager to please, yet determined to get it done, which perfectly describes our masseuses.
Thai massage in Thailand - yes, it's a must - and if you can have it delivered in your own hotel suite, all the better.
Details: Visit www.lebua.com for more on lebua at State Tower, Bangkok. For more on touring Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia with A&K, visit www.abercrombiekent.com or call 888.785.5379.