Hell Bent to Get Bent: My Long Quest for a Thai Massage

You hear about them all the time. The low cost, the quality… the “happy ending.” I was searching for two out of three of those things.

Thai massages. They’re affordable, they’re great and they’re everywhere across Thailand! While I was obviously visiting the Land of Smiles on assignment for Outpost, I was also visiting Thailand for the first time as a traveller. And personally speaking, what I wanted most from my trip was an affordable, authentic Thai massage (sans the happy ending, of course). In every town and on every city corner there is a 7-11 convenience store, and beside that is usually a massage parlour. Selling for anywhere from 250-450 baht ($10-$15 CAN), the classic Thai massages can be intense and rough or absolutely magical but always worth every second!

From the beginning of our fast-paced trip, I had my mind set that I was getting an authentic Thai massage or two. We touched down in Chiang Mai for three days. “This gives me tons of time,” I told myself.

But our week went by in the blink of an eye, and still no massage. In every tiny town we passed, I would peer sadly out the window of our transit minibus or van and watch every sunburnt tourist in Thailand relax completely and drift off to sleep as a Thai masseuse ironed out their knotted bodies. Every evening, when our producer would relay the upcoming plans, I would add “…and a massage,” at the end of his sentences.

finding a thai massage

Thai massage parlours—so close, yet so far. (Outpost/Michael Fraiman)

Days turned into weeks, which turned into the end of our trip. With two days left of our adventure, we found ourselves on the expat-filled island of Ko Tao and, despite my best efforts, I still hadn’t had a massage. I couldn’t go home to face the people to whom I’d boldly stated, “Of course I’ll be getting tons of Thai massages!”

So it was settled. I didn’t care who was coming with me, how much it cost, where it was happening or what time of night it was. It was the last free night of our journey and I wouldn’t get on that return flight until my back was glistening with oil and a nice Thai lady was roughing me up!

Making our late-night escape, sheltered by the darkness, my co-host Jess and I bolted from our hotel, into the bustling streets, in search of the place where the magic happens. “Come to mama!”

After quenching our thirst (it was a long walk) at a beachside bar, we quickly came upon the treasure. At last! A massage parlour offering 30- and 60-minute massages for around 200 baht! “Well, sign me up and call me Sally! Let’s do this!”

Moments later, Jess and I were lying face-down on mat in a room (I use that term vaguely as there were no literal walls) with about 10 other people. If you didn’t know any better, it looked like an adult daycare during nap time.

Thailand is a wonderful place to relax, if you find the right spots. (Outpost/Michael Fraiman)

My masseuse started kneading my shoulders and mumbling something that most likely translated to me being super-stressed and my muscles being tight. In her defense, I was probably wound up like an eight-day clock because we had been travelling non-stop for 17 days prior. I may also have been a little tense not knowing exactly what I had signed up for.

I must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I remember is being abruptly erected into the sitting position. I heard more mumbling in Thai and suddenly my arms were being yanked up into the air and my back being twisted as she put me in a position somewhere between a headlock and a grizzly-bear hug. She tugged on my head, pulling my neck toward her until I heard a snap, snap, pop, pop!

“Alright then, I’m awake now!”

My vertebrae had never sounded or moved like that in its life and time stood still as I wondered if I’d ever walk again. After a nanosecond, waves of heat and shivers pulsed throughout my entire body, and I felt amazing! I had just been reborn with a new body and a fresh spine. I happily paid the smiling lady and walked out of the parlour rejuvenated, relaxed and possibly two inches taller. No matter what it takes, I encourage you—if you ever find yourself in Thailand—to get a Thai massage!

Watch the Trailer