I came to Thailand for exactly 3 things: to do a visa run, eat ALL the pad thai, and get a massage every day. Especially the latter was a priority for this trip. I just love any country where getting a massage is not the ultimate but an affordable everyday luxury. The first thing I learned about massages in Thailand was that I am not the biggest fan of the famed Thai massage itself. It is usually too strong for me, hurts my legs and gives me bruises.
With that, my first Thai words included "bao bao", meaning softer. Luckily there are so many other massage options too and you will find something for every body part (yeah, well, it is also the land of the happy ending massage) and taste. I put together my five ultimate favorite places for the best massage in Thailand.
Where to find the best massage in Thailand
Best massage in Bangkok
One of my favorite spas in Bangkok if I am looking to spoil myself is HARNN, an amazing local brand with treatments to match. I am usually not one for lusting over beauty products and lotions (especially not in 100% humidity!) but here... oh man, here I am in trouble. They offer all kind of treatments from facials - the non-pinchy kind, perfect to get you smooth and glowy before a date - to massages and body treatments. While I love a good oil massage I am usually quite picky when it comes to the products a place uses and so it is not something I choose in the cheap Khao San massage parlors. At HARNN spa it is a whole different ballgame though so I was excited to try their new Ayurvedic Hot Oil Compress Treatment. Herbal compresses that are usually heated with steam are filled with oil here and stamped, for a lack of better word, all over your body before your masseuse will rub you into nirvana. A great bonus: the oils smell amazing (mine was their new galanga and lemongrass scent) and are incredibly non-greasy, even afterward in that Bangkok summer humidity.
Keen to learn how to make your own beauty products? Visit their Asian Holistic Academy before!
Akyra Thonglor Hotel
I stayed at the Akyra Thonglor for my last two nights in Bangkok, a perfect end to my time in Asia. Needless to say, those last nights needed to be commemorated with a massage as well.
While the Akyra doesn't have a spa they do have an in-room massage service you can book. I haven't had a massage in my room before since I usually quite like the act of going to a spa to get pampered but honestly, this is was a lovely alternative for lazy people who don't want to leave their pretty hotel room. The great thing about a massage in your room? You don't need to get dressed of course! And unlike many massages in Bangkok spas, you can book a massage at the Akyra with only an hour's notice and from 10 to 10 pm.
There is no huge selection of massages but to be honest I didn't mind. They offer a Thai and an Aromatherapy Massage for 60 or 90 minutes and what else does one really need?!
I had a 60-minute Thai massage which took place on my bed and was quite blissful after I had declared that I needed my treatment to be "bao bao", a somewhat unusual request for a Thai massage which my lovely therapist promptly adapted to.
In hindsight, my bed was almost a bit too soft and comfy to be ideal for a Thai massage (usually Thai massages in Bangkok happen on somewhat hard mattresses) so in the future, I would rather go for an oil massage. But having that said, if you are looking for one of the best massages in Thailand, it might be a lot closer than you think - just stay in your room.
First time in Thailand and first time for a Thai massage? Then you have to head to Wat Pho for the best Thai massage in Bangkok. The temple of the reclining Buddha is not only a sight to behold but also houses the WatPo Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School. Here you will get the mother of all Thai massages.
The school's official Thai Medicine program includes Thai massage as one of its four disciplines so can be sure to be in good hands.
I just love the fact that massages are part of their medical program!
Mind you, prices are a bit steeper than elsewhere but still very reasonable. You are also in the perfect spot after a day of sightseeing as this is the area with all the big temples and the Grand Palace.
For those who like to dig deeper, the school also offers week-long courses in the various massage techniques.
Khao San/ Rambuttri Road
You will get a very different experience on Bangkok's most notorious road: Khao San. Mind you, I love it. There is nothing better than walking around with a fresh juice in hand and get a roadside foot massage.
It is people watching at its best: who wears the biggest backpack? Will that silly tourist really eat the scorpion? And does Richard from The Beach exist after all?
Sit back in one of the many lounge chairs and just settle the question if you need one hour or two for your feet, you can most likely afford either. If you are looking for a cheap massage in Bangkok with a side of peoplewatching this is the place to be.
Choices are plentiful, my favorite is actually on Rambuttri Road parallel to Khao San and called Shewa Spa. Really, there is not much difference though between the places and the prices are all pretty much the same. Just find one that you like, sit down and watch the world go by.
Banyan Tree Spa
During the PATA conference in Jakarta, I kept on eyeing the stand of the Thai tourism board as they were offering mini massages. On day three I finally made it and was delighted to find out that their massages were given by therapists from the Banyan Tree Spa in Bangkok.
One of my very first spa experiences was at the Banyan Tree Seychelles (I couldn't afford to stay there, but I did go for an open-air treatment and an iced coffee with a view) and have been keen to go back ever since.
So I was delighted when they not only gave me a mini massage right then and there, complimented my pronunciation of bao bao but also invited me to check out their spa massage in Bangkok. Their spas have often been named World's Best Spa and are really as good as it gets.
In Bangkok, you will find subdued light, comfy massage tables and amazing therapists - perfect to escape the city craze. I got their signature Lomi Lomi massage and an express facial with their new Jasmine Rice Collection. I am a sucker for jasmine anything and was almost sad to fall asleep immediately. It turned out my facial didn't include any prodding or squeezing but just felt like a revitalizing massage for my face.
SoSPA @ SO Sofitel Bangkok
If you are looking for a chic and modern hotel spa that offers something different than your good old Thai massage in Bangkok, I recommend the SoSPA at the SO Sofitel.
Bring enough time to chill at their chill room with comfy beds overlooking the skyline and Lumpini Park before your treatment. Once you are in your treatment room you won't be able to appreciate anymore because the word cocoon comes to mind during their signature treatment, the SO Exhilarating Body Massage.
First, you get wrapped up like a mummy (okay, maybe swaddling is a nicer term!) and rocked by your therapist. If you are not asleep yet you will get slathered in oil - it is part massage part slimming treatment (without making it a thing if you know what I mean) and also connecting body and mind throughout, stimulating all senses. A highlight for me was the massage bed which was quite literally a bed. Why can't all massages be so fluffy and comfortable?
Whatever treatment you will go for, you will be rewarded with chocolate afterward (the hotel has its own chocolate studio downstairs) and you should spend some time at their beautiful pool overlooking the city. A great view, rain or shine.
Best Thailand massage - Gulf of Thailand
Koh Tao, Beach Pavillion
As you may know, one of my favorite islands in Thailand is Koh Tao. Here I can blissfully spend days on end diving, lounging on the white sand of Chalok Bay, and do absolutely nothing. Obviously with all the diving and doing nothing, a massage is needed once in a while.
Truthfully you pay island prices on Koh Tao for everything, even the massage. That makes it about 100 THB more expensive than in Bangkok but still, really affordable and oh so worth it. Here massages come with a side of ocean sounds as most of the places are right on the beach.
For one of the best massages in Thailand, head to the little beach pavilion in Chalok Bay. With only three spots it is tiny - just write your name down and the time you want your massage and you are good to go. Once it's your turn, enjoy the ocean breeze and some reggae vibes from the chilled beach bar next door.
To find this little paradise head towards New Heaven Dive School on the main road and you will see it a few doors before on the right-hand sight behind a boom. Just keep walking towards the ocean.
Update June 2017: Unfortunately the pavilion is now closed off and has gotten walls. However, they usually keep the windows open so you still get a lovely breeze, ocean waves and reggae sounds!
Kayo Massage, Sairee Beach
On my most recent visit to Koh Tao I stayed in Sairee Beach and rediscovered Kayo Massage right between 'the strip' and the beach. It is airy with a nice ocean breeze and I had two of the best massages there thanks to Pen.
Both the Thai and the oil massage she gave me were amazing and perfectly bao bao for my liking. Usually, these big places just give you a masseuse who is available when you walk in so I was really pleased that she looked after me when I came for my second massage. Ask for her if you go, she is wonderful!
Best Massage in Phuket
Coqoon Spa, The Slate
I had one of the best massages in Thailand in Phuket of all places. The Slate Hotel is such a beautiful surprise and their spa, Coqoon, is really one of a kind.
I was invited to try their signature Coqoon Rebirth massage that takes place in one of their coqoons or nests which are super cozy and really cool (I really would have loved to stay the night!). Such a unique setting for a massage, make sure you do not fall asleep to get the most out of it!
Beach Massage Naiyang Beach, Sirinat National Park
Nothing beats a good beach massage - the sound of the waves, the rustling of palm trees and nobody minding your sandy feet.
This little massage place is right on Naiyang Beach (you can see it on the map here) and while it ain't pretty, it is pretty perfect for an inexpensive massage in Phuket with a view.
You have your choice of the usual suspects - foot, Thai or oil massage or something with aloe if you spent too much time in the sun before.
And yes, you can rock up without an appointment, wearing your bikini!
Do you like your massages bao bao or nak nak? And where have you gotten the best Thai massage in Thailand?