I usually come to Thailand for three reasons: to go scuba diving, eat ALL the food, and get a massage every day. All three have equal importance for me but I will admit that there are few countries which do massages as well as Thailand and where it is not the ultimate but an affordable everyday luxury.
What is a traditional Thai massage? A Thai massage is an ancient mix of acupressure, Ayurvedic principles, and assisted stretches and yoga postures. Unlike other massages you will have to play a somewhat active part in your treatment and there is no oil involved. The spa will usually give you loose pants and a top, so a Thai massage is perfect if it is too hot and humid outside to be lathered in oil.
Mind you, the first thing I learned about massages in Thailand was that I am not the biggest fan of the original Thai massage itself. It is usually too strong for me, hurts my legs and gives me bruises. Then I learned my first Thai words and the phrase “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). Whether you are on a budget and just want to take full advantage of inexpensive massages every day of the week or a looking for a luxurious hotel spa to pamper yourself. I put together my ultimate favorite places for the best massage in Thailand for every wallet and taste (except for the happy ending one, there you are on your own!)
My favorite spas in Thailand
Hotel Spas in Bangkok
Peninsula Bangkok Spa
I have adored the concept of the Peninsula hotel spas ever since I got the first facial ever that I liked in New York with them. So I was thrilled to go and see what their Bangkok spa was all about, considering that this is the main training center for all Peninsula therapists and birthplace of their signature treatments.
To get to the Peninsula which is located on the other side of the Chao Praya you can either take a taxi but depending on the traffic you might be better off with the BTS. Once you get to the station you can take one of their very own ferry boats to get to the hotel – a fun and unique way of transport!
Their terrace is another great place for a sundowner overlooking the river or in my case a non-alcoholic cocktail before my treatment. The Peninsula Spa Bangkok is extensive, to say the least, and in addition to their regular facilities, it has some private spa suites as well which are perfect for couples treatments or – yours truly.
Before a treatment, you can use the steam room, take a bath or just chill with a cold coconut. The Essential Mind treatment was something I was very curious about because it uses Tibetan singing bowls as well as healing oils. It is meant for busy travelers and helps to improve your sleep and to relax your mind, something I desperately needed at this point of my trip – have I mentioned that jetlag gives me insomnia for a week?!
Starting off with a massage the therapist put three different oils on my body which were meant to relax, energize and bring clarity. After an amazing hour of massage, we moved to a mattress on the floor where I lay between the singing bowls. These 7 bowls are corresponding with the 7 chakras and the vibration is meant to slow down your thoughts and relax you. I didn’t notice any of that because I was fast asleep within a few minutes even with the bowls vibrating next to my head which I guess meant that it worked like a charm.
90 minutes massages start at THB 4000
Essential Mind treatment for 90 minutes: THB 6500
CHI at Shangri-La
I remembered the CHI spa at the Shangri-La from an unfortunate visit in Sri Lanka. It was unfortunate in that I had just broken up with my ex and was in some serious need of TLC and CHI was just the place for it.
So I knew I was in for a treat when I returned to the CHI Shangri-La in Bangkok for an afternoon of pampering. Especially after spending the morning in Chinatown in what felt like 150% humidity I was exhausted and may or may not have started my afternoon at the Shangri-La with an ice-cold Singha. Their terrace is right by the Chao Praya River and the views are incredible – even or especially when stormy clouds are coming in.
To get to CHI which is considered one of the luxury spas in Bangkok, you have to go to the Krung Thep Wing, which is actually closest if you are coming from the BTS. From the terrace, it was quite a distance (in hotel terms that is) but luckily one of their cleaning ladies found me and walked me to the reception in person.
Your visit at CHI starts with a cold towel and some ice-tea while you fill out your information. I was booked for a Paradise of Siam treatment which includes a Thai herbal steam, Thai massage, and Thai herbal compress. Spa suites are huge and come with a bathtub, mattress and regular massage tables as well as changing facilities.
Any treatment begins with a footbath and a little scrub before you move to your massage table. Unlike a regular Thai massage this one was done naked (of course, you get disposable undies!) and on a regular table with a donut for your face. I am not sure of the exact term but I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t have to squeeze my neck to either side during the back part of my massage.
If you haven’t had a herbal compress I highly recommend them as they are typical for a spa treatment in Thailand and super relaxing. A cotton pouch which is filled with herbs gets bathed in hot steam before being pressed on your body – so good for your skin!
1-hour massages start at THB 2,700
Paradise of Siam treatment for 2 hours: THB 3,300
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.
1-hour massages start at THB 888
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 at the Banyan Tree 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.
1-hour massages start at THB 3,800,
facials at THB 4,000
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.
1-hour massages start at THB 2,400
SO Exhilarating Body Massage for 1 hour: THB
Best Thai 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!
1-hour massages start at THB 1,800
Siam Hot Oil Compress for 90 minutes: THB 3,200
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.
1-hour massages start at THB 250 at most spas in this area
Sabaijai Thai Massage
I will admit that my choice for day spas in Bangkok was always a bit random – I would just pop into any place that was close to wherever I was and didn’t look too dingy. Needless to say, this system involves a fair bit of trial and error.
So I was excited when Jam the owner of my favorite Bangkok B&B Baan Katchipan recommended Sabaijai which is pretty much just across the road from them. To be honest, I didn’t have hopes when I saw that they offered the cheapest prices I have ever seen anywhere in Thailand for a one-hour Thai massage: 200 baht!
But I decided to give it a go and told them my requirement: Thai massage but bao bao. Now to understand why this is a weird request one has to understand the nature of a Thai massage. A Thai massage by its nature is never really bao bao but quite firm. The therapist I got assigned to was so amazing with this fine balance that I went back the next day and had a 90-minute massage.
The third time I got a different therapist who wasn’t that great but honestly that was my own fault – if you find a therapist you like, ask for his or her name and remember it for next time.
In addition to this seriously cheap rate, Sabaijai was also quite tranquil, cozy and clean – I will be back!
1-hour massages start at THB 200
Best Massages in Koh Tao
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!
1-hour massages start at THB 300
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!
1-hour massages start at THB 300
Best Massages 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!
1-hour massages start at THB 2,200
Coqoon Rebirth Massage for 1 hour: THB 2,900
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!
1-hour massages start at THB 400
Six Senses Spa in Koh Kood
Six Senses Spa, Soneva Kiri
I was so excited to finally experience a Six Senses spa during my recent stay at Soneva Kiri. The whole spa is built in the mangroves and has a lovely earthy feel to it without being too airy-fairy. My favorite was the changing rooms and not just because of this sign:
Treatment rooms overlook the ocean and the forest so you get a sense of being outside. However, as any spa enthusiast like myself can attest to – if you are getting an oil massage you will want aircon and no insects disturbing your zen. With that this Six Senses spa gives you the best of both worlds!
I was especially impressed that they make their own coconut oil which makes you smell all toasty and yummy. If you are staying at the hotel you can even attend a workshop to see how it is made, alternatively, I highly recommend buying yourself a bottle or two after your massage.
1-hour massages start at THB 5,700
Do you like your massages bao bao or nak nak?
And where have you gotten the best Thai massage in Thailand?
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