THAILAND has your passport to finding a balance of mind, body and soul.
Massages, spa treatments and more elaborate wellness centre-prescribed remedies are available throughout the country – whether you need a little pampering or relaxation, to relieve tension or work the kinks out, to soothe tired legs after a day of shopping or kick-start your holiday after a long flight.
Virtually every major hotel and resort has its own reputable spa within the complex, but massage therapists are often found side by side down an entire avenue (Soi) or every couple of shopfronts on major streets in Bangkok.
Massages and treatments are a regular part of life for many Thais – not just a special treat or occasional indulgence.
This holistic approach to healthcare is designed to relieve aches and pains, promote better circulation, detoxify, invigorate the nervous system, relax muscles and prevent strain and injury.
And you can order your dose of pleasure and pain from a comprehensive menu, as if deciding on dishes at a fine dining restaurant, for anywhere from an hour to a full afternoon or day.
With so much opportunity and so many choices for so little money, this weary traveller – fresh from eight-hour days in front of the work computer – was more than happy to join the queue.
My first blissful hour-long foot massage was on day two of my Bangkok holiday when my two companions and I stumbled upon the small but clean Suanploo Massage Therapist, at 1345 Charoenkrung Road, Silom, only a few doors from our Lebua Hotel in Bangrak.
Foot reflexology helps to clear the pathways of energy flow throughout the body and return balance. And my foot massage was more like the full body massage you have when you massage everything but the full body. Scalp, neck, shoulders, back, arms, hands were all given a workout.
My young male therapist found pressure points I never knew I had and took me on a rollercoaster ride from tickled-feet ecstasy to silent screaming as he worked on the mush I call the top of my legs.
And here's the rub: the massage cost only 250baht, with a tip of 150bt making a grand total of about $14 for 60 glorious minutes.
The next day, the more upmarket Oasis Spa, opposite the Prime Minister's residence at 64 Sukhumvit Road Soi 31, welcomed us into its tranquil surrounds before inviting me into one of its 12 double treatment rooms.
My therapist, Saki, was tiny in stature but polite, strong, skilful, agile, omnipresent – moving effortlessly around and atop the massage table during my King of Oasis treatment. As a result, I was expertly pressed, poked, prodded, rolled, elbowed, kneaded and pummelled in the nicest possible way – and always with a smile.
Rather than a relaxation massage, this was a body awakening with a heightened sense of every pore and an inner glow before my final shower and refreshments in the recovery room.
The two hours costs 3900bt with a 300bt tip for a total cost less than $150.
Two days later in Chiang Mai, I became acquainted with the Rarin Jinda Wellness Spa Resort, which incorporates a 140-year-old traditional Thai teak timber home near the historic Ping River.
While visitors can indulge in overnight or extended stays at this boutique resort, the state-of-the-art spa facilities include an indoor heated hydrotherapy pool, outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre, yoga and aerobics studio, hydrotherapy tub, vichy shower, infrared sauna, herbal rainforest steam sauna and whirlpool with chromotherapy.
After perusal of the spa menu and packages, spa director Dr Sushil Rahul took our media group on a tour of the extensive complex and read our auras to indicate any problem areas – from digestive complaints to lack of sleep, the need for more exercise, even undiagnosed prostate problems among the males.
Having always wanted a “rainshower massage” at home, my choice of the vichy shower and oil massage came highly recommended as a good detoxifying treatment.
The six shower roses on a movable arm, coupled with the soft, gentle hands of my therapist, ensured I went in like a broken down old Commodore but came out like a vintage Porsche after being washed, rubbed, dried, oiled, polished and buffed to a gleaming finish.
The cost of the one-hour splashy vichy shower was 2000bt and the one-hour aromatherapy oil massage 1500bt – with a 300bt tip for a total of about $135.
Each of the three very different treatments I experienced in Thailand was worth every baht ... if only I could have brought one of therapists home in my suitcase.
Massage to the world
WAT Pho in Bangkok, near the Royal Palace, is known the world over as the most important centre for learning and practising Thai massage.
More than 200 years ago, manuals and procedures were collated and engraved on the walls of the temple pavilions to be studied and used.
Today, the temple attracts Thais and foreigners wishing to learn the ancient Wat Pho massage methods in basic, intermediate and advanced course levels.
Good to know ...
Suanploo Thai Massage: In Thailand, phone 02 23815412
The Oasis Spa Bangkok: www.bangkokoasis.com
Rarin Jinda Chiang Mai: www.rarinjinda.com