If you have spent any time in Thailand you will surly have noticed that Thai massage parlors are a very popular sight everywhere you go. Originating in India over 2,500 years ago, the Vedic science of therapeutic massage was imported to Thailand by Buddhist monks and, like herbal healing, was practiced in temples throughout the country. To this day there are many parlors featuring “traditional Thai massage”, but some are more unique than others and shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Wat Pho, also famous for being Thailand’s first university, is a well known center for traditional Thai massage. The rich, famous and powerful have all been known to visit the temple for its mastery of the art. Inscribed on stone in the walls of Wat Pho are all that was known about Thai massage, dating from the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851). Thai massage was originally a profession for the blind. Nowadays, many different people practice the art. Massage teachers, however, still say that masseurs who cannot see are able to concentrate better and have purer intentions. If you visit Bangkok and you feel a little tired or stressed, try going to Wat Pho to have a massage by one of the blind masseurs. Don’t forget to tip them too.
If you are in Chiang Mai, another unique place to get a massage is the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution. Housing 1,200 women convicted of drug crimes, the prison allows women who have successfully undergone drug rehab to participate in a 3 month voluntary vocational program to learn massage, cooking, dressmaking, hairdressing or waitressing. Massages here are not only cheaper than at most locations, but they also give these soon-to-be-released women a chance to practice a new commercial skill, helping them earn some head-start money and allowing them to interact with the public in a controlled setting. This money allows them to establish some financial independence, with which they can support their families upon their release.
There is another location in Chiang Mai that allows women who have been convicted of a crime to work in the massage industry. It is called Lila Thai Massage and the owner is also the director of Chiang Mai’s female prison. Women, who have left the prison, often get a job a Lila’s as a path to their reintegration into society. Lila’s is very popular among tourists as well as locals.
Massage has been a great healing art in Thailand for centuries. It is wide spread all across the country. So whether you are in Bangkok, Chiangmai or any other province, you can be sure to find quality a massage. It doesn’t really matter where you go, what is important is that this healing art be preserved and not forgotten.