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Thai massage in Thailand, the complete guide

To know everything about Thai massage, the different types of massages offered in massage parlors, vocabulary, history, and traditional massage.

Thai massage is, like Smile, a specialty of Thailand that you should not miss.

Name of the different Thai massages

Massage = nuad or nuatte – นวด
Foot massage = nuad tao – นวดเท้า
Oil massage = nuad nam manne – นวดน้ำมัน
Body massage = nuad bo rarn – นวดโบราณ
Herbal massage = nuad samounpraille – นวด สมุนไพร

Whether it is for an energetic massage, specific to a health problem or just with oil to spend a pleasant moment of relaxation, you will have no trouble finding massage parlors in Thailand, even in remote parts of the country.

The different types of Thai massage

Before entering a massage parlor, you must know what you are coming to do, because there are several types of massage:

Foot massage: nuad tao

Foot massage

Thai foot massage is a very relaxing massage that promotes a feeling of well-being over the long term.

It begins with cleaning the feet in scented water; then after quickly applying massage oil to one of your feet, it will be wrapped in a towel while the masseuse takes care of the other.

Baton pour massage des piedsThe massage will be done with the hands and with the help of a small wooden stick used to exert pressure on specific areas of the foot (acupuncture points) that are linked to important organs.

This massage actively stimulates the muscles, lymph, and energy points of the body.

It will help you to relieve blood circulation disorders, digestive problems, nervous system disorders, and joints.

Body massage: nuad toua

Thai massage 2Before performing this massage, you will be asked to put on cotton pajamas.

This massage harmonizes the energy networks necessary for the proper functioning of the organs, as well as for nervous and emotional relaxation.

But you should know that it can be painful, often the masseuse will ask you if you want a strong or light massage.

If you don’t want to suffer, you can tell “bao bao” = light.

But you should know that in general, the masseuse knows what she is doing and that a massage can be painful because there is a circulation problem and that is why she will insist on the point where it hurts.

Oil massage: nuad nam man

Oil massage It is a delightful and sensual moment of relaxation, and it is also an olfactory journey, with the application of essential oils.

For this massage you will have to remove all your clothes, even under clothing (if you don’t want to find them with oil), you are just given a towel to cover your intimate parts.

It is a massage from head to toe, the masseuse practices fluid and linear movements with oils to stimulate your body’s energy lines and revitalize your muscles.

In some massage parlors, you will also be offered special massages with medicinal plants:

Massage with medicinal plants: nuad samounpaille

bundles for herbal massageThe herbal massage is performed with bundles filled with steam-heated medicinal plants.

For this massage, you will be given cotton pajamas.

It is a delightful massage in which the masseuse alternates deep pressure with ballotins and superficial touches, from head to toe, to relax the muscles in depth.

The boxes are applied directly to your skin so that the plants release their active ingredients and relieve tension.

Intimate massages

Afterward, you should know, whether you are a man or a woman, depending on the salons and if the massage is done in a private room, the masseuse may offer you a more intimate massage by asking you for an extra charge.

There is also a large massage lounge, the soapy massage parlor where the masseuses are behind a window with a number hanging on the chest.

These are “special” massages where an intimate relationship is included in the service.

Cost of massages in Thailand

Price of Thai massages
Cost of Thai massages in Koh Phi Phi Phi

The price varies according to the region.

It is always more expensive in tourist areas (except if there is a high competition), the type of room, if the massage is done in a private room if there is air conditioning or not…

Body massages in small villages are done in shared rooms and can cost just 150 baht for an hour.

In general, you will find salons offering traditional (body) massages or foot massages from 200 to 500 baht.

Oil massage is generally more expensive, from 250 to 600 baht.

The massage with medicinal plants goes from 450 to 800 baht.

It is customary to tip the masseuse 40/50 baht (or more) if the massage has been well done.

Description of Thai massage (Nuad Bo Rarn)

stretching during a Thai massage
Stretching during a massage

When we talk about Thai massage, nuad bo rarn, we are talking about body massage or nuad toua; it is the most practiced massage in the country.

Three elements characterize Thai massage

1 – stretching exercises that are both dynamic and fluid.

These exercises are generally based on yoga postures, but no prior knowledge of this discipline is required.

The masseuse takes care of everything; you have to let it happen.

2 – “energy” work.

It consists in exerting pressure on specific regions or points along the body’s energy lines called Sen, which are acupuncture points.

The practitioner applies pressure using his palms, thumbs, fingers, arms, forearms, elbows, and feet.

Thai massage, Nuad Bo Rarn

3 – The massage must be done in an attitude of meditation.

We feel it well with the good masseuses; they are very concentrated, trying to get in harmony with the patient.

Wat Pho Massage School
Wat Pho Massage School in Bangkok

The origins of Thai massage

Thai massage was born about 2,500 years ago, following the arrival in Thailand of Buddhist doctors and monks from India.

Originating from Ayurvedic medicine, Thai traditional medicine considers that all forms of life are animated by an invisible energy, prana.

According to Indian medicine, energy (prana) flows through the body through the nadis, a network of 72,000 energy channels.

When energy is blocked or restricted, there is an imbalance that leads to health problems.

Thai massage focuses on the ten main nadis, which are, in a way, the great energy roads, which are called “Sen” and which allow healing the whole body.

Peintures murales du Wat Pho

In ancient times, Thai massage was transmitted orally, from master to student, in Buddhist temples, or inside families.

The art of Thai massage arrived in Europe in the 1960s, but it was in the 1980s, with the publication in 1990 of the first book written in English on the subject, that Thai massage spread to the West.

In Thailand, massage is considered as a treatment that is practiced in temples as well as in hospitals.

The benefits of Thai massage

Thai massage sitting positionThai massage relieves muscle tension, energy blockages (when prana energy can not circulate), and makes the body more flexible and mobile.

Thai massage has a relaxing effect that soothes the mind and gives a feeling of general well-being.

It is used to treat circulation problems, back pain, headaches, anxiety, fatigue, and stress.

You really shouldn’t deprive yourself of it if you are in Thailand because Thai massage makes life more harmonious, keeps you healthy and makes you feel good, happier.

Video: the gestures of Thai massage

A presentation of Thai massage techniques.

Learn Thai massage

Traditionally, it was taught in Buddhist temples such as the Wat Pho massage school from Bangkok, which is open to foreigners and offers courses in English.

But in response to the growing interest of travelers, there are now Thai massage schools with instruction in English in most major tourist cities.


See also: Medicinal plants used in Thailand with Thai names and properties

Sources: wikipedia.org; Photos: Traditional Thai massage: Bhattharasinthorn Kosawan & Chot-Anan Kittiraweechot Thai massage stretching: Hochgeladen Pavilion of massages at Wat Pho: Heinrich Damm Wat Pho wall paintings: Heinrich Damm; Thai massage cobra position, Thai massage thai 2, Thai massage sitting position: Marcin Bober

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