I’ve grudgingly put hours of my time into finding the best massage in the Khao San Road area. It’s a tough task, but someone has to do it! aI endured several poor massages in the process, including one by a male my age who subtly found ways to stroke my (clothed) breasts throughout the service. While I didn’t feel unsafe or particularly violated, being molested is still annoying. (Perhaps years of caring for various children has desensitized me to being groped unexpectedly?)
While Thailand is well known for amazingly cheap massages, the quality is an absolute crap shoot. It has nothing to do with price, and everything to do with luck.
First – Other Massages
Seven years ago, western style massages weren’t really on the menu in Thailand. The closest you could get was “oil massage.” It’s essentially a one-hour application of oil to the skin. It’s virtually devoid of muscle-kneading. It’s the most expensive variety. And, if you’re a woman, the massage can be awkward. <- The same thing happened to me. Twice. Minus the poking incident.
The most popular form of massage back then was, of course, Thai massage. However, to the uninitiated, Thai massage can leave you feeling like an unwitting participant in an aerial circus act. Or a victim of methodical torture via pressure points. I’ve heard it most generously described as “passive yoga.” First-timers generally walk out of a Thai massage a bit bewildered and traumatized – often owing to the language barrier that renders one unable to say things like “too hard,” “ow that hurts,” and “how does stabbing your feet into my spine improve my health, exactly?”.
Thai massage has less to do with soothing sore muscles and more to do with aligning and balancing energies in the body via pushing, pulling, and poking. I think Thai massage is worth experiencing, but I wouldn’t go so far as to describe it as relaxing rejuvenation. Just when the gentle pressure lulls you into a pleasant bliss – WHA-BAM! Suddenly your arm is torqued behind your back, your joints are ruthlessly “popped” or “cracked,” a limb is stretched beyond capacity… the options for unexpected discomfort are numerous.
So, when I have the pleasure of traveling to Thailand, I generally take advantage of the now popular western massage billed as a “Neck and Shoulder” massage. They are still like Thai massages in the sense that you do not disrobe bnot completely – most often I am asked to remove my shirt. They will work around a bra if you aren’t comfortable., and they are given in a roomful of wall-to-wall mattresses with other clients potentially present. Beyond that, they become more familiar.
How to Find the Best Massage in the Khao San Road Area
TLDR: Go to TP Thai Massage & Fish Spa at 37 Rambuttri Road (Soi Rambutree) and ask for Kate. See map and explanation below.
Update May 2017: Kate is still at TP Thai Massage! See comments.
Update September 2016: Kate is still at TP Thai Massage! See comments.
Update July 2016: Please leave your experience in the comments – especially if you find a good massage therapist. Hundreds of people a month read this page. Help them, please!
Just like massage anywhere, the quality depends mostly on the practitioner. And also just like anywhere, the skill levels of practitioners can be pretty hit and miss. When you can’t get a word-of-mouth recommendation, you’re forced to play massage roulette.
In the past, I’ve unsuccessfully Googled and looked on forums for word-of-mouth recommendations for the “best massage in the Khao San road area.” For lack of results, I ended up spending several hours (and dollars) getting subpar massages by trying one-hour “Neck and Shoulder” massages at new places. Finally I found two practitioners I liked and one I loved. Sadly, when I returned to Thailand in May 2015, my favorite massage therapist had moved on to greener pastures. I stopped by her old shop hoping her facebook photos might have been just a vacation. She was definitely gone, so I decided to begin my next round of roulette right then and there.
Her co-worker Kate remembered me. Kate is amazing. A jovial, portly, middle-aged woman with insanely strong hands and a wonderful technique. She became my instant new favorite! No one will ever be as good as May, but Kate had me coming back several times. To save you from a similar fate, hopefully the information here does saves your from several sup-par Khao San Massages.
The massage shop awning says, unhelpfully, “Thai Massage,” and is officially called TP Thai Massage & Fish Spa at 37 Rambuttri Road. Soi Rambutree is the quieter, more peaceful sister to Khao San. If you’re in the area, you probably think of it as the street with the cool windsock lanterns hanging in a group near the main Soi Rambutree access.
Here’s a map:
And here’s a photo of the storefront. It’s right next door to a pharmacy, and (like many of the massage places) has a “fish spa” out front.
You’ll have to ask for Kate by name, since requesting a specific massage therapist is rare. Generally the therapists take turns on a fixed roster as customers come in. Hope this helps you find the best massage in the Khao San Road area! And of course, if you find another great massage therapist, please pass it on in the comments. Hundreds of people a month read this page: pay it forward, please!
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|a.||↑||I endured several poor massages in the process, including one by a male my age who subtly found ways to stroke my (clothed) breasts throughout the service. While I didn’t feel unsafe or particularly violated, being molested is still annoying. (Perhaps years of caring for various children has desensitized me to being groped unexpectedly?)|
|b.||↑||not completely – most often I am asked to remove my shirt. They will work around a bra if you aren’t comfortable.|