Bangkok's best Thai massages

Bangkok's best Thai massages

A look at six of the top spas to hit for a traditional Thai rubdown, including a male perspective on each session

Traditional Thai massages in Bangkok run the gamut from 180-baht-an-hour back rubs on Khao San Road to deluxe pampering at a posh hotel spa that can burn a hole some 20 times bigger in your pocket.  

Somewhere in between, a host of stand-alone spas in the capital offer worthy treatments in soothing surroundings that leave plenty of change for the taxi fare home.  

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Massage is often thought of as a self-indulgent moment with the emphasis on self, but most good massage places also have rooms for couples for those who want share the experience or choose two different treatments to compare.  

Here are six of the best places to get a traditional Thai massage in Bangkok, including a male take on each spa.  

Divana Divine Spa 

Divana Thai massageThe deal:  Thai Relaxing Massage

The damage:  950 baht for 90 minutes 

Divana Divine is Divana's proclaimed "aesthetics urban spa" branch, not to be confused with their  "original garden home spa" on Sukhumvit soi 25 and "world-class" Divana Virtue Spa on Silom Road. 

The Thai-style mansion has been restored to feature indoor walkways leading to the 10 treatment rooms, where the gentle trickling of water rather than spa muzak serenades your massage. 

Aside from Thai massages the menu here is extensive, ranging from caviar and collagen massages to crystal treatments. 

Word of warning: If you use their branded amenities after the treatment in the in-room shower, you'll most likely be tempted to buy a bottle or two as you leave. 

There's a low-rise condominium going up right next to the spa (a call to the developer yielded a vague 'hope to be completed by this year' response), so opt for a Sunday or post-8 p.m. session as it can get noisy. 

He thought: The leafy garden soothes you straight away and the staff are suitably gentle and genuine. The therapist on this particular visit definitely studied Swedish as well as Thai techniques and the deep shoulder work felt fabulous.

Bonus points for the proper massage beds and private bathroom, but scan for mozzies before you drift into dreams. 

103 Thonglor Soi 17, Sukhumvit 55 Road. + 66 (0)2 712 8986. www.divana-dvn.com 

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Thann Sanctuary 

The deal:  Traditional Thai Massage

The damage: 1,500 baht for 90 minutes 

Thann Sanctuary is the mystical cave-like yin of the posh halogenic yang displays in upscale Gaysorn mall. 

One of 20 spas in 14 countries worldwide, Thann Sanctuary is an award-winning spa extension of the Thai-based wellness provider.  The holistic approach caters to all the senses -- the six rooms are dark and Zen-like, the therapists work their slow deliberate magic to the faint soundtrack of chill-out music, and an electric incense burner pipes a light aroma into the room. 

The purebred "Thai Massage" treatment includes traditional thumb, elbow and forearm tactics, while other Asian healing techniques are incorporated into the "Thann Sanctuary Signature Massage" and "Guasa Healing Massage."  

The renovated branch in Siam Discovery will be open in August, with a new sanctuary slated to open later this year in CentralWorld. 

He thought: A spa with style, but the funky designs are in no way a smoke screen. This has to be one of the best massages in town, instant rehab for the body and mind applied by powerful, professional hands. With oils like this, it's easy to see why aroma can be therapy. 

3/F Gaysorn Plaza, 999 Ploenchit Road. + 66 (0)2 656 1423. www.thann.info/thann_sanctuary.php 


Take Care Beauty Salon & Spa 

Take CareThe deal:  Traditional Thai Massage

The damage:  250 baht for 60 minutes 

Better known for their pedi/manicure services with the local expat crowd, two of Take Care's six branches -- Sukhumvit 19 and 33 -- offer surprisingly good Thai massages. 

The staff here are cackly and friendly and the whole place bustles with a "favorite neighborhood salon down the road" vibe, with enough treatments offered from head to toe to keep patrons occupied for a good few hours. 

As with many of the other parlors, Thai massages come with an additional herbal ball compress option, and Decléor goodies are used for facials and other beautification treatments. 

For now, there are limited private treatment rooms on the third floor of the townhouse (so book in advance), but come September when the branch's expansion and renovation is complete, there will be additional VIP rooms dedicated to Thai, herbal oil and aroma massages. 

He thought: In addition to the massages, try a pedicure. Even if you're a man. It's clean, healthy and makes your feet look smart in flip flops. The girls here know their cuticles and you even get to play with the remote control massage chair while they clip, trim and bathe your extremities. 

12/16 Sukhumvit 33 Road, Bangkok. +66 (0)2 662 0853. www.takecarebeauty.com 

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Ruen Nuad 

Thai massageThe deal:  Traditional Thai Massage

The damage: 350 baht for 60 minutes

If you're looking for some paradigm-shifting spa experiences, go to Bangkok's swanky hotels. But if you're looking for some good old traditional massage, head to Ruen Nuad. 

Tucked behind Naj Restaurant at the far end of the courtyard opposite BNH hospital on Convent Road, the no-frills massage studio is housed in a quaint two-storey wooden Thai home. 

With no bells and whistles to distract, the Thai massage takes center stage, with the masseuse loosening parts of the body you didn't even know were tense to begin with. 

The menu is kept simple, with just three massages on offer -- Thai, foot, and aromatic oil -- as well as a few select facial treatments. 

The 100 baht surcharge per hour per person is worth it for a private room should you be unlucky enough to be stuck with a loud snoozer on the other side of the curtains. 

He thought: Back to basics, perhaps, but the quality of the treatment makes up for any lack of plush surroundings. This woman's hands were made for massage, her thumbs found and removed knots in my shoulders as if she was popping bubble wrap. A bit sore afterwards, but definitely in a "that was good for me" kind of way. 

42 Convent Road, Silom. +66 (0)2 632 2662. Email: ruen_nuad@yahoo.com 

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Health Land Ekamai 

HealthlandThe deal:  Traditional Thai Massage

The damage:  450 baht for 120 minutes 

Considering the amount of traffic that Health Land receives, even Henry Ford would undoubtedly be impressed by the start-to-finish precision at the behemoth that is Health Land. 

The omnipresent "green music"  and the generic herbal scent wafting the air might seem clichéd, but what the massage vendors lack in personalized service, they make up for in value for money and convenience, with seven branches spread around Bangkok.  

The standards maintained here are generally decent, but as some therapists are created more equal than others, note the name of your masseuse if you plan to return for more massages. If you're a local, consider the pre-paid booklet of 10 coupons, which will shave 1,000 baht off the total cost for private room usage. 

In addition to the usual suspects on the menu, the Pinklao branch also offers "Spa Jacuzzi" and "Tourmaline Sauna" treatments, the latter also available at the Srinakarin shop. 

He thought: Where there's a queue, there's a reward. This may be production line massage for time-deprived city folk, but once you fall into the soft leather chair and let the pros work the stress from your street-weary feet, a soothing reverie ensues. 

96/1 Sukhumvit 63 (Ekamai) Road. + 66 (0)2 392 2233. Visit www.healthlandspa.com for other location details


Face Spa Bangkok 

Face Spa BangkokThe deal: Royal Massage

The damage:  900 baht for 60 minutes 

It's a bar. It's a collection of restaurants. It's a spa. 

Flanking the private dining room, two Thai house spa pavilions sit next to feng shui-friendly lily ponds.  Two types of similar Thai massages are on offer here -- "Wat Pho Traditional" which is heavy on the passive yoga, and "Royal Massage," which focuses on acupressure kneading interspersed with having your body parts stretched in all directions. 

Don't be misled by the "light to medium" claim of the Royal Massage, the therapist spares no mercy on your knots. 

A major charm of this Silk Route-inspired complex is its traditional wooden architecture, but if every creak of a teak plank will wake you, try to book in the afternoons between 2-5 p.m. when the eateries take a break (though there's nothing you can do about the occasional passing car). 

He thought:  Comfortable, authentic Asian aesthetics here make it just as relaxing to sit on a soft sofa with a drink from the bar as it is to lie down and be manipulated.

With a menu that skillfully covers three of the world's favorite cuisines, self-denial is not an option. 

29 Sukhumvit 38 Road. +66 (0)2 713 6048. www.facebars.com