How much should you pay for a massage in Thailand?

Donna Demaio sought out two vastly different experiences in two Thai tourist meccas Krabi and Phuket in search of “relaxation” bang for her buck.

Street massage

Apple massage in Ao Nang, Krabi

The market town of Ao Nang was experiencing a drenching when I noticed an A-frame board with an inviting massage menu. There was plenty to choose from and I had time to kill. I passed a tattoo parlour on my right and piled-up rubbish on my left as I made my way down a laneway towards the sprawling verandah where a young child played receptionist at a large desk. The child didn't smile but a kind-looking woman appeared and ushered me in to a large room, filled with recliners and small plastic tubs.

Décor: Oh dear. Nothing matched. The cushion covers clashed with the recliner covers which clashed with the curtains which clashed with the towels. Colours galore and dizzying patterns everywhere. I closed my eyes for most of the massage so it really didn't matter. The windows were ceiling to floor so occasionally I watched the rain pelting outside.

Choice: The menu was printed on a slip of photocopied paper but there was an impressive list of services to choose from including aromatherapy massage, Thai hot compression massage and foot massage, which was my selection.

Comfort: The aforementioned recliners were plump and comfy. Perfect for relaxing in while my feet were pummelled, toes pulled and calves stretched. 

Service and style: I am still not convinced whether it was discomfort or effective massage that I paid for. Countless times I urged my massage therapist to ease up. I alternated between urging her to be "not too strong", and gasping with pain. She grinned and apologised, a lot.

Smell: The rain. There was not a scented candle in sight.

Costs:  Massages cost between 200 baht ($7) an hour for a Thai massage to 500 baht ($18) for a Body Scrub Massage. I was charged 200 baht for my one-hour foot rub.

Extras: It was so ridiculously cheap that I added a half-hour Thai massage at an extra cost of 100 baht ($3.60). I was led to a rather dark room with king-size beds draped in pretty, bright cotton blankets and told to sit cross-legged on one of them. I remained fully clothed. The therapist wedged herself up against me and stretched my upper body and neck into positions previously unknown to me. I giggled a bit. It didn't hurt but I felt on the cusp of suffering an injury a couple of times.

Address: Ban Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. Telephone: 075 810 695

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Hotel massage

Pullman Phuket Arcadia, Naithon Beach, Phuket, Thailand

I decided that some more pampering was needed, so preceding an exquisite cocktail "hour" at the Pullman, watching the sunset from the sunken lounge overlooking the ocean, I figured a spa treatment was in order.

My therapist greeted me with a sweetness and shyness that belied her vigorous talents I was imminently to experience. Led to the enormous change room with individual wardrobe, I popped on a delightfully soft white robe and was invited to take off all jewellery and clothing. Happy to oblige.

Décor: The waiting room was enormous with scented candles flickering. I sipped the tea served as I chose my treatment from a comprehensive list. The treatment room itself had a sleek, modern vibe with light-coloured wood finishings and traditional massage table. Loads of white towels. And a pretty bowl of fresh flowers to look at through the table's face hole.

Choice: The menu was overwhelming. Swedish, aromatherapy, head and scalp, expectant mother, fusion bamboo, Balinese, Thai, warm milk compress, red wine wrap and so many more "massage" styles were offered.

Comfort: The room was a little on the cool side. I felt relaxed right up until I was flipped on my back and rubbed down, from top to toes. Not expecting the circular motions (applying the finely ground tea sea salt) across my exposed breasts, I squirmed a tad and did all in my power to relax … relax …RELAX! 

Service and style: My softly-spoken therapist had a delicate touch and was tremendously talented. I did feel invigorated yet relaxed afterwards and not once had to urge her to be "not too strong". The pressure was perfect.

Smell: The scented candle in the corner didn't go unnoticed but what I especially loved was the spritz of floral scent that wafted under my nose at the very beginning of the treatment as I lay with my eyes shut. 

Extras: A welcome and surprise inclusion was the soothing mask placed delicately on my puffy eyes for a short period.

Costs: The various massages cost between 1000 baht for a one-hour foot massage ($35) to 4000 baht ($141) for a four-hand massage. My Evening Tea Sea Salt Scrub was 2800 baht ($100) for 90 minutes.

Address: 22/2 Moo 4, Naithon Beach, Saku Thalang, Phuket, Thailand. Telephone: 076 303 299

Conclusion:

I really enjoyed both treatments for different reasons. The sense that I was partaking in some kind of tradition meant the street massage felt like a must-do experience. My feet felt wonderful afterwards. Meanwhile, the supremely luxurious hotel massage left me with incredibly soft skin (from the scrub) and tremendously de-stressed and relaxed. And considering the hefty cost a similar hotel treatment would cost in Australia, certainly reasonably priced by comparison.

The writer travelled as a guest of Qantas and Accor Hotels.

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