It’s not something you’ll see everyday in Birmingham or Oslo or Bonn: you walk past a small shop on a main street and there, inside, is a row of comfortable chairs with footstools, each occupied by a tourist with trousers rolled up to the knee.
At their feet kneel Thai women, kneading those overworked extremities. A little further along is a similar place but here the tourists are lying flat out on comfortable mats, being pulled and stretched into pretzel shapes, again by local women. All the tourists, their eyes shut, seem to be in a state close to ecstasy. What on earth is going on? Phuket.Com explains.
Foot Massage in Phuket
You’ll find foot massage available all over Phuket - in specialist shops, by the beach, in hairdressing salons, even in shopping malls. Foot massage, or reflexology, was originally practiced by the Chinese, many of whom believe that every part of the body corresponds to a precise spot on the sole of the foot, and that massaging that spot will benefit the corresponding organ.
There are a number of theories as to how reflexology works, from stimulating the nervous system to unblocking the life force known as Qi, to releasing endorphins or promoting lymphatic flow. No one knows for sure - but after a long day’s shopping or a stiff march along the beach, who cares? What is a fact is that there are few things more restorative than a good foot massage.
To start, your feet will be cleaned by soaking them in warm water. The masseuse will then moisturize your feet with lotion or essential oils, wrap one foot up in a towel and go to work on the other.
If you feel pain at any point, the theory is that this may indicate a problem with the organ connected to that part of the foot. Even without any health issues, a foot massage session is a great way to lower stress and elevate your mood.
Thai Traditional Massage
The original Thai massage included having the masseuse walk on the subject’s back, as well as pulling fingers, toes and even hair. Masseuses these days have pretty much scrapped such practices as being a bit scary.
You’ll still find, however, that sometimes the masseuse may be a little too energetic for your taste. There’s no requirement to be masochistic about this; just ask her to be a bit gentler. A good Thai massage results in lowered stress levels, relief of tension and stiffness in muscles and joints, and improvements in energy levels and blood circulation. In short, it makes you feel really, really good.
There is no use of oil in traditional Thai massage and you will most likely be asked to change into loaned looser, more relaxing clothing. You should let her know if you have any health problems such as a bad back or painful knees. The massage will begin, starting with your feet and working towards your head.
While undergoing a massage, try to relax as much as possible. Work with your masseuse by synchronizing your breathing with the rhythm of the massage. For example, when she stretches a part of you, inhale as she does so, then exhale as she relaxes the tension.
Massage on the Beach
The masseuses, who usually appear on the beach in November and stay until the end of April, generally look like your favourite cuddly auntie, sitting in the shade with mats and pillows, ready to give you a reviving traditional Thai massage.
There’s more. Especially on Patong Beach, you can also get a pedicure, including removing old, dead skin, or - for the girls - a manicure and nail painting. Or how about braids in your hair? And the ultimate in making you feel young - specialists who will gently pluck out all your white or grey hairs.
The island is one of world’s premier centres for top-quality spas staffed by highly trained and qualified masseuses. Few people can resist the chance to spoil themselves rotten by getting the full luxury treatment at one of Phuket’s top spas.
Stand-alone spas and hotel spas alike, the level of service is admirable so do have a look around for the best deals. Often, when staying in a resort with a top-quality spa, you can follow a treatment course for several days and thus turn your stay into a life-enhancing event. Several hotel spa on Phuket are more like Roman palaces with design and décor to match the feeling you get when you’ve been taken to Cloud Nine and back. Expensive, yes, but nothing can match the feeling of pure ecstasy that a good, long and luxurious spa treatment can produce.
Massage for Pregnant Women
For most pregnant women a nice back rub is great. A good massage is sheer heaven. Many pregnant women find that, after a massage, they sleep better, have less pain in both the neck and the back, and generally lower levels of stress and discomfort.
Naturally, the masseuse must be carefully chosen for her knowledge, care and gentleness - a full-on deep-pressure massage during pregnancy is decidedly not a good thing. Indeed, massage of any kind is not recommended during the first three months of pregnancy.
To get a good therapist, check with any of the big, reputable spas around the island. Most of them have good experience of massage during pregnancy. Such places include the Villa Royale Spa in Kata, and Le Spa at Le Meridien Phuket Beach Resort near Patong.
Fish Spa or Dr Fish
Newcomers to Phuket sometimes stop in amazement at the strange sight of people sitting with their feet planted in a fish tank. What on earth are they doing?
This is Dr Fish, or a fish spa. Doctor fish is the name given to the species of fish Garra rufa. Other nicknames include nibble fish, kangal fish, physio fish, and doctorfishen. The Garra rufa love to nibble on dead skin and as soon as the people insert their limbs in the water, an army of these little guys start eating away the skin that’s been softened by the warm water. Doctor Fish can survive in waters as hot as 43-degrees Celsius so when somebody dips their feet in their pool, it’s a real treat.
Naughty Massage in Phuket
Many tourists never try therapeutic massage because they are worried about ending up in a place that offers massaging of parts that traditional masseuses never reach. As a guide, if the place has any of the following, then walk on by.
- A dark interior, perhaps with dark-tinted windows.
- Young, slim masseuses, sexily dressed and carefully made up. A professional masseuse will always wear a proper uniform and little or no make-up.
- A “marketing girl” in front trying to persuade you to come on in. Most will ask you straight out if you’d like a “special” massage.
So Where Do I Go? And How Much Does It Cost?
Most traditional Thai massage places are simple affairs without much attention paid to fancy décor. You’ll find them in shop-houses near the beaches or in many of the three-star hotels in Phuket City. A typical massage session lasts about two hours and costs 300-500 baht. A foot massage session is about 40-50 minutes and costs 300-400 baht.
A massage at any of the five-star hotels is naturally more expensive - the price can be triple, or more. On the beach, the fee for a massage and foot massage is around 300 baht an hour.
Masseuses look forward to tips if they do a good job. Often, those who work outside the big spas or five-star hotels get no salary. Instead, they share the massage fee 50-50 with the owner of the massage place. In the case of the beach masseuses, they pay ‘rent’ for their space on the sand.
So if the fee is 300 baht per session, the masseuse gets 150 baht for two hours’ work. Any tip therefore makes a big difference. A reasonable tip for a good relaxing massage can be anywhere between 50 and 100 baht.