Spas in Thailand, go on treat yourself

By Mark Bentley

Thailand has some of the best spas in the world

Thailand has some of the best spas in the world

Spa treatments in the west are notoriously expensive and are generally only enjoyed very rarely by those in moderate earning brackets. Society”s more affluent members may pamper themselves on a more regular basis, but for a price. However, Thailand is a break to this norm, with affordable spa treatments accessible to all.

Thailand, a Southeast Asian destination with a burgeoning tourist infrastructure and for which affordable flights are becoming increasingly available, has a reputation for spa services that are not only highly competitive, but also of a standard that compares with if not exceeds those of western counterparts.

Already one of the world’s top destinations for medical tourism, Thailand is now seeing a steady influx of visitors seeking to combine the cultural delights of a holiday in Asia with the relaxing and healing benefits of eastern spa treatments. Spa vacations are the next big thing in Thailand and are set to increase the country’s status as the region’s top holiday destination.

Thai spas can be found in all of the country’s developed tourist areas and range from dedicated resorts with on–site treatment facilities to smaller, more intimate venues without accommodation.

If your budget is not your greatest concern and you are looking to devote your entire vacation to pampering yourself, then a resort is probably your best bet as you may well be able to purchase a holiday package that will include all of your treatments for the duration of your stay. Alternatively, you may wish to book cheaper accommodation within close proximity of a day–visit spa and enjoy treatments as and when it suits you.

Spa treatments are many and varied and range from some fairly superficial beauty–style procedures aimed largely at female visitors to more specialised medically–based treatments that are suitable for all. While packages for residential or day–visit spas are normally fixed, establishments are generally flexible and willing to accommodate the specific needs of individual customers.

Common to most treatment schedules is some form of massage and most visitors agree that this is one of the highlights of a spa package. Thai massage, with its ancient techniques created from the amalgamation of ayurvedic Indian massage and traditional Chinese massage, is commonly considered one of the world’s most therapeutic massage mediums and is reputed to have a number of health benefits besides the immediate relaxing properties that its physical sensations provide.

All therapies are recognised here

All therapies are recognised here

A traditional Thai massage is taken dry; however, for varied sensation and benefits, oil or special herbs can be used. Oil massages differ in their approach from those given dry and are perhaps the most relaxing and the closest in technique to western massage styles. If you are at all frail or delicate, then an oil massage is a preferable medium.

A typical spa, whether independent or part of a resort, will also offer treatments such as body scrubs, body wraps, facials, foot treatments, herbal steam baths and jacuzzis as well as variations on massage techniques such as aromatherapy oil massage, Swedish body massage and Ayurvedic body massage.

Meanwhile, spas with more medical leanings commonly offer more specialised treatments, often based on Chinese and ayurvedic medicinal beliefs, as well as detoxification programmes that involve colonic irrigation, ozone therapy, liver and gall bladder cleansing and blood cleansing therapies. Additionally, if you opt for a spa resort, you may well find that relaxing activities such as yoga and meditation are offered either as extras or as an integral part of an overall well–balanced programme.

Spas such as those in the latter category are popular with those looking to rid themselves of the excesses of 21st century living, offering the opportunity to spend a week or two a year reversing the physical and mental accumulations of stress, over–exertion, alcohol and unhealthy eating.

While claims made by such establishments in relation to these treatments may not always be supported by hard scientific evidence, most who receive them as part of intensive programmes are in agreement that they feel some benefit, even if it’s only short lived. If you’re generally a clean living person who’s simply looking to immerse yourself in a relaxing ambience and feel the soothing benefits of water, steam, aroma and physical touch, then a regular non–medically inclined spa is likely to meet your needs.

Choosing a spa can be the most difficult part of the process since the rise in the popularity of spa treatments has seen a corresponding rise in establishments offering spa treatments. Resorts are often part of a chain with several branches in different parts of the country and as such, their reputations tend to be better than smaller establishments. The quality of treatments offered at such locations is invariably high, but prices are directly proportional so if budget is an issue, you may wish to consider the alternatives.

If it’s a regular beach or sightseeing holiday that you are looking for with a day or two of spa treatments thrown in, waiting until you reach your destination and then doing a little scouting around is a good idea. Local tourist magazines are invariably crammed with spa adverts or you can just ask your hotel for a recommendation – that’s if they don’t offer any on–site treatments of their own.

Word of mouth is often the best advertisement for an establishment and hence a recommendation from a friend or fellow holidaymaker might be all you need to help you make your decision.

Popular island destinations such as Samui and Phuket offer the beauty of Andaman coastal scenery along with an impressive selection of spa establishments, both of the resort and day–visit variety. However, you can expect prices here to be considerably more expensive than in Chiang Mai, in line with the higher cost of living in these parts of the country.

Certain areas of Thailand are gaining reputations as spa centres and indeed, Chiang Mai in the north is one such destination. While this well developed city lacks the ambience of a beach resort, it is home to some of the finest spas and spa resort centres to be found in the country. Furthermore, it has secured a reputation for itself as an alternative therapy centre and hence cleansing and detoxification programmes are more prevalent here.

North or south, whichever region you opt for and regardless of which spa establishment you settle on, the odds are overwhelmingly in your favour. You will be treated like royalty, have any specific requirements catered for and generally have an altogether exquisite experience which may well leave you feeling that the ‘Land of Smiles’ might be more appropriately renamed the ‘Land of Spas’.

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