Massage is a well respected tradition in Thailand and practiced all over the country. Samui is no exception and massage services can be found in all the main tourist areas, as well as in the island’s many spas and hotels. Most trained Thai masseuses have fingers of steel that can smooth away even the most troublesome pains and stiffness. Samui massage offers traditional Thai, oil and foot massage and are generally not the sleezy places often seen in parts of Bangkok.
Thai massage is a complex art that has been passed down through the generations. The techniques are still taught by Buddhist monks at the main school inside Wat Po in Bangkok. This form of massage focuses on realigning the energy in your body through 10 main points, known in Thai as sen. There are over 70,000 of these in all, and during your Thai massage on Samui, muscles are kneaded, pushed, pulled and stretched to put them back into place.
The masseuse uses various techniques to apply pressure, using her hands, knees, elbows and even feet. Thai massage actually includes aspects of yoga derived from ancient Ayurvedic practices. The most noticeable tool in a masseuse’s collection is the thumb, which sometimes feels as though it reaches inside the muscle.
Due to the powerful nature of the massage, a well-trained Thai massage practitioner will avoid sensitive areas, so if you have ailments or chronic problems sensitive to body pressure, advise the masseuse before commencing.
There are three popular choices of massage in most of Samui’s smaller massage shops: Thai massage, oil massage and foot massage.
This is the most vigorous form and uses hand pressure and various parts of the masseuse’s body to apply force, working pressure points and realigning energy lines in the body. This process takes two hours for a full workout and can be a little uncomfortable at times, but it should leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. Typically, a full two-hour session will cost 300 to 500 baht in a local shop, but anything up to 2,000 baht at a professional spa. You can usually opt for one or two hours and request a harder or softer massage.
Oil is a lot gentler than Thai massage. Instead of pressuring the muscles with the hands, therapeutic oils are applied for deep muscle tissue treatment. It won’t solve back aches or damage, but it is good as an after treatment. It leaves you a little oily, but can be a very sensual experience. Generally, oil massage is slightly more expensive, but an hour is long enough.
Foot massage is a form of reflexology that works the internal organs by manipulating pressure points on the soles of your feet. This is another skill that has been passed down through the ages and it can be quite effective in producing a mild detox effect on the body. Often, foot massage is offered in special chairs set in a row at the entrance to a shop as well as at night markets and along the beach.
Many places also offer massage specialising in specific parts of the body, such as the hands, neck and head, and the above selection is also generally available on the main beaches.
Hotels and spas, meanwhile, offer a more luxurious environment, sometimes with nicely decorated private salas – or even a room with an ensuite Jacuzzi – along with scented robes and soothing music. There are two types of spa on Samui; those specialising in health and wellness and the more indulgent pampering spa.
A massage at a Samui spa is guaranteed to be a good one and may also be combined with other treatments, such as facials, wraps and steam room time. However, such packages typically cost almost as much as they do in the West, ranging from 2,000 baht to as much as 6,000 baht for a full day of indulgence.