Every once in a while the market works in your favour. A normal massage in ‘the West’ can run between $40-100 / hour depending on the type and the quality of the spa you visit. In Chiang Rai prices have been driven down by heavy competition to the point where they’re just about giving the things away for free! And no other place in town offers so many cheap massage shops than Massage Lane (in Thai soi nuat).
There are actually 2 parallel lanes packed with massage shops and little else, with the Edison department store and Wnag Come Hotel between them, both local landmarks. Combined there are about 20 individual shops in this small area, so it’s quick and easy to look around and choose the best deal for yourself. You’ll usually see the staff lounging about out front of the shops, eating papaya salad and talking on the phone while calling in the odd customer.
Types of Massage
Massages offered include traditional Thai style, oil massage (usually done with body lotion though, not scented oils), aromatherapy oil (with the real oils), and foot massage. During research, the writer was also offered ‘special massage’ not once but thrice in both English and Thai. While happy endings are clearly available in this area, nearly all of the shops are legitimate businesses with qualified masseuses doing real massage. Traditional Thai massage uses a lot of stretching and pulling as well as control of blood flow and pressure points, so it’s not for the faint of heart but is definitely a highly recommended experience for massage lovers. Equally delightful is the reflexology foot massage, the best way to relieve the tension in your legs after trekking or shopping. Foot massages generally end with a quick back and neck massage in the final 10 minutes of your massage hour.
There is a plethora of shops and a wide variety of deals available, so only an example is shown here though prices are relatively similar between shops. Still have a quick look around for the best deal for your preferred type of rub down and timeframe. Kinaree massage offers the following products:
Type 1 Hour 2 Hours
Thai 150 200
Oil 250 350
Aromatherapy oil 300 500
Foot 200 n/a
Most of the masseuses will try to convince you to take a deal on a 2-hour massage, as this guarantees them more income in this buyer’s market. With these sorts of prices it’s nearly impossible to say no!
Making a Deal
Simply walk into the shop of your choice and tell them which massage you’d like for what length of time in clear English or your best Thai, and they’ll start you on your way. You’re typically given a clean set of light cotton clothes to wear for the massage and will be directed to a changing room. Bring your clothes and valuables with you into the massage room for safe-keeping, but do turn your phone off if you really want to relax! Enjoy your massage, and if you really just can’t get up then you can ask for further hours on the fly. Finish up by changing back into your kit and relaxing with a cup of herbal tea and some cookies before you head out good as new. Happy endings are best negotiated at beginnings, but sorry you’re on your own there!
Thai massage has been practiced and developed for hundreds of years and is a part of the country’s proud cultural heritage. With the rock-bottom prices available in Chiang Rai, there’s no reason not to treat yourself!
This post is also available in: French