Massages in Thailand, and for that matter Southeast Asia, are good and cheap! I should know! Some people become experts in Thai street food. I made myself an expert on Thai Massage. I made sure to take advantage in every place I visited. While researching Chiang Mai, Thailand, I learned from blog posts like this one by Poplar Travels about a Thai Prison Massage.
The Thai Correctional Vocation Center trains women who are almost due for release in the art of Traditional Thai massage and saves a portion of the money earned for them when they are released. I liked the concept of the women learning a vocation to help them re-enter society and I love getting Thai Massages, so it was a win-win!
Arriving at the Correctional Vocation Center late in the morning, the warden informed me the next available massage time was 2:20. Unfortunately, this wasn’t going to work with my afternoon lunch plans. Clearly, trying to schmooze the warden (wink wink) would not have been a smart choice!
Tip: If you want to visit the Thai Correctional Vocation Center, arrive early to avoid having to wait for an afternoon time slot. There are no appointments. You are given the next available time.
But, the (friendly) warden told me about an Ex-Prisoners Massage Center location just half a block away. I’ll admit I was hesitant. I was sweaty and red-faced. Walking even another half block seemed epic. (Very dramatic, I know!) I was also intrigued, though. If there were ex-prisoners continuing the skills they’d learned from the correctional facility’s vocational training, it was a sign the program was working. Why not support these women?
I followed the sign to the Ex-Prisoners Massage Center. The location was just a half a block up on the left. I slid the glass door open and smiled immediately upon feeling the air conditioned waiting room. There are 3 treatments on the menu, 1 or 2 hour Traditional Thai Massage for 200 ($5.50 USD!) or 400 ($11 USD!) Baht and a 1 hour foot massage for 200 Baht. I selected a 1 hour Traditional Thai Massage and was taken immediately.
Tip: Some of the therapists take lunch between 12:00-1:00 so there is a bit less availability during this time.
The massage began with the customary foot washing, after which I was led to a changing room to put on the requisite loose-fitting clothing. When I was done, I followed my therapist into an air-conditioned, tiger-balm scented, communal room. It was dark, with just the low murmur of the therapists talking and the occasional person grunting from their legs being pressed and stretched.
Low mattresses lined the room. I lay face up on my back and the therapist began. Now, Thai massage is not like a typical western massage, where the therapist mostly kneads the shoulders, back, and neck. Thai massage starts with the legs and moves to the back. There is constant pressure applied to pressure points, as the therapist stretches and contorts your body into yoga-like positions you didn’t think you could manage. Thai massage opens your body and reduces stress. I even felt taller afterwards!
The massage at the Ex-Prisoners Massage Center was hands down, or legs behind your head 😉, the best Thai massage I’d had anywhere in Thailand. There was no doubt I would return. On my 2nd visit, I didn’t even bother checking in with the Warden for available times at the Correctional Vocation Center. I went directly to the Ex-Prisoners Massage Center. This time I opted for a 2 hour Traditional Thai Massage and walked out of there feeling doubly fantastic!
If you’re heading to Chiang Mai, getting a Thai Massage by Ex-Prisoners is a must! The service, massage, and price cannot be beat!
Where is this fabulous Ex-Prisoners Massage Center?
There are 3 Ex-Prisoners Massage Center locations. I went to Branch 1. You can see it’s located just a half block past the Chiang Mai Correctional Center, further down Jhaban Road.
The Ex-Prisoners Massage Center gets busy some days. Branches 2 and 3 are just a bit further past Branch 1. All the locations are centrally located in the Old City. Branch 1 was about a 10 minute walk to/from Wat Chedi Luang.
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