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.
One of the more fascinating places was getting a Thai massage by ex-prisoners.
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 afterward!
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 beaten!
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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26 thoughts on “Getting a Thai Massage by Ex-Prisoners”
Hey Jackie! So happy to hear you got an amazing massage: Chiang Mai is also my most favourite place in Asia to get a massage so far! There was a guy pounding my feet in China last week who came close to excellence but the Thais are still winning 😀
Haha! Yeah, Alice, I agree with you! those Thai Massage therapists in Chiang Mai were amazing! Oh, how I’m going to miss those massages, not to mention the price!
I love Thai massage, I can’t wait to go back to Thailand. But this time I might go for Ex-prisoners one 😉
Thai massages are great, aren’t they Mansoureh? If you visit Chiang Mai, definitely support this program. You’ll get a great massage and support an excellent cause. 🙂
Somebody was telling me about this the other day, and I thought it was a great concept. Glad to see you enjoyed your massage there.
I absolutely loved the idea of this, Dave, and made a point of supporting it while in Chiang Mai. The massages were great!
I guess it’s really good you decided to support ex-prisoners with your money. Good their are taught a job in prison.
There wouldn’t be many options for these women, so it’s definitely worthwhile to support it if you’re in Chiang Mai, Monica.
What an amazing program! That is definitely something I would support while traveling in Thailand, and a good massage just sweetens the deal!
It gives these women a skill and a vocation when they reenter society, Mags. Definitely get a massage if you’re ever in Chiang Mai. 🙂
I love getting massages and the ones in Chiang Mai are pretty amazing! Glad you got to enjoy that experience.
I was so impressed with how good these massages were, Anna!
This is great, I imagine when we finally make it to Thailand after an epic journey overland from Europe a massage will be just what we need! I think it’s a great way to give these people skills and self worth after being in prison which will hopefully make the difference in them getting their lives back on track.
After a journey like that, definitely Nic! The massages are great and the women leave prison with a vocation. It’s a great cause to support.
What a beautiful cause! I myself is very much involved with women’s rights (and things in general) and I’d like to get in touch with you about this visit!
I knew when I made my plans to head to Chiang Mai that I would support this program. It gives the women a vocation and people skills, which improves their chances at reentering society successfully. I’d love to talk more about it with you, Trisha! 🙂
That’s a nice cause for ex-prisoners to be given a chance to have a form of livelihood. I once stayed at a camp where actual prisoners work and earn a little bit of money in return.
That camp sounds similar, Erica. The current prisoners in the massage program do share tips, which are saved for when the women leave prison. This way, they are able to reenter society with a bit of money.
I like to concept that they teach prisoners Thai massage. It will really help them re-enter the society. I wish I could have a real Thai Massage. I’m sure it will do me good. Thank you for sharing your experience.
It’s such a good program to support! Thai massage is like the lazy man’s yoga. You will feel stretched out and open.
This is really interesting and I think good, if you can pay for what you need and in the same time you can support these women. I got thai massage once in Chiang Mai and I liked it a lot. I will remember what you wrote here next time!
It’s always good to support a local program likes this. It’s easy when there’s a great massage that comes along with it.
Thanks for the detailed info. What’s the policy re tipping when it comes to massage?
Thanks for commenting, Carole. Since they are ex-prisoners, you can and should tip them. The prison inmate massage program (I think!) pools money, so the girls have some cash when they are released.
A great idea and wan t to go. However, these poor women are set up to fail. Once they leave prison they will go out and work as a masseur in one of many shops dotted around CM. The owners take a large portion of their pay and they are left with nothing to live on. Many are single parents looking after families. They will most likely take up petty theft in order to get by and guess what?? back to fail. This is the real problem!!!
Thanks for reading, Dave. I hope you do visit because it does support a good thing. It was also the best massage in CM! I understand what you’re saying. It’s not a cure-all. But leaving with no training coming out of prison and having the stigma of an ex-inmate, it would be worse. Thanks again for reading! Enjoy CM. 🙂