I first went to Chiang Mai in 1995 as a backpacker . It felt like a largish provincial town, a gateway to the Northern Thai hills to go trekking or visit the Golden Triangle where Northern Thailand meets Myanmar and Laos . It still is this , but these days also feels like a growing international city with hugely increased tourism including these days significant Chinese tourism. There is also a semi permanent sizeable international community comprising : non Thai retirees , younger non Thais who have settled and often run their own businesses , digital nomads , English teachers , Muay Thai (Thai boxing ) students/fighters and of course Thai massage students ! Of which I have been one for twenty five years, with now eight visits to Chiang Mai during that time . It’s a fascinating dynamic , there’s a lot going on there ..
There are at least five major schools of Thai massage, as well as individuals, offering various courses and qualifications for both new students and people with experience. Many students return to explore different aspects of the massage as just the same as any discipline and practice there are many variations on the theme of Thai massage and different theories co-exist just as in western forms of massage and bodywork . Consider osteopaths , chiropractors, physiotherapists and remedial massage therapists all potentially trying to help people but from slightly (or sometimes significantly) varying perspectives of how best to do this .
There is though a lot of formulaic Thai massage being taught and practiced which unfortunately ( in my humble opinion ) misrepresents the potential effectiveness of Thai massage . These formulaic massages can feel good , but unfortunately not always, as in inexperienced hands Thai massage can feel a bit rough which unfortunately puts some people off .
Over my years of practice I have thought and experimented a lot with how to work with this approach that I love and believe in . I generally prefer to work slowly and build up to any deeper work which in keeping with traditional Thai massage takes a longer time . I’ve also been lucky to be introduced to working with heated herbal compresses and sometimes warming balms which greatly support this process at times.
I have an active practice in Totnes Devon, UK where I am available most days. Much more information on my Thai massage practice here .
Below is a walk in open Thai massage ‘clinic’ at one of the temples in Chiang Mai . There are also clinics run by blind practitioners , female ex-prisoners, street market practitioners , traditional medicine hospital clinics , small private shops/clinics , plush hotel spas – whatever you like !