Spirit of Thailand

Spirit of Thailand

Culture, Relationships,
Thai Massage, Traveling

A Collection of Weird Massage Stories

Unexpected massage adventures from around the world
Image credit www.chortle.com

Whenever I travel somewhere in Asia I always try out a local massage for better or for worse. Sometimes it was definitely for the worse, and here are some of my more bizarre experiences.

Bangkok Thai Massage Trauma

typical Thai Massage shop setup

Once I was in the tourist district on Kao San Road in Bangkok and went to a typical Thai massage shop. Many floor mats were lined up in a big room with many sessions going on simultaneously. I was assigned a male therapist.

The first thing he did was turn on a fan that blew cold air on me in a room that was already air conditioned to arctic temperatures. When I told him that the fan made me cold, he insisted that he needed it since he felt hot.

The multi-tasking Thai Massage therapist

A few minutes after he started my Thai Massage he got up and started to prepare a pot of tea. When he was done he came back to me and continued the massage without any explanation.

A few minutes later another client was done with his session. Apparently my therapist was the main cashier since he got up and collected the money from him.  Again he returned without offering any explanation and kept working on me.

At this point I felt like getting up and walking out. But I decided to stay just to see how far this could go. And incredibly enough the fellow kept stopping my massage every time someone needed to pay for their session.

His main job was cashier and he also did massages as an after thought, it seemed. I felt like I was a piece of meat being pushed around mindlessly, I was freezing, and I even had to pay for the  abuse.

Luang Prabang, Laos – What Kind Of Oil Is That?

pouring massage oil

I went to a massage shop in Luang Prabang (Laos) to get an oil massage. There was nothing wrong with the session, but when I took a shower afterwards to wash the oil off my body, I realized that the oil did not come off.

After three rounds of soap and water, I decided they must have used petroleum mixed with super glue, because I still felt greasy and sticky.

Soap and water had no chance against this incredible massage oil. It managed to prolong my experience way past the one hour session that I paid for.

Burma ‘Hole-In-The-Wall’ Massage

When I was traveling in Burma, one evening I was excited when I saw a sign for a massage shop. I had never experienced a Burmese massage, so I signed up for a session and was directed to a wall with a curtain.

When they pulled the curtain aside, I saw a cut-out in the wall. It was a rectangular hole in the wall with the dimensions of a coffin, just higher. Imagine a closet reset into a wall with no front door.

A super thin mat rested on regularly spaced slats of wood. The effect was that the mat was sagging in all the spaces between the wooden slats and the slats dug themselves into my back.

A little grizzled old man showed up and I was wondering how he could possibly give me a massage in a space that was just big enough to accommodate my own body.

Somehow he managed to climb over me and squeeze himself in a squatting position between my legs.

He pulled the curtain shut and did some pressing and squeezing on some parts of my body that he could reach from his contorted position.

I would  have gotten up and walked out, but I wanted to experience it just for the weirdness of it. After the session my body felt worse than before, but I had another memorable travel experience.

Vietnamese Massage With Happy End Offer

relaxing massage

I was in Hanoi and wanted to experience a Vietnamese massage.

I had heard dubious reports about massage shops in Vietnam, so I decided to play it safe.

I went to the tourist office and told them that I was looking for a real massage without any sexy content in a classy establishment.

They gave me the name and address of a spa. When I arrived there, it looked very clean and professional: nice reception, private massage room with individual saunas, uniformed therapists, and the massage was actually quite good.

Towards the end of the session, the girl put her hands on my private parts and asked if I wanted massage there. I declined and got up to get dressed.

Before I left, she put her hand on my arm and asked what I was going to do now. To her disappointment I told her that I would go home – alone. She must have seen her big tip vanish and I hurried to get out of there.

Later I asked a Vietnamese friend of mine if there was such a thing as purely professional therapeutic massage. He told me that there was not much of a market for such incomplete work, since most Vietnamese men prefer the “happy end”.

Bali – Younger Therapists

woman contour

I was walking on the street in the city of Kuta, Bali, and was accosted by a girl who wanted me to sign up for a massage.

As a massage therapist myself, I am always interested in massage, so I followed her.

She led me to a dingy and unclean room that would have been the last place where I ever wanted to receive a massage.

So I turned on my heels and walked out. She chased me down and pleaded with me:

Mister, wait, we will give you a younger and prettier girl!

I guess she did not know that my personal rule for female massage therapists in Asia is that the older and less attractive ones are generally the more experienced and more professional ones.

If she would have said: “Mister, wait, we give you an old and ugly one and we will put clean sheets on the table”, she might have had a chance, but she blew it with her offer.

Chiang Mai Belly Attack

I went to get a massage at a shop that is known for therapeutic work. An older woman who seemed quite experienced got to work on me.

Everything was fine until she got to my belly area. There she started to press really hard with thumbs and elbows which was registered by my tummy as very painful.

Abdominal massage

So in a natural effort of self-preservation I kept my stomach muscles tense enough so that she could not do any serious damage.

When she was done with the massage, she told me in a concerned voice that I had real issues in my belly area since I was so tense in there.

She advised me to go see a doctor and come back to her for regular belly treatments.

Luckily most Thai massage therapists don’t touch the belly. Otherwise I might end up needing a surgical belly replacement.

I have to say that later I received excellent massages in very professional settings in Bali, just to set the record straight.

In Thailand I have received countless wonderful massages, and I have not totally given up on Vietnamese massage either. I will try again on my next trip, but then I will go with my wife, just to be on the safe side.

CLICK HERE for a free introductory Thai Massage video series

image of the the author, Shama Kern

The author, Shama Kern, is the founder and director of Thai Healing Massage Academy and the creator of 20 Thai Massage online training courses. You can reach him at shama@ shamakern.com

48 thoughts on “A Collection of Weird Massage Stories”

  1. Sorry Shama, Kao San road is NOT the place to get a massage in bangkok… very few places in bangkok are providing good massages. Most of them provide other types of… If you ever visit Bangkok again, please ask …

  2. yes Isabella, I had to find that out the hard way unfortunately. Luckily here in Chiang Mai it is easier to get a decent massage in my experience.

  3. I love your Weird Massage Stories, Shama. They are filled with humorous anecdotes that we can all relate to on some level or another. I can easily visualize some of the scenarios. Thanks so much for sharing perspectives from the other side of the world! I encourage you to keep up the good work!

    • Thank you Ariana. I am glad you appreciated the stories, and I will certainly come up with more of them. As always I am grateful for your encouragement.

  4. Excellent stories Shama, i have also a few on my backround massages !!!
    But the best massage i received is the tantric massage , even if i was scared cause is a naked massaga ,and was going to be done by a close friend of mine (male)! it is really the coolest and strongest experience (much energie and blocage releasing ) i had . I really encourage you to have one.

    The energy awaken is huge.

    Excellent day

    Blessings from Reunion Island

    • Paola I am pretty sure there is no tantric massage in Thailand. But I agree with you that a massage that really works on specific energy issues can produce an intense experience.

      • what i am interested in is in healing and providing wellbeing to people , to share love in other words , an as you nicely say in your videos , touch is being bannished or coded so much in western culture …

        i d really like to learn how to go deeper in the thai massage practice so i can give full potential -through the techniques- of the healing i can offer .

        I have a good sensitivity but i dream of being teached by a teacher, healer teacher (as you said in the other post a gold hand one 🙂 ) , that really uses the magic of the touch of thai massage .

        I received the best thai massage from a israeli practician , -nothing to do with the tortures of the thai girls from the thai sands- really listener of my body .

        What i experienced with tantric massage (oil nude massage) was something emotionally strong, indeed i felt that many blocages where going out , teers and many feelings came out …

        I heard that thai massage is more Yang , and that it connects you more with “the sky” , and that oil massages , more Yin and soft connects the patient to the “earth”.

        But somehow when i give thai massage to someone i feel i have to be so gentle in some places , giving much more ying than yang …

        That s why sometimes i am kind of limited by the thai techniques i learnt that seems to me sometimes a little too much yang …

        I d like kind of “marry” mixed techniques that could give the yang and the ying to the patients according to what you feel the need to have …

        Much love and blessings


      • Sharma, I have always wondered why the Thais have not got into Tantric massage. They are very enterprising and quickly work out and provide what tourists are looking for.

        Is it that in order to give a Tantric massage, one has to have an outlook on life which is beyond that of the average Thai psyche? Or maybe that the average tourist in Thailand would see it as just another happy ending massage and not be in the space which could appreciate it.

  5. Paola, I know that sometimes it seems that Thai Massage is kind of yang oriented. Many of the countless youtube videos enforce this concept by showing all those fancy stretches. It seems as if Thai Massage is just a series of yoga-like stretches.

    But the fact is that Thai Massage can be done in a very gentle way, which I personally prefer. I have modified many Thai Massage techniques by using more gentle rocking techniques (check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4xT-mr97Ws), and by using a system that I call the “anatomy of a massage move”. This is a progression from basic techniques to more subtle techniques that involve breath, intuition and visualization.

    I also blend Thai Massage with Heavenly Head Massage which is something that I created. It is bodywork combined with energy work. You might want to check it out here:
    http://heavenlyheadmassage.com There is a sample video about that on this page. This seems to be what you are describing, using loving energy as part of your massage.

    Much love to you too,

  6. My worst massage experience was in Bali. A friend of mine and I had just walked up to the volcanic crater to watch the sunrise. When we got down to the village at the bottom we strolled around and found this lovely pool with many young villagers hanging around. A young teenage boy said “you want massage?”. After a strenuous walk I needed a massage and I was happy to reward a young enterprising guy. Unfortunately he was more inspired by the idea of receiving a monetary reward than giving a relaxing massage. I wondered if he had ever received a massage himself as it just consisted of some very rigorous rubbing with a smelly oil. Not wanting to spoil the start of young man’s future career I was reluctant to stop him. At the end of about 15 minutes I was very relieved that it was over. I paid him, and he complained about the payment which was quite adequate for Bali. We walked off with him cursing loudly and we determined not to repeat the experience.
    Its still fun trying out all the massages the Asia has to offer.

  7. Graham, in regards to your previous post, I think you are right on both points. Also the Thais are really not much into learning anything besides their traditional Thai Massage. And if they would, the tourists would not appreciate the spirit of it anyway. India is on a different wavelength. Many western visitors there expect and respect the spiritual aspect more than here in Thailand. Tantric massage would not work in Thailand.

    You Bali experience definitely has a place in the annals of misguided massage adventures haha. Join the club. After the fact it always makes for a good story.

  8. Here is a rather spooky experience. On one of the islands there was a poster on a tree from a Japanese guy who was doing a combination Shiatsu/Thai/Chiropractor. Something impressed me about the poster, not as cheap as the normal Thai Massage but he seemed to be quite experienced. I went to his little hut on the rocky shore front and arranged an appointment.

    At the arranged time I stripped to the waist and he spent some time examining my posture etc. He noticed that my spine had some scoliosis. So I lay down while he started his preparation. This was to light up whatever was in his bong and inhale a few very deep breaths of the smoke. He had some very jittery motion in his hands, and he spent about 1 hour rubbing a particular spot on my skull. I was a bit baffled but he reassured me constantly that all was fine and I should be patient. He took the odd supplementary drag on his bong during this time.

    At a certain point he started testing my spine and then suddenly used a sideways motion to press laterally on my spine. I felt a movement and something clunked. He then did some more work on my back muscles before the end of the massage.

    When he was finished he stood me in from of the wall mirror and with a second mirror showed me my now straight spine. All the chiropractors in Perth just looked at it and told me I had scoliosis. And today, about 5 years later my spine is still quite straight!

    • The happiest of endings! I have recently been told I have scoliosis and that massage and chiropractic might help, but that I should do core strengthening exercises. This was advice from a specialist physician called a physiatrist. The internet is full of scoliosis exercises.

  9. Hello, Shama,
    I really enjoyed reading your stories of bizarre massages around the world. Most of those questionable practices are in the U.S. too, minus the exotic setting. It got me to thinking, though, that apparently, even though you are a seasoned and savvy massage practitioner and recipient, you are suceptible to allowing a bad massage to continue for far too long, and then to add insult to injury, even pay for it. I too have allowed this a couple of times. Why do we massage people do that? Our curiousity can sometimes exceed our common sense, which is to speak up and to never let anyone do something to our bodies that can potentially harm us. The cost of massage is so high in my neck of the woods, (NYC), that nowadays I won’t hesitate any longer to just stop the session and walk out. Thankfully, that has only happened once.

    • Unfortunately if you pay first which is 100% of massage shops in Australia then you have done your money cold.
      I would not like to try and get my money back once you have paid and the session has started.
      It may be different in other countries.
      When I was in the Philippines in September 2017 I had some excellent Swedish massages in Boracay.
      They only cost $9 Australian too.
      Since I have returned home I have not had one anywhere nearly as good and you are paying $75 to $90!

  10. Linda, I have to admit that I have been guilty of enduring a bad massage session instead of just stopping it. Sometimes it was just the curiosity of how bizarre it can get, and the writer in me is always looking for interesting things to write about.

    But many times I did not stop it because I did not want to crush the therapist’s self esteem who in her mind might have done the best she could, even if that was a long shot from being good enough for me.

    This is a difficult balancing act. In one sense we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but in another sense why should we add insult to injury by enduring a bad session and then paying for it on top of it.

    At least here in Asia the payment part is not a big issue since most of those sessions that I mentioned in my article only cost about US $5.- an hour. But where you are that’s another story. At New York prices I would probably walk out of a bad session a lot sooner than here in Thailand.

    Most of these stories happened many years ago. I have become a little less adventurous with my massage sessions, and I don’t travel as much anymore. So nowadays I really only get massage from someone whom I know to be good. That gets me around the issue of having to walk out.

  11. Thanks Shama for sharing these interesting stories.
    I enjoyed reading them. Beautiful things can happen in the art of massage but of course crazy things as well!!
    There is always so much to learn from even the weirdest experience…
    As you know I LOVE anything about massage and I am learning a lot from you.
    I really appreciate all your courses and your articles as well. You are a wonderful instructor and a great writer.
    Thank you so much for how much you give… your time, knowledge, energy, and your love for people and Thailand.
    All is very much felt.

    Thanks again,

    • Lucia, you have been a source of inspiration to me since you came on board as a student of my massage courses. People like you are what gives me the inspiration to continue writing and producing!

  12. Hello Shama,
    thanks for sharing your impressions about your experience in unlucky massage sessions. For the beginners in Thai massage they are very useful, since we learn a lot from bad experience. For example, I have been taught not to be too zealous in massaging the belly, from your stories I a got strong confirmation that really massage therapists should be very careful about belly massage and maybe in some cases skip it at all.

    Looking forward to your stories and very useful instructions,



  13. Thank you Shama for sharing these interesting and funny articles about your experience having a massage in Asia. When I visited Bangkok, my boyfriend and I decided to have a Thai Massage. Until this point we didn’t no anything about it. We thought that it would be a very relaxing massage. It turned out to be very painful and very uncomfortable, especially for my boyfriend. For me, I handled it pretty well, because of my yoga practice. After 15 minutes, my boyfriend looked at me and said, this silly girl feels like a wrestler was fighting on top of me. She’s killing me!! He was very unhappy and he never wanted to take another Thai massage again. But for me, I can take it again and again, I love it!


  14. Thanks shama,for sharing with us. I am unfortunate that I give massages but I don’t take them from other therapists,I would love to have them though. The few I have had,I couldn’t spend 10 minutes in a session. I can’t stand stand a bad massage,I walk out,with a good excuse.

    • That’s indeed a sad situation. If you don’t get good massages yourself, it is hard to know how it feels for the client. Sounds like there aren’t many good massage therapists around where you live.

  15. Hi, Shama,

    I’ve shared some of your experiences. I had a traditional massage from a therapist trained at a public university in Quito that had been recommended to me by the hotel where I stayed. She advertised as having 13 years experience and the hotel stated several guests had recommended her. This woman, once the massage began, left the room at least 5 times for several minutes each time, no explanation. Mediocre massage, at best. How anyone could have claimed she did good work was beyond my comprehension. Then, I had another less than satisfactory massage in Quito by a woman that took a course in Florida in Thai massage of the “throw the limbs about” school of Thai massage. She was actually recommended by an Ecuadorian physical therapist and worked out of his clinic.

    I agree with you about getting massages from older practitioners. It’s ok if they are attractive. 🙂 At one massage center in Chiang Mai, I was getting very good massages from a woman I just found out was 70. She wasn’t available the last time I went in so agreed to try another practitioner. Her massage technique was disorienting, having very little sense of rhythm or consistency in following the basic principles of Thai massage. This was at one of the more upscale shops. After two hours I left and immediately walked to another shop I’ve frequented and had another two hour massage just to regain my sense of balance. She was a very attractive and quite young massage therapist who gave me one of the best Thai massages I’ve received in Chiang Mai. I went back the next day for a second session. There are exceptions to the old and ugly rule! She did, though, ask if I’d buy her a beer and teach her English. Can’t blame a girl for trying.

    I’d also have to say, from the number of massages I’ve received in Chiang Mai, it feels like many practitioners give massages not based on the needs of the customers but on how the practitioners feel that day.

    Happy trails!

    • Bryan, some therapists say that they have 13 years of experience, but it is really one year of experience repeated 13 times. Experience only counts if you use it to grow and expand your skills and sensitivity. Doing the same insensitive one-size-fits-all massage for 13 years in a row every day does not qualify as experience in my book, but only as a mindless mechanical repetition.

      It might sound harsh, but as we both know, it is so true in many cases unfortunately. Some people are just not meant to be massage therapists, just like not everyone is meant to be a nuclear physicist or a sculptor. I just wonder how such therapists manage to do this year in and year out without burning out.

      I agree – the old woman rule does not always apply. But it is often a safer bet to not get involved in unwanted stuff. I just wrote another article about my latest massage adventures in Vietnam:

  16. I can relate to the Thai belly attack with the constant cashiering *Where did my Therapist go feeling* and raise you it was also Blind Massage. This did offer an amazing intuitive massage experience…when they were present, but it also caused a horrid migraine the following day. Decor was awful but they are not about the visual needs, so I understood the irrelevance. In Shanghai, therapists did not flip you over to massage the front of the body. They wanted more money for that if you asked. I was not confident of what that meant so I left very unbalanced. Stick to reflexology there, it’s the best!

  17. Dear Shama,

    I really enjoy reading your posts of any sort. You are a good writer. Having lived in Bangkok for 2 years, I never experienced really bad massages. I think Thai are born with a natural talent. Once they migrate to other countries they seem to put less effort into it. At least here in Holland I have noticed it.

    Have a wonderful day in Chiang Mai and if you see Marieke say hi from me.

    Kind regards

    Sandra Wiendels

  18. Yes Great stories Shama ! I enjoy reading all your adventures. I remember one time I got a massage from an Australian fellow. We he finished my back side he said , ” Alright turn over so I can rub your boobies! ” I said I beg your pardon. Touch my boobies and you will be kissing the floor! I then took the sheet and wrapped myself up. I looked at him angrily and said ,Sir you must be out of your mind! I left. No tip for him! I reported him as well.

    • Quite incredible that so-called therapists actually behave like that. I mean in southeast Asia I know that this is something that you have to be aware of and avoid, but you just don’t see it coming from a western therapist.

  19. Thanks for the stories! Some of them made me laugh and some made me cringe a bit. I wanted to ask you about your statement that Thai Massage Therapists rarely do stomach massage? I am Thai Massage Therapist and I don’t do stomach massage on every client, especially if it is their first session and we don’t know each other. But I was taught that the stomach area, or hara, is a key area to unblock the sen lines and it where so many of them meet. I have had some clients experience a kind of gentle kundalini rising experience when I’ve worked the stomach area. Could you elaborate on your statement as to why you think Thai Massage Therapists rarely do stomach massage? Thanks so much. Lana

    • The first thing is that the techniques which are generally used for abdominal work in Thai Massage are not very good. They tend to be quite strong and are often painful. Therefore clients don’t like it. So there is a lack of better and more gentle techniques.

      The second thing is that typically the entire front of the upper body, i.e. abdomen and chest are generally not worked on. So it’s not just the abdomen, it’s the entire torso.Therapists work on arms and shoulders, but not on belly and chest. You find the same phenomenon in western massage that the abdomen and chest are often neglected.

      It does require quite a lot of sensitivity on the part of the therapist to do good abdominal work, and most Thai therapists don’t have that since they are too much in the mode of just doing a sequence of techniques.

      Check out the video on this page to see abdominal work in action:

  20. That’s hilarious! You are very good at telling a story. I had fun reading your article and thought there’s still something we can learn from unfavourable experiences.

  21. Hi Sharma,

    I had to laugh while reading. And the lady who wants to touch your private area, I like how you set her straight. Women think all men are in for the dirty run.

  22. I enjoyed your writing style and humor again Shama. My worst massage was in India, in Bhopal, where I have spent lots of time studying traditional music at my teacher’s school. I tried an ‘ayurvedic’ massage, on the recommendation of another student. They made me wait half an hour while the ‘therapist’ turned up on his bike. He took me into a cold room and told me to strip naked (in front of him) and lie on a cold hard wooden (and oily) table. he proceded to massage in a brutal fashion, using lots of heavy oil. At one point he poured oil onto my genitals (male) and began massaging! I said ‘ok, that’s enough now’. He looked at me and said ‘yeh khaas hai!’ (this is special!), and continued. I yelled because it felt like he broke my testicles. He got the message to stop. After he put me in a steam bath for 10 mins where I hardly managed to warm up again, let alone sweat, and I got back in the rickshaw beaten and battered and covered in a thick layer of cold dark oil. Coming back to the school I told the story for fun, and when I got to the ‘yeh Khaas hai!’ part they nearly died laughing.

    • That’s a pretty bad one, Branan. It’s amazing how some people can get away doing such horrible jobs and still stay in business as so-called massage therapists.

  23. Hi Shama, I enjoyed your stories very much. Many of them made me laugh! I have quite a few stories myself being a therapist for so long. I’m actually thinking about writing a book! Thanks for the inspiration?

  24. I am so glad that I found this helpful post. Thanks for this great information. A lot of people will really benefit from your first hand knowledge. I get my massages every two three weeks I do feel better.


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