29 Aug Phuket And The Truth About Thai Massages
Phuket scared me. I’m not a fan of overly-tourist destinations, nor of drunk backpackers and fake places that seem so devoid of culture that you could never guess in what country you really are. Every guide, blog and forum I’d read about Phuket hinted that it would be exactly the kind of place I could never really like.
I wanted to go to Phuket as much as I wanted to take another trig class, but it was the gateway to Khao Sok National Park so I had no other choice.
The two ferry rides it took to get there didn’t help Phuket’s case. They were crowded and I mean in a there’s-only-lifeboats-for-half-the-passengers kind of way. There wasn’t a single space available so we ended up on the last deck, sitting on the floor…with the luggage. Also, the people on the ferry were really rude. When we arrived everyone started pushing and shoving because they wanted to be the first ones off the boat. Sigh. Didn’t we all? I was this close to losing my patience.
We figured it was best to stay as far from Patong as possible. If we put enough distance from the drunk-backpacker mecca and ourselves, we might get a glimpse of some of Phuket’s realness. So we booked a room in a guesthouse in Hat Kata.
Phuket is the largest island in Thailand so it doesn’t have that obvious island feel like Koh Lanta or Koh Tao. The first night that we went out to explore, we quickly realized that it was the most touristy and expensive place in Thailand we’d been to so far. This had its pros and cons.
The cons were obvious. The pros, for Isaac at least, included stores and restaurants with air-con. For me, more Western food options (oh, pizza, how I’d missed you).
I don’t know why, but most of the tourists in Phuket are Russian. So much so that most of the street signs, tours, hotel ads, and even restaurant menus are in Russian. A girl selling fruit in a street stand surprised me because she spoke Russian but not English.
It’s things like this that make you forget you’re in Thailand, which I don’t particularly think is a good thing. I’ve said it about Cancun in Mexico as well, where most of the signs, menus, and banners are in English, and some establishments even accept US dollars. When a place is so stripped of its roots to accommodate foreign tourists it loses its appeal. At least for me.
But anyways, I digress.
One night we walked by Palm Square and saw that the spa was still open. Isaac and I turned to look at each other, a silent agreement in our eyes. Oh, yes, we were getting a massage.
You may remember from this Koh Lanta post that I was under the impression that I’d already gotten a Thai massage before and that it’d been, in fact, relaxing and wonderful. I recalled that a friend we met in Krabi wrote on Facebook: “I never knew what physical pain was until I had my very first Traditional Thai Massage.” At the time, I thought she was exaggerating. A little pressure never hurt anybody.
Turns out that what we’d had in Koh Lanta was not, by a long shot, a traditional Thai massage. And I learned this the hard way. Now that I’ve experienced the real deal firsthand, I couldn’t agree more with my friend’s statement.
What the effing hell.
We went up the stairs to the spa and asked for a Thai massage, naively thinking we were in for a relaxing time.
First, they cleaned our feet… with cold water. Minus one point for the Thai massage. Then they led us to a dimly lit room and we laid down on the beds on the floor.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and internally smiled. This was going to feel amazing.
The 60 minutes from the moment my masseuse’s hands touched my body were pure unadultered pain. And I hated every single moment of it. She used her hands, elbows and shoulders to apply pressure where no pressure should ever be applied. I sometimes found it hard to breathe and I focused really hard on not crying out in pain (because that would’ve been embarrassing). How can you enjoy a massage when you think that someone is, certainly, any second now, going to rip off one of your limbs?
On occasions I glanced at Isaac on the bed next to me and he was, by no means, receiving the same treatment as I was. The lady who was working on me stretched me worse than the hardest yoga class I’ve ever taken. Lifting my legs and putting her whole weight on them so they would stretch further, or opening my hips without any warning. Jezz, I’m flexible, but I am most definitely not unbreakable! Isaac was spared all of these stretches, and definitely some elbows here and there.
So, all in all it is a relaxing massage. When it’s finally over and the pain stops, your body will be so grateful for the peace that it’ll be the most relaxed you’ll ever feel.
One thing’s for sure though, by experiencing a Thai Massage, the real deal, we managed to fill the culture hole Phuket has driven in its core. And that made all the pain worth it.
Then again, maybe not…
I didn’t hate Phuket, but I didn’t like it either. I’m in no particular hurry to return, and there are so many interesting and culturally enriching places in Thailand, that I don’t really see the point of staying in Phuket. Also, there’s no way I’ll be getting another Thai massage anytime soon. But, as always, this is only my personal, very subjective opinion.
Have you been to Phuket? Have you gotten a Thai massage? Was your experience as terrible as mine? I’d love to hear from you! Talk to me on the comment section below.