While Bangkok offers all the film-quality intrigue of steamy, crowded streets; exotic foods; and seductive shopping opportunities, it also offers a buffet of treats for tired bodies through a surfeit of spas.
These can range from impromptu storefront setups to eye-popping palaces of sensual splendor, but they will all offer one primary product: the Thai massage.
What Would Buddha Do?
It’s said that Thai massage is older than Christianity. The practice can be traced back more than 2,500 years to a medical healer from North India who was said to be the personal physician of Buddha.
The wisdom of Thai massage developed through the centuries to infuse medicine from Chinese, Indian and Southeast Asian traditions through the practice of aided stretching and applied herbs.
To experience a true traditional Thai massage in Bangkok, head to Wat Pho, a monastery near the Grand Palace that dates back to the 1700s and the reign of King Rama I.
For around $12 you’ll receive an hourlong treatment by a local massage school student in an open-air pavilion filled with willing recipients relaxing on plastic mats and massage beds.
The mood is quiet and meditative as the apprentices stretch your limbs, bear down on muscle groups, and use their weight to leverage pressure.
Wear loose clothing that can be moved around as students apply warm, dry compresses of an ancient herbal blend of turmeric, lemongrass, kaffir lime, camphor and tamarind.
Bangkok’s Bounty of Massage Outlets
For those seeking a massage in Bangkok, open eyes will reveal a plethora of places to dip into for a 30-minute foot massage to a two-hour body work over. Most of these sidewalk storefront spaces feature overstuffed chairs and clean and pleasant surroundings. Expect to pay $5 to $7 for an impromptu hour of pummeling.
For higher-end pampering, head to an independent day spa, such as the Oasis Day Spa on Sukumvhit Road. As an independent day spa in the middle of Bangkok’s buzzing tourism and business district, the Oasis Day Spa earns its name thanks to a “secret garden” of lotus ponds and calming waterfalls flanked by 12 treatment rooms.
These treatment spaces include jungle-themed outdoor showers, deep soaking tubs and massage layouts for singles and couples.
ELEMIS Spa at The St. Regis
The St. Regis attracts celebrities and Thai glitterati that love the St. Regis Bar on the 12th floor overlooking the Royal Bangkok Sports Club’s horse races. However, its ELEMIS Spa on the 15th floor is an equal draw for travelers and locals seeking a bit of indulgence.
The spa sprawls over two stories and offers an eyeful of the city that can be enjoyed in complete calm. You might choose to start your treatment with a reflexology treatment at the spa’s foot ritual wading pool before heading into one of 16 treatment areas.
Try the Rasul room, where you’ll experience an Arabian bathing ritual that envelopes you in mineral-rich clay and incorporates heat, steam, exfoliation and massage.
You’ll later rinse off in showers that offer personalized selections for water pressure, lighting and music. Most guests end their sessions kicking back in suspended relaxation pods that overlook the city or by the pool accessed on the 15th floor.
Mandara Spa at the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers
Located on the hotel’s third floor, Mandara Spa is high enough to enjoy skyline views but close enough to the banks of the Chao Praya River to also savor glimpses of the busy river activity.
The spa features nine treatment rooms, with four double suites, three spa suites and one deluxe superior suite opening into an enclosed rooftop garden. Each spa suite includes a large private marble bath for two, a steam shower room and a changing room with panoramic views of the river.
After your treatment, lounge at one of two pools (including a saltwater pool) that overlook the river.
Quan Spa at the Marriott Marquis
The Quan Spa at the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park, Bangkok’s largest hotel property with 1,360 guest rooms and suites, focuses its treatments around Thailand’s tantalizing aromas.
Seductive bouquets of ylang-ylang and frangipani decorate the space, and not surprisingly, the spa’s signature treatment, the “Benja Malee Ancient Flower Remedy” combines traditional Thai massage techniques with the natural healing powers of flowers for 150 minutes of sweet-smelling bliss.
Anne Semonin Spa at the Marriott Bangkok
The Anne Semonin Spa at the Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit is branded by the anti-aging skin pioneer from Paris and specializes in keeping skin youthful and healthy through a range of products and treatments.
Guests are interviewed before their treatments and given unique skincare strategies tailored to their needs. They may also choose from a menu of standard Western spa treatments, like massages and mani-pedis, in a setting of soft metallic hues, warm lighting and orchid blooms.