By Marie Moon
It is still early and the beach is quiet except for some early
morning walkers and the beach chair brokers. A cool breeze lilts
over my body and caresses my face. The same breeze then moves upwards
to stir the coconut palms causing a gentle shh among fronds. The
sky is blue, dotted with perfectly puffy white cumulus forming many
shapes. I study them as they glide above me; that one looked like
a cupcake, another resembles a rabbit. I played this game with my
Mother when I was young and today the clouds bring back fond memories.
The waves crash into the sand down by the shore, with stereo sound
adding depth to the natural soundtrack playing around me. Lying
here on this grass mat under the shade of a casuarina tree, I feel
content and totally relaxed and she hasn’t even started the massage
In my mind, having a massage on the beach is one of the most sensational
experiences to be had in Thailand. While there is no air-conditioning,
no fluffy white towels and almost no privacy, the beach offers a
totally different experience to the spa and should not be missed
by people who enjoy massage therapy in all forms.
My masseuse today is Pam, a 44 year old mother of four. She has
been working on the beach for 18 years and during the peak holiday
season she makes up to 4000 baht a day giving therapy to anyone
who comes along. Unlike some other beach masseuses Pam does not
walk the beach looking for customers, "I think people don’t
like to be talked to when they are relaxing on the beach, so I don’t
bother them. If they want a massage they will find me."
Massage therapy is deeply rooted in the Thai culture. From young
ages, many children are taught to massage their parents and so they
grow up with strong hands and some knowledge of pressure point theory
and technique. It is not a scientific way to study, more a natural
one where technique is nurtured over years of practice. Some of
these children eventually attend massage schools such as the Wat
Po School of Traditional Medicine and from there they find good
jobs in spas and hotels around the country. Pam said she couldn’t
afford the course when she was young and now she’s too busy with
her four children.
She starts by brushing my feet to remove the sand. I have never
had a problem with sand during a beachside massage; for the most
part the mats are kept surprisingly clean. She flexes my toes up
and down with remarkable dexterity and kneads the sole of my foot
with strong fingers. At this stage I’m a little taken aback for
she is a tiny woman but as she works along the calf muscle, what
is normally my most sensitive area, I start to relax. Her strokes
are hard and deep but her rhythm is hypnotic. She uses coconut oil
which gives off a heady, familiar scent and I am looking at the
clouds again with my Mother at the beach.
I am wrenched back to the now as she finds a tender hamstring.
Sensing my pain she lessens the pressure but stays there working
with the tissue, stimulating blood flow to the area. I am impressed
with her sensitivity and skill; I injured this muscle last month
doing aerobic ‘box-ercise’ and have been nursing it since. It feels
good and the muscle is loosening.
Pam’s routine is similar to most Thai massages except when she
gets to my back. Rather than having me lie face down, she makes
me lie on my side in the recovery position. I am completely comfortable
in this position and she can work on my back one side at a time.
The session progressed until it came time for the flexibility portion
of the massage. Here is where you are faced with a dilemma; allow
yourself to be twisted and turned in public, or skip it and miss
out on the benefit these exercises bring to tired joints? One way
to avoid this is to be wearing loose fitting clothes however if
you like the oil, a snug swimsuit and sarong is advised. I decide
to throw caution to the wind and let her twist away.
After an hour I am totally relaxed and I can actually feel that
the massage has done my body some good. The wind is fresh and cool
and my skin is tingling from the coconut oil. I will keep the oil
on my skin for a while because it has wonderful moisturizing properties
and I love the sensation of going for a swim right after an oil
There are massage ladies at every beach frequented by tourists
in all parts of the country. Prices range from 200 – 400 baht per
hour and skill levels also vary greatly. No matter who the masseuse
is, you are bound to have a relaxing experience, but the best way
to find a good pair of hands is to ask around. Nowadays, most places
have the prices clearly marked, if not, be sure to negotiate a price
before the session to avoid having to spoil your relaxed post-session
state of mind with having to think about money.
This session luxuriated four of my five senses, not through lavish
d�cor or expensive oils but through a calming combination of natural
elements. After my swim I’ll retire to a deckchair, order a fresh
coconut to appease the fifth sense, then I’ll spend the rest of
the morning reading and relaxing under the cumulus clouds and with
wonderful memories of my Mum.