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Chiang Mai Tales – a Massage With a Difference

If you are looking to wind down after a busy day of sightseeing, a massage is ideal and believe me, there’s a Chiang Mai massage centre on every corner. So many in fact, that it’s hard to choose one. Might I suggest a massage from a former female prisoner?

Now that I’ve piqued your interest, a quick word on Thai massage. This style of massage is quite different to the typical cheap massage on a beach. Whilst there is a relaxation element, Thai massage uses acupressure, stretching and rhythmic pressing. There is no oil or lotion used and the customer remains fully clothed in supplied cotton pyjamas. It is sometimes known as Yoga Massage.

Opportunities for Local Women

Lila Thai Massage was started by a former director of the Chiang Mai Women’s Prison. She recognised that many former inmates suffered discrimination and were unable to secure employment. As a result they often re-offended and returned to prison. Lila offers former inmates an opportunity to train as a masseuse, gaining a diploma as a professional massage therapist. This qualification provides a path to stable employment and assists in improving self esteem and confidence.

After a big week of visiting temples and markets, I opted for a foot massage. The partitioned massage room is very dimly lit and takes some time for your eyes to adjust. As I waited for my therapist to arrive, I could see another therapist at the end of a partition standing on a massage table. The therapist was, almost comically, pulling back on what I can only assume were the customer’s arms in an assisted Yoga position. After a small bow of greeting from my own therapist, I lay back and allowed her to work her magic on my tired feet. Apart from the gentle ‘whomp, whomp, whomp’ that therapists use as the final action to signify the end of the massage, the room was totally quiet. No irritating pan pipes here.

No photos inside the therapy room but I managed a quick snap before I succumbed

An hour well spent

As soon as you enter the delicious air conditioning of Lila Thai Massage, you’re in a different world, far from the traffic and heat outside. From check in and the reviving foot scrub through to the ginger tea and customer survey at the end, I was in careful hands. The whole experience was interesting and enjoyable. It was also good value. A one hour foot and reflexology massage was 250 Baht (around $10 AUD) which is pretty much the going rate all over town. By choosing Lila, my payment assists the program to train more women who need support in getting into the workforce.

Attractive amenities are part of the experience – galangal anyone?

Lila Thai Massage has several locations across the old city (inside the moat). If you’re new to town, the easiest Chiang Mai massage centre to find is the one just near the corner of the Three Kings Monument. Lila offers a full range of treatments including body scrubs and masks, facials and relaxation massages using oil. Full body massages start at at round 400 Baht for an hour. Lila is well patronised therefore, book ahead if you can.

No shoes inside – you’ll receive courtesy slippers

So, when you visit Chiang Mai, be sure to schedule time for a massage with Lila Thai Massage. It’s a business that can make a real difference to people’s lives and, your tired feet!

Lila Thai Massage


7 comments… add one
  • Lyn Riddett January 20, 2019, 11:29 am

    Tiffin, thank you for sharing this story. It is a delight!

    • Fiona Ryan January 20, 2019, 1:58 pm

      Thanks. It was great to be able to help a social enterprise. It’s opened my eye to researching other possibilities when we travel.

  • Glenda January 20, 2019, 12:08 pm

    Fi. My poor old feet would love that.

    • Fiona Ryan January 20, 2019, 12:59 pm

      Ha ha – it was great. Next time I’d also get the full massage but my feet were definitely in need of some TLC.

  • Lyn Riddett January 20, 2019, 2:02 pm

    Mindful travel – a great way to see the world!

  • Mackay Sherry January 28, 2019, 1:13 pm

    That’s a great idea to help those prisoners rehabilitate. And a foot massage sounds good except my feet are very sensitive to touch. I just can’t take it 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan January 28, 2019, 5:58 pm

      Gosh! I can’t live without them (foot massages). So not a place you’d be visiting then but yes, it’s a great idea.

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