Cheap, readily available massages are one of the undeniable perks of living in Bangkok. From the capable masseuses plying their trade on the side of the street to the relaxing spas dotted around the Sukhumvit area, it’s heaven on earth for those of us who enjoy a pamper session.
But, of course, it’s Bangkok, so there are caveats.
A distinct proportion of the city’s massage offerings are often no more than brothels – or “soapy massages” – in disguise. Particularly in Sukhumvit.
While the ethics of that is not up to us to decide, the fact of the matter is, we just don’t want to be getting a massage at the site of commercial fucking.
We don’t want to accidentally find ourselves on the end of any sort of sexual massage either. There have been a couple of close calls…
But how to avoid the brothels?
Our personal rules are to:
- Avoid establishments with “teen”, “love”, “soapy”, “vixen” or similar in the name
- Avoid those that actively advertise “body to body service” (We’re looking at you, Soi 33)
- Avoid those where the masseuses are sat outside waiting for punters, particularly if they’re in any state of “sexy” costume
- Rely on word of mouth for the best massages in town without any “added extras”
And with that last point in mind, we’ve compiled the 7 best legitimate massages in Sukhumvit. We’ve either visited ourselves, or have it on good authority that the service has been excellent with no whiff of the sex trade detected.
Take it away…
Thonglor, Sukhumvit 49
Below the brilliant Hive co-working space is the Scandinavian-looking Hive Spa – a beautiful muted colour palette is complemented by minimalist decor, light scents and an air of tranquility.
The Hive is a great spot if you want a luxury massage experience without having to go to a hotel, and they offer a wide range of treatments for face and body – including specialist Elemis – alongside more traditional massage. Their foot massages are particularly indulgent, especially if you’ve got less than an hour between sessions at the co-working space upstairs.
They’ve also got a waitressing service, private rooms, power points and your choice of music; all pretty ideal.
Phrom Phong, Sukhumvit 24 & 31; Thonglor, Sukhumvit 55
For all of its name sounding like a wholesale herb shop, Asia Herb Association provides some of the most capable massages in Bangkok. Their masseuses are friendly, professional and speak excellent English.The interior looks and feels like a spa, with soft music and traditional Thai decoration. Therapy rooms are clean, private and enjoy an air of relaxation.
One of the best features of a massage at Asia Herb is the ability to personalise your massages. Before you go into your treatment room, you’ll pay upfront, then sign in via their iPads and pinpoint certain areas of the body that need attention.
So the last time we went to Asia Herb, we opted for a Thai massage (฿500) and asked for additional attention to be paid to the right calf muscle and back as a whole. This didn’t translate as to less attention being paid to the other areas of the body, just simply that those got a little more intensity and work.
Not only is the massage and overall experience great, but you don’t feel rushed to leave at the end. We know certain spas where a caustic alarm sounds at the end of the 60 minutes and you’re immediately bundled back out the door!
Asok, Times Square Building
Nara is a small day spa, hidden among the Thai language schools in Times Square, that more than delivers on the rest and relaxation front.
The interiors are sophisticated and calming, with a taupe palette, while the staff are incredibly kind and professional. Massages at Nara are among the best in Bangkok, at reasonable prices, with skilled masseuses who are more than able to focus on problem areas without causing pain or discomfort.
There’s treatments aplenty: ranging from their Royal Nara Signature treatment – like the Oriental Royal, for instance, which comprises foot cleaning, Thai massage and aromatherapy from ฿2,200 – to facials, massages, scrubs, wraps and spa packages. The most attractive of the packages is the Detox Body Ritual, comprising foot cleansing, body scrub, an organic Dead Sea mud wrap and aromatherapy massage – ฿3,400 for 3 hours. Yes, please!
Phrom Phong, Sukhumvit 26
Opposite K-Village is its slightly less well-trod sister, A-Square, and within A-Square is Yunomori – a Japanese Onsen and spa. In case you’re not familiar with the onsen experience, it’s a peculiarly Japanese spa experience whereby you bathe in healing water from the thermal springs of Wat Wangkanai at a set temperature and mineral content which best detoxify your body.
Following a relaxing dip in the onsen, you’re now in the most receptive state to best benefit from the massage treatments on offer. They’ve got a variety of traditional Thai, aroma and herbal compress massage, as well as body scrubs.
Yunomori was the first authentic Japanese onsen experience in Thailand and is a truly unique one at that. Whether the detoxing promise works as well as promised is yet to be explored, but it’s undoubtedly both relaxing and reinvigorating.
Phrom Phong, Sukhumvit 31; Thonglor, Sukhumvit 51
Oasis Spa is one of Thailand’s best spa chains, with branches in Chiang Mai, Pattaya, Phuket and – of course – Bangkok. You will genuinely feel that you’re away from the city and deep in the heart of a secret garden when you’re at Oasis. Colonial-style buildings are framed by waterfalls and villa-style treatments while service is always professional, welcoming and capable.
There are a wide range of packages and treatments on offer at Oasis, and our recommendation would be to skip the traditional Thai massage, which are two-a-penny in Bangkok, and go for something a little more indulgent.
The Seaside Sensation, for instance, is their longest and most expensive package at 5 hours for ฿7,500 (sounds expensive, but is often the price of a single massage in the US!). For that you get a Thai herbal steam, a dip in the Cool Pool, an Aloe Vera and Lavendar Body Scrub, an Aloe Vera and Lavender Body Wrap, then a two-hour King of Oasis Signature Massage and a Detoxifying Facial. Sign us up. Seriously.
Scrubs, wraps, facials, massages, treatments and hydrotherapy are all available too.
Nana; Sukhumvit 3
Hapa is a boutique spa and beauty salon in the heart of Nana – one of Bangkok’s seedier districts – but we have it on good authority that the service here is incredibly professional and entirely devoted to providing a relaxing and invigorating spa experience.
They have have a host of massages, treatments and facials on offer, with their oil and aroma massages proving very popular indeed. Scrubs, hydrotherapy and an infrared thermal sauna (purported use of which burns around 600 to 900 calories in a 30 minute session!) are all at your disposal at Hapa. They also have specialist massages available for athletes or those with sports injuries.
Asok; Sukhumvit 25
Right in the heart of bustling Asok is the tranquil Divana Spa, which feels more like a full retreat from the city rather than just a private house in the middle of town. We’ve known people to head straight to Divana from the airport after a gnarly long-haul flight in order to rejuvenate here with a full day spa treatment!
As well as the full day programmes, they also offer facials, massage therapy, specialist package deals and a variety of treatments, including scrubs, wraps, steams, milk baths and herbal compress.
Like many of the spas on this list, Divana certainly isn’t what you’d call a bargain in comparison to other Bangkok massage providers, but the quality of care, service, atmosphere and ambiance is unrivalled. There are both private treatment rooms and doubles, in case you bring a friend, while the steam rooms are totally private. Bliss!
Where’s your favourite massage in Sukhumvit (no forking allowed)?