Blind massage is well-known in Bangkok. But all of Thailand is known for its, by turns, painful, soothing, and therapeutic inexpensive massages. And if traditional Thai massage is too rough for you, there are plenty of other options, most coming in at well under THB650 (US$20) per hour. Oil, foot, herbal ball, and aromatherapy all show up on most spa massage menus.
But blind massage is usually practiced only in spas that specialize in employing unsighted practitioners. The purpose, supposedly, is dual-fold. It provides a trained and fairly paid job for blind employees and, the thinking is, that unsighted therapists can offer deeper, focused therapy unhindered by what they see and that fits in line with the traditional (way traditional) thinking that, as one sense is lost, others become stronger.
We put this to the test recently and tried a blind massage at a place that had good ratings online: Perception Blind Massage in Silom (they also have branches in Sathorn and Chiang Mai). We booked online in a quick and easy process that let us choose the time, location, service, and practitioner. Guests can choose from a male or female therapist or choose them by name, with each staff member working that day’s name popping up, in case you have a favorite.
The spa is modern and attractive, done in black, white, and gray with shiplap walls featuring black and white photographs of massage and inspirational messages such as “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
The staff were friendly and quickly got us seated with a cup of sweet herbal tea and a cold gray washcloth.
We enjoyed that it did not appear like most of the spas we’ve been to in Thailand: it featured neither a kitchy old Thailand-theme, like most streetside massage spots, or over-the-top Thai opulent look, like high-end or hotel spas.
We were assigned to Khun Poon, a strong-looking guy in black Wayfarers who introduced himself confidently and handed us black fisherman’s pants and a white top to change into.
We had opted for one of the promotional packages: THB999 (US$30) for a 1.5 hour traditional Thai massage with herbal ball followed by a 30 minute foot massage. However, despite booking online which should have been clear to the admin staff, we realized at the 1:45 mark that we were getting a two-hour Thai with herbal ball massage and no foot massage. We were enjoying the experience though, so we didn’t bother correcting the mistake.
We indicated on an intake form a preference for gentle massage and sport-related lower back pain. Poon chatted in Tinglish about the back pain back before moving on to a series of questions about home countries, jobs, and tolerances for spicy Thai food. Actually he chatted through most of the massage.
Partway through, a woman came into the private room and she jumped into the chat too. She was there to tend the hot water and hand Poon hot herbal balls relieving him of cool ones every few minutes.
If you’re looking for a cathartic, calming, spa experience with nice scents and atmospheric music, that’s not what’s on offer here. But we were impressed with Poon’s massage skills. He sensed, even through the sometimes spirited conversation, slight movements or flinches, and immediately adjusted his technique to accommodate. It’s one of the only Thai massages that didn’t have us in constant fear of being bruised or injured.
His assistant, Mai, kept the herbal balls coming hot and fast and they were both smiley and friendly, even going slightly longer than the two hours ordered.
At the end, Poon offered some advice based on the massaging: The back pain was caused, not by activity, by an overly strong back compensating for a weak stomach and leading to spine misalignment. He suggested more core work. It’s a suggestion we’d not heard before for the ache and one we’ll be incorporating.
Perception offered great therapy from friendly staff that seemed to know what they were doing. If you consider Thai massage more of a medical or therapeutic service than a relaxation session, you’ll likely be pleased here. If you’re mostly in it to doze off to the scent of lemongrass essential oil, best to book elsewhere.
Perception Blind Massage
134/3 Silom Rd.
Open daily 12pm-12am
BTS Sala Daeng