My Insane, Painful & Torturous Nepalese Thai Massage & Why It Has Me Questioning Myself

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nepalese thai massage
Kathmandu.

Ah the massage. That relaxing treatment that allows you to simply forget about the world and relax. One of my favorite parts of being in Asia is how widespread cheap (and non-adult) massage parlors are. For $10-$20, it is hard to turn down a good and sometimes not so good massage.

Following a whirlwind trip to Manila and a quick connection in Singapore, I arrived in Kathmandu a few weeks ago in the afternoon. Given the time there wasn’t a lot of opportunity for sightseeing, but I did decide leave the rear gate of the Hyatt Regency looking for a nearby temple. I never made it.

Immediately as I emerged from the palatial Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, I saw it. A massage parlor! Just what the doctor ordered. Or was it? Considering this parlor is ideally located as a haven for weery Hyatt guests like myself, it was no surprise that they had a nice menu in English. Just about every 60 minute massage was 2,000 Nepali Rupees or ~$20 USD. Conveniently that was almost exactly the amount of money I had on me! For that price I could choose between Swedish, Deep Tissue, Ayurvedic or Thai massages. I chose Thai. Oh why oh why?

nepalese thai massage
Flying into Kathmandu

I have been to Thailand many times and have had several massages in the country but somehow I missed the memo that choosing a Thai massage is like asking the Devil to ascend from hell and contort you in ways that no person should be contorted. Somewhere inside of me I knew that Thai massages were “deep tissue”, but somehow I got to 35 years old without ever really knowing what a Thai massage was. That was about to change.

Perhaps I should have been tipped off when the male front desk agent gave me a strange look when hearing my inspired choice of massage type. After a brief pause he then ran next door for a minute. Before long he returned with another man and a GIANT PAD that he hauled upstairs to the room. What had I gotten myself into?

Five more minutes passed and I was considering making a run for it. What was that mat for? The door is right there. I could be back in the safe surroundings of the Hyatt in seconds! But I didn’t run. Eventually I was called upstairs where the quiet relaxation music couldn’t drown out the smells and noises of Kathmandu. I was told that my current loose clothing would work for the massage and only to take off my shoes. The 5 foot tall, 90 pound masseuse then came into the room and cleaned my feet. “This is nice,” I thought! Ha.

The next hour was excruciating. To start, I was told to lay face down on the very hard mat. And then the “fun” began. I learned what it felt like to be turned into a human pretzel. Over the next hour she kicked me, stood on me and bent me as she displayed super human strength. At times despite my best efforts to hold it back, a whiny yelp would leak out of my mouth. I would have been embarrassed, except I had other issues I was dealing with. I needed to survive this torture to get back home to my family!

nepalese thai massage
Kathmandu

Eventually I learned to retreat back within my mind and completely forget where and when I was. 🙂 After all I am a big man and I knew I could survive an hour of getting tossed around by someone a fraction of my size. And my strategy worked. The time passed and just as I began to get used to the sounds and feelings of my body creaking and cracking, the grand finale began.

It began with a calm before the storm. There I was on my back and for a few seconds she didn’t do anything. Maybe it was over? Nope! She then swiftly grabbed my legs with the strength of Hercules and folded them violently over my head. I was now quite literally bent in half. All I could hear were cracks and pops as the muscles in my legs felt as if they were being torn out. She held me there for what seemed like five minutes as she occasionally let off the pressure only to apply it again. I no longer could retreat into my mind. I was experiencing all of this…….And then it was over….I SURVIVED!

After briefly laying there on the floor, I put my shoes back on, kept my head down and paid for my massage. I then walked out to the main street and back into the Hyatt. I don’t know how or why, but the darn massage worked. Her very precise method of torture was effective. I actually felt better. A little stupid and a tad bit embarrassed, but better.

Yes, I paid $20 to be contorted into a pretzel and didn’t apparently know what a Thai massage was even though I should have. Does that make me dumb? Probably, but everyone does similar things! Right?!? Have you ever been in a similar situation where you should know something, but didn’t while traveling? Please share in the comments.


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19 COMMENTS

  1. they say the first one is painful, after about 3 or 4 you like it ( or at least thats what they tell you after the last one) I never took it past the second one, the next one will be better ( good marketing plan ? )

  2. Lol, I love getting cheap massages in Asia. In Bali it was about $5 – $6/hr and i went a dozen times in a week. Some great, some so so but nothing painful. Anyways, I went into a Taiwanese massage place recently (not as cheap), chose their tradituonal massage and I was tortured for an hour and half. It was deep tissue style which meant the lady abused every inch of my body. But as a man, I bit my tongue and managed through it but it was one of the most painful 90 minutes in my life. My body was bruised and they say that’s actually good. Haha.

  3. My wife & I both got a Thai massage when we lived in Bangkok and it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced – it was like they were trying to detach our muscles and tendons from our bones.

    It sounds like we got off lightly though as we didn’t get contorted into a pretzel like you.

  4. I always imagined this Newspaper headline:
    American Tourist Dies during Thai Massage
    It’s incredibly painful when it’s happening; after that, so many chronic pains are solved in my body. Maybe it’s similar to an adjustment in chiropractic which I’ve never used. Recently I suffered from arthritis in my hand. After a short session of Thai massage, the relief was nearly 100%. Some years ago I also had the same experience with a shoulder injury. No practioner in the USA –doctor, pt or masaje–could fix it. But in Thailand, a Non English speaking Thai masseuse did. And another interesting aspect is that I’ve never had the same results in the USA. But maybe that’s because the masseuses weren’t Thai.

  5. Shawn,
    Why, oh why, would you endure such pain?!!? I guess I’m just a cautious female traveler, but after 5 minutes of pain, I would have run straight out of there! In my mind, I wouldn’t want to risk injury, or worse yet wake up in a bathtub of ice somewhere missing a kidney!!

    • Not sure. First off the place felt totally legit so I wasn’t worried about my kidney. As for why I didn’t leave, perhaps I was too embarrassed or proud. It also did seem like she had a method to her madness! 🙂

  6. Your story is so funny…and so true. My husband and I got a couples massage in Phuket overlooking the beach – but it was anything but romantic. They twisted us in ways that made us laugh. It hurt so bad but we couldn’t ask them to stop because we had the sweetest masseuses. And believe it or not, we felt great when we left!

  7. I am at work and happened to see the headline….Oh man….may be I never laughed like this at work where my colleagues in other rooms can hear and stopped by…..especially human pretzel:-)

  8. I have had hundreds ( really ) of Thai massages . They weren’t torture . There was no twisting at all or contorting or any of that . I don’t know where they got the idea for this convoluted version but , it just isn’t done that way . Not in Thailand anyway .

  9. Yes. I didn’t know there are different “kinds” of massage. I was in my early 20’s when I had my first massage at a beach resort in Philippines. After it was over with, I was in pain for 3 days !!!! Never again I wanted another massage in my life. Traumatized big time.

  10. Nice. Go to your happy place, Shawn….. everything will be okay. Maybe you should have had a Nepalese massage? We had massages in Thailand that were pleasant both during and after. Sorry for your pain. Think of it as resilience building.

  11. dont lie shawn. we all know which asian massage parlor you actually went to and you got more than just a pretzel… haha…

  12. Good information to have, Shawn! I’m in the office at work and you had me in stitches with tears of mirth rolling down my cheeks. I could risk a Thai massage the next time I’m in Thailand, if the after-effects are as good as you say….

  13. I got a Thai massage last year, and the 90 pound while soaking wet masseuse was pretty skilled at causing pain. I thought I had a cracked rib, and could barely sleep for a couple of nights. Next time, I ask first.

  14. Great writing. I just googled why is Thai massage so painful and this appeared . I had great plans for daily relaxing massages during my current holiday in Thailand. Started with a foot massage with I thought would be relaxing she even cracked my bloody toes after destroying my calves and Achilles all done in the front of the shop window. Lesson learnt I decided Thai massage would be gentler, far out, you go sleep now night night she said as she told me turn over and put a flannel on my eyes, I thought I’d finally arrived at the gentle part..
    Liar.
    So day three I decided leave my legs alone and went for head neck shoulder with oil thinking oil equalled relaxing. It doesn’t. She still assaulted my legs, I couldn’t walk properly the next morning.
    I kayaked yesterday and my arms hurt so much I wasn’t up for anymore assault. Tonight, if I’m brave I might try a head massage with specific instructions to be gentle. Fingers crossed

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