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As the first hammering pounds came down on my back, I winced a bit and wondered whether I’d made a good decision. What if she injures me? As she worked her way down to my buttocks, I wondered what bruises I was going to end up with. Stop. If your mind is going somewhere illicit, don’t. The experience I’m talking about is the tok sen massage.
While the traditional Thai massage is well-known and available worldwide, most people aren’t aware of the tok sen massage. Tok sen is a traditional therapeutic massage technique that originated in northern Thailand, specifically from the Lanna Kingdom, of which Chiang Mai was the last capital. I first learned of tok sen during my second or third time in Chiang Mai when I saw it listed on an advertising banner for a massage spot. A Google search increased my interest, and I vowed to try it when I returned to the city after my meditation trip to Tam Wua Forest Monastery.
And so that’s how I ended up at Arokaya Massage inside of Wat Mahawan, near Chiang Mai’s east gate, or Tha Phae Gate. With my 250 baht paid and my clothes changed into loose-fitting massage wear, I followed the petite masseuse up to the communal massage room and laid down on my stomach on one of the mattresses.
What followed was something similar to being pounded by a meat tenderizer while getting both a deep tissue and a Thai massage all at once. Using her mallet and pile, my masseuse started hammering away at down my back. It’s an intense vibration that pounds the stiffness out of your muscles. To be honest, I definitely thought to myself, I’m not sure I can deal with this for an entire hour.
Fortunately, after each section, she would put down her instruments and give that area of my body a deep tissue massage. Boy, for a petite woman, her hands were incredibly strong. This process continued down my butt and my legs, after which I flipped around and she proceeded to do my arms and the front of my legs. Wherever appropriate, Thai massage twists and stretches also came into play. There were certainly some moments when I was on the verge of pain, but by the end of the hour, my muscles felt relaxed and comfortable. No soreness or residual pain the next day either.
Take a glimpse of the tok sen hammering.
If you’re in northern Thailand, I’d most definitely suggest making one of your massage slots (and there should be multiple!) be a tok sen massage. There are few places elsewhere where you can get a tok sen, and it’s worth the experience! (If you wish to book ahead of time, you can book a tok sen massage at this spa.)
And while you’re in town, don’t forget to check out these other things to do in Chiang Mai.
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