International Travel, Travel Stories

You Haven’t Experienced Thailand Until You’ve Tried This Type of Massage

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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.

Tok sen mallet and wedge
The instruments of my hour-long experience.

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.

Tok sen massage Thailand
Working on my left thigh.

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.

Would you try the tok sen massage? Pin it to share it!

Tok sen massage in Thailand

19 thoughts on “You Haven’t Experienced Thailand Until You’ve Tried This Type of Massage

  1. The description sounds horrible. I’m so glad it wasn’t and that you liked it. I had a massage in China and was bruised for two weeks after. Thailand is on my bucket list. I hope it happens sometime.

    1. Oh yea, sometimes if you get a deep tissue that’s too much for your body, it can be worse than not getting a massage. I thought this would bruise me but they go along the meridian lines and know what they’re doing so it was fine! No bruises at all, and I have a condition that makes me bruise easily.

  2. I can’t imagine that hammering sound to be too relaxing! I do messages as often as I can when traveling and haven’t heard of this type of massage. I’ll keep an eye out next time!

  3. I’ve been to Thailand many times but this’ the first time I ever heard about this massage! Am not sure if I would consider a tok sen massage if I come across one in future; the traditional Thai massage is already ‘deep’ enough for me, lol! Well done on documenting this though =D

    1. It’s definitely for those who like deep massages… or maybe take an ibuprofen first, ha. Haha thanks, it took many attempts to get pics and videos of myself while she was massaging me

  4. Just had my first and WORST Thai massage ever last night! So this is definitely something new and interesting, but definitely wouldn’t try it unless I was actually in Thailand!

    1. Hi Karen, it is Arokaya Massage inside Wat Mahawan. The wat is on Tha Phae Road near Tapae Road Soi 4. Often the massage place puts out a sign advertising their services, but even if it’s not out, just walk into the temple complex to find it. It’s not a very large wat. The massage spot is on the southern side of the wat.

  5. I would sure love to have a massage like that after my CrossFit sessions! I wonder if Thai massage places will offer it…

  6. I’d never heard of this type of massage before, thanks for sharing your experiences with it. Reading this definitely makes me keen to try one though!

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