Getting a massage in Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution is exactly what I did. I know you are imagining a scene from Orange is the New Black. This was nothing like it. Although a small Thai girl did work me over and made me her bitch. But let’s start from the beginning.
Importance of Massage
When in Chiang Mai or in Thailand in general, getting a good cheap massage is not just an option. it is a government requirement! In fact, you will not be allowed to leave the Thailand unless you had at least 1 massage for every two days of stay. That’s the official rule imposed by the customs at the airport. Up there on the customs checklist with buying at least 1 copy watch/handbag, 2 cheesy tourist T-shirts and having at least a small sunburn.
Of course, being an experience traveler, I prefer to error on a side of caution and go for at least one massage a day just to make sure. There are numerous options for getting a massage in Chiang Mai. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a massage shop there. Not that I condone swinging a cat or even know where this expression came from. But yes, there are a lot of options for a massage here. However, some options are, shall we say lean less towards a proper massage and more towards, well, other services.
Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution
So I did some research for a good and cheap place. Enter the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution massage house. This is a highly recommended option on Trip Advisor and other travel sites and very popular with tourists. The tourist popularity part put me off a little. I’d rather go to the places popular with the locals but the idea intrigued me enough to try it. What can go wrong with going to a women’s prison for a massage.
Keeping in mind how popular the place is, I turned up about half an hour after the opening time of 8am (9am on weekends). A female guard in full uniform greeted me at the front desk and told me that the earliest time I can get is an 11:30 time slot. I paid my 250 baht for an hour and was given a ticket with the time on it.
On the way out, I said hello to what looked like another European tourist waiting in a queue. The guy turned out to be the founder and CEO of this whole venture. His name was Thierry Gallo and he originally came from Brussels to study massage and fell in love with Chiang Mai. He founded this project to help women with vocational rehabilitation to help with a better society integration after leaving the prison. Women have a choice of learning a massage, cooking and working in the coffee shop attached to the massage centre or making clothes for the shop also attached. They get transferred from the prison early morning and dropped back in the evening.
Women’s Correctional Institution Massage
The place is run with a military precision. Right on time, I was admitted into the massage house by another stern looking female guard. On arrival, I was greeted by one of the girls, given a set of nice pajamas, a box to store my clothes and valuables and was led to a very spacious bathroom to change.
As I was changing, here was my thought process – “I am about to put my clothes, my phone, wallet and watch in an open box and hand it over voluntarily to an inmate”. Sounds reasonable. Again, what can do wrong!
After changing, I lied down in my allocate bunk bed and looked around while I waited. The room is large, painted in gentle feminine colours and filled with beds. The atmosphere is relaxing and inviting. All the girls have nice Thai style uniforms and there are a few female guards walking around making sure everything is ok.
The funny things is, the prisoners look feminine and sweet while the guards look tough and mean. I certainly would not want the guards to get angry at me. One of the Chinese female tourists decided to make a phone call just before her massage. The guard pointed to the sign that forbade the use of mobile phones. The tourist promptly ignored her, turned away and continued talking. Big mistake! Huge! The guide calmly walked around to face the woman, leaned in close and barked “Stop or get out!” I have never seen someone finish the call and surrender the phone so quickly. Very amusing!
The actual massage was very good. You can tell that all the girls are well trained and they all do exactly the same massage with the same timing. I found out later that when the girls are finally released, they are snapped up by the external massage places because they are so well trained.
The girl who massaged me didn’t speak any English but she was very sweet and smiled a lot and I couldn’t help but wonder what was her crime. Maybe it was better that I didn’t know. But I did find out how incredibly strong she actually was for a tiny Thai girl. She knew exactly where to push and prod to extract the greatest amount of pain from me.
So, if you are after a relaxing massage, maybe this is not the place for you. However, if you want a good strong massage where a small female will inflict a lot of pain on you with a smile and a giggle and will leave you feeling loose and supple after, then give Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution a go.
If you need more information, check out their Web site.
For more information on Chiang Mai, please read my Things To Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand post.
Note: as there are no photo taking allowed inside the facility, all the photos used in this post were taken from the official website.