Seen all the big sights? Eaten enough pàt tai for a lifetime? When you're done taking it all in, consider some of Bangkok's more active pursuits. Massages and spa visits are justifiably a huge draw, but the city is also home to some great guided tours and courses, the latter in subjects ranging from Thai cookery to meditation.
Bangkok’s outer suburbs are well stocked with golf courses, with green fees ranging from 250B to 5000B, plus the customary 200B tip for caddies. The website Thai Golfer (www.thaigolfer.com) rates every course in Thailand (click through to ‘Course Reviews’).
Bangkok has plenty of gyms, ranging in style from long-running, open-air affairs in spaces such as Lumphini Park to ultramodern megagyms complete with high-tech equipment. Most large hotels have gyms and swimming pools, as do a growing number of small hotels.
Spas & Massage
According to the teachings of traditional Thai healing, the use of herbs and massage should be part of a regular health-and-beauty regimen, not just an excuse for pampering. In other words, you need no excuse to get a massage in Bangkok, and it’s just as well, because the city could mount a strong claim to being the massage capital of the world. Exactly what type of massage you’re after is another question. Variations range from store-front traditional Thai massage to an indulgent 'spa experience' with service and style. And even within the enormous spa category there are many options: there's plenty of pampering going around, but some spas now focus more on the medical than the sensory, while plush resort-style spas offer a menu of appealing beauty treatments.
Types of Massage
The most common variety is traditional Thai massage (nôo·at păan boh·rahn). Although it sounds relaxing, at times it can seem more closely related to Thai boxing than to shiatsu. Thai massage is based on yogic techniques for general health, which involve pulling, stretching, bending and manipulating pressure points. If done well, a traditional massage will leave you sore but revitalised. Full-body massages usually include camphor-scented balms or herbal compresses. Note that ‘oil massage’ is sometimes taken as code for ‘sexy massage’. A foot massage is arguably (and it’s a strong argument) the best way to treat the leg-weariness of sightseeing.
Depending on the neighbourhood, prices for massages in small parlours are 200B to 350B for a foot massage and 300B to 600B for a full-body massage. Spa experiences start at about 1000B and climb like a Bangkok skyscraper.
Yoga & Pilates
Yoga studios – and enormous accompanying billboards of smiling gurus – have popped up faster than mushrooms at a Full Moon Party. Expect to pay about 500B for a one-off class.
Need to Know
- BK (www.bk.asia-city.com) Check this listings mag to see what active events are on when you're in town.
- Bicycle Thailand (www.bicyclethailand.com) The best resource for cycling in the kingdom.