Imagine yourself lying on a soft, comfortable bed while pair of skilled, hard-working hands massage out your muscle knots. Or sitting in an armchair and letting your tired feet be treated by professional masseuse. Well, this is the reality of every massage parlor in Thailand. Every tourist that has experienced massage practices in Thailand, will tell you two things: they are extremly cheap (3-5 € per session) and painful (Thai women do know how to get rid of your muscle knots!).
When it comes to tourism, Thailand has it all: hot weather, white sand beaches, turquoise waters, mountains, delicious food, ancient ruins, big cities, friendly people and beautiful girls. No wonder why Thai government soon started to promote these advantages to boost national economy and increase tourist expenditure. It introduced visa-free stay for up to 30 days for almost all foreign nationalities. For the past years, tourism has become main driving force for economy growth and Thailand has become paradise for everyone in search of sunny beaches, delicious foods, parties and sex.
Most of the tourists that choose Thailand for their travel destination, come here exclusively to have fun and experience hospitable Thai culture. They are in the land of paradise, so why not take what Thailand offers to them and have the time of their life? After all, when they return back home, they will get back to their old habits and Thailand will remain as a nice memory...
Well, there is nothing wrong with that - apart from the fact, that Thailand is not what people think it is. Beyond cheap food and clothes are indefatigable masses of people, working their asses off and hoping next tourist will buy something from them. Most of the local people have become intrusive, nosy and annoying. Their main goal has become to feed the family and get as much from the tourists as possible. Their main goal is to survive and not to marvel at the beauties of their own land - Thailand.
I was able to witness the harshness of the tourist industry in Thailand already on the first night of my arrival.
On one of my strolls around the hostel I was staying at, I stumbled upon a massage parlor, tucked away in a less busy street in Bangkok. There was one beautiful Thai lady, sitting on a porch, observing the street and smiling to everyone. She smiled at me and invited me to take a sit next to her. This was my first evening in Bangkok and at first I hesitated to join her, as I didn't know what was her intention. You need to take into account that as a tourist in Thailand everyone would approach you and offer you his or her services or products in trade for money, so you get used of people asking you for money very soon. I slowly approached her, but as soon as we started chatting, it turned out I was completely mistaken about this girl's intention.
Her name was Christine and she was a masseuse. She introduced me to the massage practices at her parlor, which could be applied to any place in the country and also in Southeast Asia.
Massage prices in Bangkok are in comparison with Europe extremely cheap and affordable. There is even one saying, that you shouldn’t leave Thailand without getting a massage. Massage business must have been quite lucrative at the beginning, but with the higher influx of tourists and high-paced development, they are now swarming on every corner, making them even more unappealing.
Christine confessed that her share of the profit was 50%. The other half belongs to the owner of the parlour. With an average price per massage 150 BHT, which equals to 4€ she earns app. 70 BHT, or less than 2€. Massage business is really tough, she confessed. But that's the only thing she is good at and can make money with. Apart from that she still has to pay for accommodation and food. But that didn’t seem a very big issue for her, because Bangkok is cheap. She referred to Bangkok as a land of smiles and warned me to be cautious while travelling here. We parted with smiles and she wished me good luck.
The conversation I had with Christine is still reverberating in my head – I believe such profit shares and working conditions are the same in every business in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries. The working staff is paid extremely low, despite the long working hours – up to 12 hours per day. From them on, every beauty parlor caught my attention. There are on every corner with more employees than clients inside. Some of them even offer free wi-fi and water to attract more clients. I couldn't help but ask myself how the hell they survive in this competitive market, among so many other massage providers?
And every time I peeked inside one of them, I saw Christine with sparkling smile and her thoughts for better future.