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Get a Foot Massage by a Prison Inmate in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Massage parlors are like tuk tuks in Thailand, they are everywhere. And at four bucks a pop for an hour foot massage, it would have been a shame not to indulge. Especially, right after spending the hot morning walking miles all over Chiang Mai searching for the perfect souvenir at Khamthiang Market. After this tiresome trek, I could have easily just popped into one of the several shops near my hotel, as I am guilty of doing many times before. But, today I wanted a different, more unique experience. No, not me?

A foot massage given by a female prison inmate would fit the bill nicely.

Chiang Mai is home to the Womens Correctional Institution where they have set up a massage rehabilitation program in order to help the inmates easily integrate into society. Womens Prison in Chiang Mai

Though these massages used to be done right on the prison grounds, the prison has been moved to a different location. Now the pampering is performed in an inviting teak building, located on Rachvithi Road, just a short walk from the closed prison doors.

I arrived in the late afternoon expecting a significant wait, this was supposed to be a popular joint in town.

The female receptionist, a guard dressed in beige, told me it would be about forty-five minutes. Much better than the typical two hours I had read about online. Luckily, the location also has a tiny cafe, run by the inmates, and free wifi. I took a seat on the cozy patio, ordered a Thai green iced tea and patiently waited for my number to be called.
Chiang Mai Womens Prison
Womens Prison in Chiang Mai Green Thai Tea Womens Prison in Chiang Mai

After a short while, the woman at the reception desk called my number and escorted me inside.

The interior looked no different than the average Thai massage parlor, except for the presence of the lurking female guards.

My foot massage was typical to the ones I had had before in Chiang Mai, though it was done by a sweet, quiet and young prison inmate. As my feet were being rubbed, I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was. How did she end up here? Were there different sorts of rehabilitation programs to choose from? What are her dreams after her release? All the questions would be left unanswered.
Chiang Mai Womens Prison Massage

After the hour had expired, I paid my 150 baht ($4.85 usd) and put a hundred more in the tip bucket out front. I walked towards my hotel not only with my tootsies feeling relaxed, but also with my heart happy to have helped in some small way.

Read More Bucket List Worthy Things To Do in Chiang Mai


  1. WOW I didn’t know you could this done here – will have to try it out when we go next year. Were you not allowed to speak with them? Sounds brill thow!!

    • You can absolutely speak with them, though the girl who was massaging me had limited English & I definitely speak limited Thai :)

  2. I loved the massages I received in Southeast Asia, but the ones in Chiang Mai were sub-par. I think something was lost in that assembly-line set up at the night market. But I guess I can’t really complain for 2 bucks.

    • I did see those assembly-line ones at the night markets, but never went. There was something about the plastic chairs and pink cushions that I couldn’t get past. I always chose a quaint little shop and by the end I had a couple of my favorites.

  3. Very original story! If anybody ever says to you “I’ve done it all”, I’ll ask “Have you had a foot massage by a Prison Inmate!”

    • Ha Ha! Now I hope someone does tell me that they have done it all :)

  4. How unusual! I love finding off-the-beaten path things to do like this. And it sounds like it was a great experience. Thanks for sharing it. I’ll have to remember this if I ever make it to Thailand.

    • I love when you can have a new experience and feel like you are helping at the same time. I hope you make it there one day!

  5. I read about this in my Thailand guidebook but didn’t have the courage to try it out. I should have known that even Thai inmates would be sweet tempered. Not sure I could have resisted asking her questions about her situation though!

    • It was hard not to ask, though she didn’t speak much English. It was still an awesome experience!

  6. Very cool experience. Whatever she did to get there, who knows, but perhaps she will find this as a chance to do something new when released. What an interesting experience!

    • Yes, at least she will have a solid skill when she is released.

  7. With prices that cheap, I would get one daily, or even twice a day!

    • I only went once a day, but sometimes for two hours straight :)

  8. Whenever i will get chance to go Thailand then will surely go for a foot massage given by a female prison inmate.

  9. This is fascinating! Who would have thought foot massage could act as a rehabilitative activity for inmates? It’s just a shame you weren’t able to hear her story…

  10. There’s a blog post title that draws you in! I wasn’t sure if you’d intended to receive it when I read that. It sounds like a great programme to get the prison inmates involved!

    • That would have made for a better story if it wasn’t intended!

  11. Do the inmates get the tips? Yeah, I would definitely wonder what her story was; in North Carolina, if you call the 1-800-VisitNC number, it’s an inmate that picks up the phone. And because it takes so much training, those inmates are usually lifers. Their stories are usually that they killed an abusive husband or boyfriend. :(

    • It is said that their wages & tips are kept for their release date, which I think is great! At least they will have some money to start their lives over with.

  12. its a big way to help them out and thier family.. its a very clever and genius one.


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