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.

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Helpful Resources

Map of Chiang Mai

2018-12-27T13:24:10+00:00June 26th, 2013|Categories: Asia, BEAUTY & STYLE, Thailand, TRAVEL|Tags: , |


  1. Joe June 26, 2013 at 7:42 am - Reply

    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!!

  2. Noah @ Somewhere Or Bust June 26, 2013 at 10:13 am - Reply

    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.

    • Annette White June 26, 2013 at 10:27 am - Reply

      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. Nicole @ Green Global Travel June 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm - Reply

    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!”

    • Annette White June 26, 2013 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Ha Ha! Now I hope someone does tell me that they have done it all 🙂

  4. Juliann June 27, 2013 at 1:39 am - Reply

    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.

    • Annette White June 27, 2013 at 1:57 am - Reply

      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. Heather June 27, 2013 at 2:19 am - Reply

    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!

    • Annette White June 27, 2013 at 2:25 am - Reply

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

  6. Anita Mac June 27, 2013 at 2:34 am - Reply

    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!

    • Annette White June 27, 2013 at 7:01 am - Reply

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

  7. James @ Africa Tours June 29, 2013 at 9:21 pm - Reply

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

  8. Dan Schaumann July 1, 2013 at 3:48 am - Reply

    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…

  9. Arianwen July 1, 2013 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    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!

    • Annette White July 3, 2013 at 10:36 am - Reply

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

  10. massage-melbourmassage Melbourne cbd July 6, 2013 at 7:46 pm - Reply

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

    • Annette White July 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm - Reply


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