Review: Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa, Singapore

Note: I receive emails from readers and one of the top questions has been: Where is the best Thai massage spa in Singapore? Read this article for your answer…

I’ve been a keen fan of Thai massage for a long time. Once or twice a year, I’ll make a trip to Bangkok or Phuket to indulge in my Thai massage fantasy and have always returned home refreshed and recharged.

What happens when I am too busy to make a trip to Thailand? I look for a local Thai spa that can deliver to the same quality of massage and service as an authentic Thai spa. I’ve checked out quite a few in Singapore and had hesitated to make a recommendation – until I came across Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa – which matches a good quality spa in Thailand when it comes to ambiance, decor, quality of spa products used and the quality of the masseur.

The Filipino receptionist who picked up my phone call was polite and knowledgeable and we quickly firm up a date for my visit. Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa has 2 branches; one at Pan Pacific hotel in Marina Square area and the other at Gallery hotel near to Clemenceau Avenue. I decided to visit the Gallery Hotel branch.

Massage at Phuket airport departure lounges
Ayuthaya Royal Thai Spa is located at Gallery Hotel

Gallery Hotel is an interesting avante garde hotel located near to Havelock Road. The spa is located at an annex of the hotel and I was able to find it only upon making a few inquires with the hotel staff. Even then, I ended up entering the spa via it’s back entrance and not the main entrance.

The spa is typically Thai; with lots of Teak furniture, flooring and colourful Thai cushions and curtains. The receptionist informed me that there is an ongoing promotion and I paid less than S$200 for a 45mins body scrub, 1 1/2 hours of Royal Thai massage and 45mins of foot massage.

The spa has about 6 treatment rooms, including 1 couple room. All rooms come with en-suite showers. I was lead to a room and a Thai masseur entered soon and started my session.

The scrub was quite standard. Nothing to shout about. Then the Royal Thai massage session started and my-o-my, this was one of the best Thai massage I had anywhere in the world; be it Thailand or otherwise. The masseur put in 101% effort and her strokes were just out of this world. Definitely a 5-star effort.

It ended all too soon and the foot massage started. Unlike other places, I was able to lie on the bed while the masseur carried on the foot massage. I had forgotten that traditional Thai foot massage uses a stick instead of fingers and it can be quite painful. I had to endure a good 45 minutes of pain as the masseur carried on poking the stick on my foot.

I came out of the room thoroughly refreshed and recharged. The foot massage hurt a bit but pain is always inversely proportionate to the light floating feeling you get after a good foot massage.

I am a cheapskate and there is also no tradition of tipping in Singapore. However, the Thai massage I just had was absolutely wonderful and I ended up giving my masseur a generous tip! That tells you how good it was.

Location of Massage Palor:
1 Nanson Road #02-11 Singapore 238909

Size of Spa: Moderate, with 6 private treatment rooms
Facilities: None

Friendliness: Extremely Friendly
Pricing: Single massage treatment starts from US$45. Combined packages available.


The history of Tie Da Clinics

While we associate massage with therapeutic and relaxation purpose today, massage did not have such connotation when I was growing up.

At that time, massage was more associated with Tie-Da Shi Fu or literally, Iron-Strike Master. In those days, people with bone, tendon, ligament or muscle injuries usually do not go to a hospital but would rather visit a Tie-Da clinic.

Tie-Da clinics are not run by Western or Chinese trained physicians but more often than not, some-one who is a bone-setter that has come out from a pugilistic, acrobatic or lion dance background.

In those days, troupes or schools that practised Chinese martial arts, acrobat performance or lion dance will usually have one or two resident experts, often time the school or troupe master (Shi-Fu), in bone-setting or massage that comes with treating falls, injuries and sparring mishaps suffered during training or performances. The usual injuries are broken bones, slipped joints, injured ligaments, bruises and sore muscles and they are usually treated with Tie-Da You (Massage ointment), Kao Yao or Koyok (Medicated herbal patches), bandages and vigorous massage.

As the skills and reputation of these resident experts spread, they began to expand beyond their schools or troupes and started treating members of the general public; usually from the premises of their schools or troupes. Soon, every large resident area would have a Tie-Da clinic that see long lines as people with broken bones (work injuries), slipped shoulder or elbow (sporting students), twisted ankles (office ladies), muscle pain (falls and injuries) come for treatment.

Most treatments consist of local application of herbal ointment or medication and the vigorous rubbing of these ointment onto the affected muscle or joint. There are also pulls and stretches for slipped joints, tendons, ligaments and bones. Many will come out wrapped in bandages and reeking of herbal medication smell.

Long lines of patients, muffled screams while under treatment and the strong herbal smell of the herbal ointment and medication used remains etched in my childhood memories.

Medicated Oil

Chinese Medicated Plaster

Herbal Medicated Ointment and Plaster are popularly used in Tie-Da treatment

Many of these Tie-Da clinic would make and manufacture their own concoction of Tie-Da ointment and Tie-Da Koyok. Most will only use it within their clinics, some will make patrons buy them home for self-application and some go on to become millionaires by mass-producing them in factories for Asian markets and consumers all over the world.

Till today, modern version of these medicated ointment and patches remain immensely popular with Asian consumers. (You can purchase some at this website)

We call such Tie-Da clinics as Wai-Shang (External injuries) clinics and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinics, which employ traditional Chinese-trained physicians, as Nei-Shang (Internal injuries) clinics.

As modern Western medicine becomes popular, such Tie Da clinics began to recede from the limelight.

At the same time, TCM clinics which were also beginning to lose popularity to Western doctors and clinics, began to emphasise the massage aspect of their treatment repertoire such as Tiu-Na(literally Push-Pull massage), Ba-Guan (moxibustion) and Gua-sha.

Soon, a new industry, which solely concentrate on Chinese massage and treatment, sprouted forth and became popular. Such treatment centres are the subject of many reviews within this blog. Do read them.

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Review: Massage Treatment @ Phuket Airport

What happens when you cannot get enough of Thai massage when leaving Phuket, Thailand? Simple, you get a last minute massage at the Phuket International airport!

Do you know there is a small massage palor at the Phuket Airport?

I just did not have enough of Thai Massage & Foot Reflexology on my last trip in Phuket. Yes, I went to Phuket to get plenty of Thai massage but I got so caught up doing the rest of fun stuff in Phuket that I just did not find time to indulge in Thai massage. Thank goodness I found this palor at the Phuket Airport which ended my short vacation on a high note.

Massage at Phuket airport departure lounges
Massage Palor at Phuket airport departure lounge

This massage palor (I think should be new; wasn’t there on my last trip 2 years ago) offers standard massage treatments like Thai Massage, Foot Reflexology, Manicure and Pedicure. Although their prices are a bit steep compared to outside the airport, it’s still worth the last minute indulgence; especially if you just can’t get enough of Thai massage.  Apparently, many people must have felt that way too; so much so that it’s worth it for the owner to invest in a shop in the departure lounge of the Phuket airport. Rental surely cannot be cheap.

Although the place feels small outside, it is ingeniously designed that it is able to take about 10 customers for foot massage in 2 separate halls and four customers for Thai or aromatherapy massage in small private cubicles just behind the reception area.

When we entered the palor, there were no customers. We chose Thai massage and let the therapists knead our bodies just nicely for the plane journey back home. As usual, Thai masseurs never fail to live up to expectations. It was almost as if Thai ladies have natural genes to provide a good massage anytime.

It did get uncomfortable after a while as more customers entered the palor. You can hear loud customers and screaming children through the thin partition walls of the massage cubicles. So while the massage was good, the noise factor of this place is something to consider if you’re thinking of having a last minute massage.

Overall, this place does have my recommendations if you have plenty of time to kill at the Phuket airport. Or like me, you simply could not get enough of Thai massage or foot massage and need some last minute indulgence!

Location of Massage Palor:
Departure Lounge, Phuket International Airport

Size of Spa: Small, with 3 private treatment rooms and 12 reflexology chairs
Facilities: None

Friendliness: Friendly
Pricing: Single massage treatment starts from US$15