So when we told our friends that we were heading for a Thai Massage at a prison, we didn’t receive the most enthusiastic response. Yet if you head to Trip Advisor you’ll see that the Chiang Mai Women’s Prison is one of the most highly rated places to visit in Chiang Mai and it was up there with our favourite experiences in Thailand.
Brilliantly, there is a spa and restaurant alongside the prison, which is staffed by inmates due for release within the next six months, having been imprisoned for minor crimes. It’s a genius scheme, teaching these women a trade, social skills and acting as a stepping stone towards integrating them back into society. Just as noteworthy, was that having gone for many many many massages in Thailand, this was by far the best.
The spa is so popular that they don’t accept bookings, and to have a chance of getting an appointment that day you need to arrive by 11am at the latest. Expect to wait around an hour – but you’ll be given a ticket and can enjoy the food and drink from the cafe until your number is called (we highly recommend the coconut smoothie).
The staff were exceptional, and whilst we’d come accustomed to warm welcomes wherever we went in Thailand, the women went above and beyond. Everything is extremely cheap and if you do wish to tip your masseuse, do so at the main table with the guards.
All over Asia we witnessed similar such schemes, our other favourite being the Friends cafe in Cambodia which trains street children within the hospitality sector.
Our biggest advice would be to leave all prejudice, judgement and narrow mindedness at the door, these women are lovely, highly skilled at their job and to visit Chiang Mai without a stop here is to truly miss an exceptional experience.
Relaxed to the hilt,
Charlotte & Sarah x