Getting massaged by an ex-prisoner in Chiang Mai

Having a massage on holiday, or whilst travelling appears to be pretty standard. Its relaxing, and often in South East Asian countries, very cheap.

Take a stroll along the beaches in Bali, or Thailand and you’re likely to hear “massage .. lady, you want massage?” repeatedly.

I have yet to entertain the idea of having a massage by the beach. I did however decide to have a massage whilst in Chiang Mai, by an ex prisoner! A little unconventional perhaps, but it was a great experience.

Whilst reading up about Chiang Mai, I noticed that the Woman’s  Prison had a programme for the ‘to be released’ females, offering them the opportunity to learn the skills of Thai massage. During their time in the programme, the girls could practice on members of the public! They are supervised, so you’re unlikely to get a knife in your back, so don’t worry!

After their release from Prison, many woman find it difficult to gain employment, due to their criminal history, and often return to a life of crime, and end back up at the Prison.

Recently The Lila massage centre was set up by an ex-director of the prison, to allow the woman released the opportunity to reintegrate into the community, as well as earn an income.


I thought this was a wonderful programme, so decided to support it.

The Lila massage centre has 5 places you can go in Chiang Mai, as per the map below. I happened to be wandering around on a temple tour and spotted one, so decided I’d go in.


Shoes must be taken off at the door, like at most places in SE Asia. Upon entry you can sit down and lounge, looking at the ‘menu’ and can smell the nice oils.


I decided just to have a foot massage, as I had heard that a Thai massage was quite brutal, and having had spinal surgery in the past, I didn’t want to risk being incredibly sore.

A foot massage at Lila costs 200 Baht, for an hour, this was incredibly cheap. It works out at US $6 or £3.70.


I was briefly introduced to the lady that would be giving me a massage. She spoke very little English, but directed me to a place where I could wash my feet.

I then sat in an area where many other people were; right by the door. She barely spoke to me, just gestured, as to what she wanted me to do.

The massage itself was nice, for the most part, but she was also incredibly rough. At times using her elbows and really digging into my legs! I’m not sure I’d want to cross her bad side!

Part of me wondered what the lady had done to end up in Prison; she looked so innocent and sweet. My guess is that it would be a smaller crime like theft of drug trafficking. Nevertheless, I sat there, and did some people watching, whilst also hearing the sounds of others in the room next to me being walked on, and pulled in every which way (I’m glad I didn’t have a Thai Massage).

I really enjoyed my massage, it was thorough, if not a wee bit rough, but it was cool to know that I was ‘doing my bit’ in supporting someone getting back into the workforce.

If you happen to be in Chiang Mai, I’d pay these guys a visit. Their website is here, if you need more information.

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