Have you ever been into a prison and got massaged by a female prisoner? No? Well we have. And we recommend it to everyone! The Women's Correctional Institute in Chiang Mai, or Chiang Mai's Women's Prison, in Northern Thailand is an awesome place to be massaged. By Prisoners. Prisoners!
Excitement aside, we have a lot of respect for the women's prison in Chiang Mai. Being in prison wouldn't be fun no matter how good the conditions are. However, from what we can tell the Chiang Mai Women's Prison is very clean and the prisoners we have had the chance to meet all seem very happy.
On one of our visits to the Women's Prison Massage Centre I got talking to a prison officer. Apparently children of the prisoners, up to the age of five or six, are allowed to stay on prison grounds with their mothers. I am not sure what this would be like for the children however I am sure the interaction between mother and child can not be replaced easily. Go Chiang Mai Prison!
Our respect for the women's prison in Chiang Mai goes further than just a massage and baby place. Inmates are offered the chance to study and / or work while they are serving time in jail. Prisoners can learn to read and write Thai or other languages from the basic literacy level all the way up to studying at a University. Classes are also held to learn vocational subjects like sewing, agriculture, food preparation and even massage.
And, this is where we get to the fun stuff! The Chiang Mai Women's Prison Massage Centre can be found at 100 Rachvithi Road, in Chiang Mai. Click here to go to the Walking Tour of Chiang Mai that Tanya created. It will show you exactly where to find the Prison.
The hours of operation are between 8:00am and 4:30pm every day of the week, although I am sure they wouldn't be open on official Thai and Government holidays. To make sure you do get your massage, do not arrive any later than 3:30pm. The prisoners have to be back in the actual prison by 5pm to have dinner and get locked up in their cell by 6pm!
The price for a Traditional Thai Massage for an hour is 180 Baht. The price for a one hour Foot Massage is 150 Baht. These prices are the current prices as of February 2012.
It is ok to be a little worried about going to a prison for a massage. This just adds to the experience. Trust us! Walk up to the sign that says "Prison Product Shop". This is where they do the massages. Take your shoes off and leave them out front. No one is going to steal them. You are at a prison after all. No one wants to go to prison for stealing a pair of shoes from the front of the prison.
Take a step inside and you will either be greeted by a very shy female prisoner or a serious looking female prison guard. Say that you are there for a Thai massage or a foot massage and they will greet you with a welcoming smile. While you wait to be taken into one of two rooms, there are a number of products for sale. Doileys, Tea Cosies, Tea Towels, that type of stuff. All made by the women prisoners.
If you are going to have a Traditional Thai Massage they will give you a top and pants set to change into. Take them into the room shown, change your clothes and bring everything out with you. Bags as well. They may offer a spot for you to place your gear. Do so, your stuff will be safe. These prisoners are in their last six months of prison time. I doubt they want to have the privilege of leaving the prison so soon taken away from them. If you are worried though, bring your money bags with you to the massage bed and place it either under your pillow or next to your head. But don't stress.
Although... many years ago when we were living in Chiang Mai, we used to frequent the Chiang Mai Women's Prison for massages. During this time we did become a little friendly with some of the prisoners. It was hard not to. Most spoke English well and were happy to talk with us as we were becoming regulars, not just tourists visiting for one time only.
On one particular massage day, I (Tanya) had placed my mobile phone next to my massage bed. It was a very worn out crappy Sony cell phone. All the lettering had come off the keys through frequent use. The chatty lady who was massaging me asked me directly if she could borrow my phone. No was my reply. Apparently she wanted to call her boyfriend. No was my reply again. I did get a little flustered by this time. I moved the phone closer to me. I wasn't worried about it being stolen. I was just worried that she would use it and therefore get me and her in trouble.
Closing my eyes for a while, and then reopening them after about 5 minutes, I was surprised to see a prison guard standing at the bottom of my massage mattress. This DID worry me a bit. I ended up saying hello to the guard. I guess the guard's mischief sense was tingling. Needless to say, my cell phone did not get used by a prisoner and you should definitely say NO if one asks you too!
Back to the massages, both a foot and a traditional Thai massage will result in a foot soak and cleansing first. Giggles. I can't help but giggle every time I get my feet cleaned. It is ticklish. Especially when they bring out the scrubbing brush too. Try to relax and enjoy the process.
Have your massage while listening to some lovely piped in music, smelling some essential oils and watching others just like you be massaged by female prisoners! While you are there, why not strike up a conversation with your therapist. She may speak the same language as you and probably wouldn't mind a bit of conversation.
After your massage is over, your therapist will bring you a lovely cup of tea. Drink this while you slip back into reality. Get changed if need be and then say good bye to the massage therapists. Walk back out to the product shop and then pay the Prison Guard at the front desk. Don't forget to have a look at all the other products for sale too.
Walk out of the building and feel pleased with yourself. As well as getting new skills and education, a percentage of the money that comes in gets saved up and given the prisoners when they get out to help them start their new life. Without your patronage, they'd have a much harder time when they get out. If you are up for it, check out the restaurant just next door. This is also run by prisoners. The food is delicious. I had one of Chiang Mai's best Khao Soi's there. Seriously. The restaurant is open from 9:00am to 4:30pm every day. Again, make sure you get there by 3:30pm at the latest. The women have to get back to the prison in time for supper and lock down.
We really really really recommend the Women's Prison in Chiang Mai for both massages and meals. There is something right about a prison who helps people with re-entering society. If you are interested, there is another massage chain in Chiang Mai, Lila Thai Massage, that employs ex-prisoners from the Chiang Mai Women's Prison.
To read a really good article about Chiang Mai's Women's Prison, click here to be taken to a Citylife article.
Chiang Mai Women's Correctional Institution
Address: 100 Rachvithi Road, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm
Cost: Traditional Thai Massage - 180 Baht; Foot Massage - 150 Baht
Restaurant is next door.
NO CAMERAS ALLOWED!
Chiang Mai's Walking Tour Map by Tanya - click here