Why bother with a Thai massage when you can be massaged by snakes, snails or a pair of meat cleavers?
A rub down with some scented oil might be fine for some, but an elephant or python makes for more drama. Here is the Skyscanner guide to some of the world’s strangest massages and body treatments.
1. Knife Therapy, Taiwan
If you like a good, penetrating massage then being chopped at by a couple of meat cleavers could be good for you. Yes, your therapist uses a couple of choppers to pummel your body. It all happens above your towel, so the knives don’t hit bare flesh. The therapy dates back some 2,000 years to China, and there are some 2,000 knife therapists practicing in Taiwan today.
2. Snake massage, Philippines and Indonesia
A deep muscle massage by four giant pythons? Are you crazy? Visit Cebu City Zoo and you’ll find people queuing up for the experience of laying down on a bamboo bed and having the four potential killer Burmese pythons giving a squeeze. To stop them crushing you to death, the pythons are fed whole chickens beforehand. Apparently, this puts them in a good mood. The snakes used in snake massage joints in Bali and Jakarta are smaller though. Phew!
3. Fish Massage, Thailand
Actually, you can get this kind of massage in many countries around the world, but you are very likely to come across it in the massage capital of the world, Bangkok. Basically, you stick your feet into a tank swimming with hundreds of little ‘doctor fish’, which originate in Turkey. They nibble away at the dead skin, and if you can bear the tickling, you will soon have very smooth feet and legs. In some places, you sit in a bath full of them and you can get a full body nibble, if you can stand it.
4. Elephant massage, Thailand
You might have experienced a masseur walking on your back before (yes, this happens in places, mostly in Asia), but an elephant? This Chiang Mai and Ko Samui massage is an Asian elephant specialty. They use their feet and trunk as gently as they can. It’s not for the faint hearted.
5. Snail massage, Japan
A slow massage might seem pleasant, but when it’s done by a few snails you have to wonder. In this version, the therapist pops three largish mollusks on your face and they slither all over it. The theory is that their slime is good for the skin, helping to slough off dead cells and clear pores. Don’t expect quick results though.
6. Beer Massage, USA
After a hard day’s skiing in Colorado, a cooling beer is probably a welcome site. But in the Four Seasons Resort, in Vail, you stick your feet in it. The Amber Ale Foot Soak involves a feet-size bowl of local brew. Meanwhile, an increasingly common massage using hot stones is varied in Vail by using warmed up beer cans.
7. Tickle therapy, Spain
Don’t laugh, in the Cosquillearte Vitoria spa in the town of Vitoria-Gasteiz (south of Bilbao) they use feathers to tickle your fancy, as well as your body. It’s performed by two people using soft, fingertip strokes aided by white feathers for that extra special touch.
8. Cactus Massage, Mexico
Being massaged with large cactus pads could be a painful experience, but in the Four Seasons Resort in Punta Mita, they carefully remove the spines beforehand, thank heavens. As part of the treatment, you get lathered in a meringue of processed cactus pads and cactus blossom, mixed with tequila.
9. Hay Bath, Austria
The Tyrol region of Austria is known for its cowbells and sweet green grass. So why not make the best of it in a spa treatment? You lay on a water bed and your therapist wraps you in moistened alpine hay, which contains all sorts of wild flowers and hopefully not cow dung. You lay there smelling sweetly for half an hour as the essential oils are released. Follow it up with a gentle massage.
10. Red wine ritual, France
What a waste you might think, but immersing yourself in a barrel of red wine is a popular treatment at the Spa de Vinotherapie Caudalie, south of Bordeaux. Added to this is a merlot wrap, and a cabernet body scrub. Makes us light-headed just thinking of it.