In a metropolitan city like Bangkok, everything is metrosexual. Including spas. Over the past few years, spas for men have mushroomed all over the city. Bangkok is now home to some 60 spas, which are scattered throughout the city. Among the newcomers is Iyara Massage & Spa, located in gay-friendly Soi Aree.
The spa's nine masseurs are qualified massage therapists, with certificates from either the Ministry of Public Health or the Ministry of Education to guarantee their professional performances. Some spa afficianadoes might say female therapists have the best hands, but these guys are not at all disappointing when it comes to either a Thai or oil massage. The parlour welcomes both male and female patrons.
"I want it to be a spa parlour for men - both gay and straight, and of course women are welcome. But as you see most straight guys feel uncomfortable walking into a place like this. So 94 per cent of our clientele are gay men, with 5 per cent women and 1 per cent straight men," says Worapot Rattanapinta, the owner of the place, who considers spa treatments as the best way to relax. "I love a good spa, and I have been to most of the places in Bangkok."
Though this is a spa staffed by men and generally catering to men, Worapot makes it clear that this is not a place where you will get a "happy ending" at the end of the session. "If anyone calls and asks if we have pictures of our masseurs for them to choose from, we simply tell them not to come because they would not get what they want. This is only a massage and spa parlour, period."
Worapot once worked for AIS, but wanted to be a service provider. "I spent a lot of money going to spas, some of them very upmarket, to see what it's like and get some ideas to use in my own spa."
His constant spa visits resulted in his getting to know what was available in the market. The three-storey row house on busy Soi Ari that is home to Iyara is a perfect sanctuary from the heat, smell and noise of the city. The spa is calming and relaxing without trying too hard to be modernist or overly Thai in style. Spa and massage rooms are minimally adorned, with a private shower in the two VIP rooms.
Three selections of massage oil from Thai brand Harnn, based on fundamental ingredients of rich vitamin E and rice barn oil, are provided. The Sensual Oil (with sweet orange, bergamot and patchouli oil) is used for a warm and sensuous experience. The oil also has natural disinfectant to help soothe your skin and reduce irritation. Comfort Oil (with lavender, geranium, petigrain and clary sage oil) soothes, softens and smoothes skin and calms the mind. To boost your energy, try the Energising Oil (with rosemary, bergamot, juniper and lemon zest oil) that shakes up your nerves and fills you with vigour. It's not such a bad idea to bring home the scent you like, put a few drops in your bath and make yourself a little sanctuary at home.
A one-and-a-half-hour aromatic oil massage costs Bt1,500; partakers have the option of also getting a half-hour salt scrub for Bt700 more. A one-hour Thai massage is Bt600. There are also other packages to choose from. Members get discounts. The spa can accommodate up to five people at the same time. Reservations are recommended.
Iyara Massage & Spa
2/8 Soi Aree
Phaholyothin Road, Samsen Nai
(02) 617 1441