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Thailand Breaks Record to Become Massage Capital of the World

Thai masseuse
Natalie Behring-Chisholm, Getty Images

Yesterday, while the wild side of the Bangkok tourism industry hung outside the back alley of the Chatuchak market sucking down siamese sours and running numbers on the cockfights, hundreds of masseuses gathered to help make Thailand the official backrub capital of the world.

Guinness World Records senior representative Rob Molloy watched as a record-breaking 641 massage therapists gave simultaneous massages to 641 people for 12 consecutive minutes. This broke the previous record of 263 people being massaged simultaneously for five minutes, and therefore certifying Thailand’s spot in the record book.

“It was easy because this is what we do every day for a living,” said 53-year-old Chayanan Chanwuttisawan, one of the mostly female masseuses who took part in the event. “I’m proud of myself and my profession. I never thought we’d have a chance to be recognized like this.”

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of Thailand’s massage parlors are legitimate spas, even though some of the shiftier ones operating in places like the back alley of Chatuchak market are sometimes used for prostitution.

Thailand massage parlors offer everything from aromatherapy to foot rubs to Thai “traditional massage,” which is an ancient art that is still practiced and taught today.

A shortened version of the traditional massage complete with choreographed position changes, sounds effects and soft music was all part of the masseuses repertoire, which ended with the therapists cheering shortly after finding out they had in fact won a Guinness Record.

Thailand’s win comes shortly after the National News Bureau of Thailand announced last week that the government “is aiming to make Thailand the world’s ultimate destination for massage, with plans to improve the quality of the workers, offer more massage classes to the public and set up a massage center in every hospital.”

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