Best Bodywork: Budget Thai Massage (2008)

Chiang Mai

In a town oozing with Rolfers, shiatsu masters, neuromuscular therapists and Thai massage hotties, you'd think that finding the best, or at least a best bodyworker would be a snap.

You'd think.

There are variables to consider: schooling, skill, talent, energy, presence, quality of touch; plus extras: an intuitive sense of where tension is hiding or psychic reads on emotional issues tangled up in muscular knots; details like texture of palm, neatness of nail. What sort of products are being massaged into my pores; and, are they organic? Vegan? Do I really want mashed-up paraben-drenched pony guts rubbed into the largest organ of my body?

Included in this Best of L.A. issue are various high points found in the trenches on the quest for the Best Bodywork in L.A.

When I'm achy and on a budget, inkling for the Thai touch, I go see Polly at Chiang Mai, a surprisingly peaceful oasis in the middle of Hollywood tourist madness. It's a typical Thai spa with a touch of elegance, as in a shocking-pink orchid petal on every massage mat, and a hot, damp towel to the feet when Polly's finished and my body's a puddle of oatmeal. I could do without the traditional Thai music bleating its way throughout the spa, but Polly's touch makes it more than bearable. Her English may be limited, but her hands speak fluent tension relief.

—Dani Katz

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