I heard from friends that there’s pretty much a massage place every half a block, so can someone tell me the names of some reliable places? I'm looking for a traditional Thai massage at a legitimate spa and don't mind paying more for it so long as there isn't any funny business!
Best massage is at Health Land Spa, hands down! Not only do they have great Thai massages, but they have several other types of massages, plus scrubs, facials, reflexology, etc. It's in a very central location and has a very nice, relaxing spa environment, which is hard to believe for their AMAZING prices. I got the best traditional Thai massage of my life there (and I've had a few!) for less than $20 USD, including a 25% tip (you don't have to tip, but I'm so used to it and it's always well-deserved because the massages are awesome). You really can't beat that. You can check out their offerings on their website. This place is pretty high end, so definitely no funny business there.
I wanted to be there every day!
I've been to Thailand 6 times and received many massages and all were pretty legit. Yes usually middle age women. There is the traditional Thai massage then an oil massage which is a Thai massage with oil. I always get the one with oil as it's more smoother. The plain Thai massage can be a little rough with no oil.
My first trip to Thailand, I was skeptical to get a massage, because of the concerns you raise. Now, having been there multiple times (I think my count is at eight or nine), my guard has lowered considerably. I have yet to pay more than $10US for a massage and would get one (or two) a day (rarely from the same place)... and never had a problem with any "funny business."
Things I look for are typically a group of ladies in front of the building, saying "Masaah" if they look like models, it's probably not a good sign. If they look like a mother with five kids, it's going to be reputable. If there's no group in front, peek in the windows and see what their staff looks like. Most massage places have a list of services and prices posted out front. If there is a guy (or girl) showing you pictures of their staff and not their price list, I would run the other way.
Know that most places are reputable and want to try and earn an honest Baht... Do be careful of taxi and tuk-tuk driver suggestions, as they often are getting a little extra on the side. But, if you're wandering the streets of Bangkok and your dogs start barking, keep an eye out for a massage place to stop and give it a try, but if alarms start going off in your head, get out of there!
I must say that I am now craving a good Thai massage! Enjoy!
Retreat on Vitayu http://www.vitayuretreat.com/
I love this place!!!