Earlier this week I met a lady called Aoy. Her colleagues describe her as ‘jai yen‘ and ‘jai dee‘; calm and kind. Aoy’s hobbies include studying astrology and listening to audiobooks. Aoy also happens to be blind. She lost her sight after contracting infectious conjunctivitis more than a decade ago. This quiet and dignified Thai lady now works as a massage therapist at Perception Blind Massage in Bangkok.
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision
– Helen Keller
Previously employed in retail, Aoy still dreams of owning her own shop or restaurant in the future. When Aoy lost her sight she retrained as a massage therapist which meant undergoing hundreds of hours of practice before gaining the necessary certification. And even as a qualified massage therapist, the amount of places where she can work are limited.
The story behind Perception Blind Massage
Perception Blind Massage opened its doors in the Sathorn district of Bangkok in December 2014 with the aim of providing employment for blind or visually impaired therapists. Just as Aoy and each of the massage therapists have their own unique story to tell, so too do the Thai owners of Perceptions. Before opening the shop they were living in Denmark. After toying with the idea of starting a new venture there, the business partners decided to return to Thailand and open their new shop, a café and bar called Dexter. The building which housed Dexter had a large area that wasn’t being utilised and after speaking with a friend who had a massage shop the partners had another idea. They decided to renovate the unused part of their building and launch a massage service with a twist. Liaising with the Thailand Association of the Blind to find their therapists, the owners of Dexter were ready to open their new massage shop. Considering the business partners had no previous experience in running either a restaurant or a massage shop, it was a bold move and by their own admission they are still learning the ropes in both ventures.
Although there are existing blind massage shops in Bangkok, facilities tend to be basic and premises can be difficult to track down for Thais let alone tourists. At Perception, the idea was to modernise the blind massage treatments. Whilst the traditional Thai traits of friendliness and hospitality are to the fore, the owners have also drawn on their experiences in Europe. The result is a setting which is clean and contemporary. Subdued lighting, a subtle colour scheme and wooden flooring add to the relaxing and welcoming atmosphere. Framed pictures with inspirational quotes from the likes of Helen Keller and Stevie Wonder are the perfect choice to complete the décor.
There are six permanent members of staff with varying levels of visual impairment. They are regarded as extended members of the family by the owners of the shop and they all live on site in rooms provided by Perception. During busy periods and weekends a number of other part-time massage therapists can be called on.
You can’t base your lives on other people’s expectations
– Stevie Wonder
- Thai massage
- Foot massage
Sample prices (October 2015):
60 minute Thai massage 350 Baht
60 minute foot massage 400 Baht
60 minute aromatherapy massage 800 Baht
With a crowded schedule during my recent stay in Bangkok, I only had time for a 1-hour foot massage. Booking the appointment via email was easy and the receptionist who I saw was delightful, spoke fluent English and explained the whole process to me before the massage session began. The treatment from Aoy was excellent and the seating and ambience extremely relaxing. There were a couple of times where I felt a fleeting moment of mild discomfort, but this often happens when I have a foot massage. I’ve been told before it’s a result of old sports injuries from my younger days and although she didn’t say, I sensed that Aoy knew that. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give the entire experience a 9 and would highly recommend a visit. Next time I go back I will make sure I have more time and will try the 2-hour Thai massage.
Perception is open daily from 10am to 10pm. If possible, try to book an appointment at least a week in advance by email or phone. When going for your treatment wear loose-fitting and comfortable clothing. You will also be given a simple form to complete before starting your treatment session. Here you can mark any existing health problems and the preferred strength of the massage.
How to get there
Perception Blind Massage is located a 5-minute walk from the BTS Skytrain station at Chong Nonsi. Use Exit 2 and walk in the same direction as the traffic towards the Sathorn Thani complex of buildings and the Standard Chartered building which you will see on your left hand side. You will also see a road intersection and traffic lights in front of you. Turn left there onto Sathorn Nuea (Sathorn North) and walk along the sidewalk/pavement for less than a minute and you will see Sathorn Soi 8 on your left. Walk down Soi 8 for approximately 50 metres until you see Dexter café and bar on your left. Perception Blind Massage is in the side entrance to the right of the café. Walk up the stairs to reception which is on the 2nd floor.
If you do visit Perception you could also combine it with a trip to the excellent M.R. Kukrit’s Heritage Home which is nearby. See map below for more details.
I was a guest of Perception, but as always views expressed are my own.