The Watpo Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School, also spelled as Wat Pho, is unquestionably the most famous Thai Traditional Medicine institute in the world. The school is closely connected to the Wat Pho temple and located in the heart of Thailand, in the old center of Bangkok near the Wat Pho temple grounds.
At the Wat Pho temple grounds you’ll find the Watpo Massage Centre where the general public can get a variety of massage sessions (Thai Massage, Thai Foot massage, Thai Oil massage, Thai Facial massage, and so on) and in addition, every morning of the week at 08:00 AM, there’s a free Reusi Dat Ton (Thai Yoga) workshop offered to the public which takes about 45 minutes.
At the start of the Rattanakosin period (1782 – 1932), King Rama III ordered to collect all Thai Medicine knowledge in the kingdom and engrave the knowledge of Thai traditional medical science around the Watpo cloisters of the Phra Maha Chedis and Sala Rai on stone tablets. Many of these inscriptions depict the Sen energy lines and Thai therapeutic acupressure points. In addition, the temple grounds are richly decorated with Reusi Dat Ton and Thai Massage statues originating in the 19th century, of which many are recently renovated or (if missing or destructed) newly added.
The Wat Pho Thai Medical and Massage School was opened in 1955 inside the Wat Pho temple grounds. It is the first Thai Medical School with approval of the Thai Ministry of Education. Today however, the school isn’t located at the Wat Pho temple any longer (only the Wat Pho Massage services), but a few blocks away in the same area. Moreover, the Watpo Massage school (now part of the Chetawan Health Group) has several school branches and massage service clinics in and around Bangkok and a school branch in Chiang Mai.
Currently, the Watpo medical massage school and its branches offer the following training, courses & workshops (note that each branch may offer different Thai Bodywork modalities):
- General Thai Massage Course – 30 Hours
- Advanced Medical Thai Massage – 60 Hours
- Foot Massage Course – 30 Hours
- Oil Massage and Aromatherapy – 30 Hours
- Woman Healthcare Massage – 30 Hours
- Infant and Child Massage Course – 21 Hours
- Ascetic self-Stretching (Rue-si Datton) Course – 5 hours
- Thai Massage Experience Training (unknown amount of hours)
- Spa Body Treatment – 120 hours (3,5 weeks)
- Basic Body Treatments – 24 Hours
- Nail Care and Nail Art – 42 hours
- Professional Thai Massage for Health – 165 hours – 26 days
- Professional Thai Massage Therapy I – 200 hours (5 weeks)
Apart from the short and professional courses mentioned above, Watpo also offers various longer and shorter resort/retreat programs such as:
- Office Syndrome Management Program
- Lower Back Pain Management Program
- Mother Health Care Program
- Re-Energize Program
- Rejuvenate Program
- Anti-Cellulite Program
- Elderly Health Care Program
- Woman Health Care Program
Being the best known Thai Massage school in Thailand and around the world, doesn’t necessarily mean that the school offers the best Thai Massage courses or the best learning environment. As Watpo has grown in popularity over time, one can not else than observe that the school has become a sort of massage training factory.
I can remember well the courses I did at Watpo in 2010—I had many different teachers during the course week, things were set in a kind of air-conditioned factory hall learning Thai Massage with more than 150 students simultaneously. The school starts a basic Thai Massage course every single day, meaning a lot of new faces constantly, and the learning environment is simply busy and rather loud.
Moreover, I was told by the teacher who did the introduction not to ask too many questions about their curriculum during the course days (they were very busy I was told), I would get a chance to ask questions after the course. In fact, I didn’t get the chance, because my teachers (I had 6 different teachers during the general course) were of course already busy teaching new groups of students.
Need to say that for instance the retreats (like the Professional Thai Massage Therapy I – 200 hours – 5 weeks) at the Salaya branch are set up differently, and take a longer period to complete, and I assume that there’s more attention and time for students there.
Perhaps things have changed nowadays, I don’t know, but it’s something to be aware of when choosing to study at the Wat Pho school. Wat Pho has in many ways become a sort of must-do-circus attraction, yet, of course, it’s certainly an amazing experience to learn Thai Massage there, around the Watpo temple, being able to visit the temple everyday, being there in Thailand, in the heart and center of where it all began. It all surely has it’s own quality…