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Bangkok Wat Po School and massage. Updated info with the Manager, Khun Sarat Tangtrongchitr

The Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical (T.T.M.) School and Massage was established in 1955 inside the well-known Wat Po Temple, famous for its gigantic reclining Buddha, in the Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, Thailand.

Wat Po, a Royal Monastery in Bangkok, since the 19 Century has been  the centre of all Thai knowledge and technology at that time.
Thai Traditional Medicine and Massage (knowledge of  traditional medicine,  recipes for herbal medicine, Thai massage, treatment for ailment, yoga postures) are the most notable methods.

Nowdays it offers four basic courses of Thai Medicine: Thai Pharmacy, Thai Medical practice, Thai Midwife nursing and Thai massage.

The school, first open University in Thailand, is recognized by Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education.

Certified students of the School are working in clinics, Spas, Hospitals all over the world.
School and branches: 
1. Main Branch
Wat Po and Chetawan Thai Traditional Medical School: Wat Pho.
392/33 Soi Pemphat1 , Maharaj Rd. Pranakorn Bangkok. Tel. 026223551.
2. Chetawan Thai Traditional Massage  School at Chaeng Wattana
50/89 Soi.Pakkret-Changwatana 15 ,Sailom village, Nonthaburi Tel 029-627-338 to 40
3. Chetawan Health School in Salaya
87 Mho1 Salaya-Nakornchaisri rd.,
Mahaswat, Phutthamonthon , Nakornprathom tel. 034365009.
4. Chetawan Thai Traditional Massage School in Chiang Mai
7/1-2 Pracha-utid Rd.(opposite of Rajaphat Cheingmai University) Tel 053-410360 to 1.

Khun Sarat Tan; at his back inscriptions and murals describing pressure points and treatments installed on the wall of the medicine pavilion, Wat Po

 Khun Sarat, which is the official website of the School? redirect to watpomassage official at the moment.
A.: In few months we will have a new version. is my School’s website
Another  one is the temple ‘s website. ( Wat
Wat is the temple’s website which will display the massage course in present version.
Update July 2019: The new website is now online:

Q.: In your website, courses are clustered in 2 main groups:  short courses and professional courses.
A.: Yes, there are 2 categories.
Short courses for therapists who would like to understand Thai massage and Professional courses for who would like to be professional at the end of the course.

Q.: Short courses can be taken in any of the four School locations.
Are the professional courses given just in Salaya and Chiang Mai?
A: Correct

Q: The professional courses are 3: Spa body treatment, Professional Thai massage for health and Professional Thai Massage Therapy.
Then there is a plenty of choice for short courseslike:
Facial massage
Nail care and nail art
Basic Body treatment
Infant and child massage
Woman healthcare massage
Oil massage and aromatherapy
and the 3 most important:  
General Thai Massage
Foot Massage
Advanced Medical Thai Massage
A.: Yes, these last 3 courses are the most popular courses at all of the School.
For “Spa Body Treatment”  we have changed: it is no longer required to attend the “General Thai Massage” course first.

Q.: If someone just wanted to take an oil massage course and wasn’t interested in taking the Spa Body Treatment course?
A.: He can only choose to study in the Spa course.
(Update: starting from 1st May 2019 it is possible to take the Oil massage course as a short course).
There has been a development in this regard, namely: the establishment of a short course and a professional course.
We are looking to expand and arrange longer classes especially for oil massage.

Q.:  Is it possible to take the “Oil massage and Aromatherapy course for 30 hours” without first taking the General Thai Massage course, right?
A: Yes, this is correct.
It is similar to Thai massage, both have short courses and professional courses. Students can choose to study in the short course or in the professional course.
For the oil massage, the goal is to maintain the course even for 30 hours.
It will become a basic course.
And you can study oil massage for 30 or 60 or 150 hrs.

Q.: For sports massage, should the oil massage be a first choice?
A.: Yes and I think we will have sport massage in future: a mix of Thai massage, herbal thai massage and oil massage.

Q.: Regarding the Advanced Medical Thai massage”, a short course that the School offers after completing the General Thai massage: are there theoretical lessons for this course?
A.:  Yes, I think this is the only course… I would say it is a special qualification for Thai Massage .
Before our School offered just 2 courses: The General and The Advanced. Because we know that the specialty of Thai massage is to take care of simple ailments.
We have over 60 simple ailments that can be treated with this technique.
Next year we will offer some similar treatment with this technique at Chulalongkorn Hospital which is a major hospital in Thailand.
They plan to open a special clinic for elederly care.

Q.: About the Professional Courses:
One is the Spa body treatment of which you have already spoken.
Then the Professional Thai massage for health: quite recently has been opened to foreigners, full course just 26 days.
Finally the Professional Thai Massage Therapy: can you take this course just after the Thai massage for health?
A.: If you compare these courses “Professional for Health and Professional Thai massage therapy I”, they concern the concept of “Professional health”.
The “Professional course for health” concerns the level at which the therapist can intervene to relax.
While the “Professional Thai massage therapy I” refers to the level in which the therapist can solve some problems that the client has to face such as muscle pain, headache, office syndrome.

Q.: Is Professional Thai massage for health the same as Thai people do?
A.: With the new standard of the Ministry of Health of Thailand, the course is recognized in many countries abroad.
So we can’t change, we have to keep the course as it is: also applies to Thai students who come here for a qualification and go to Europe.
The course for Thais may have some changes, but the course for foreigner no for this reason.

Q.: Are Thai pharmacy and Thai medicine courses only for Thais?
A.: Yes, we would also like to offer it to foreigners but there is a linguistic problem.

Q.: Linguistic and…of herbs…
A.: Yes … Even in Thailand, herbs can have different names depending on the Province.
Massage is a type of treatment in the Thai Traditional Medical School. Altogether we have: Thai pharmacy, Thai midwife nurse, Thai medicine and Thai massage.
I think in the future a course for Thai Medicine could be opened for foreigners, because now we have a company that can export our herbs.
We now have more than 15 Universities offering degree courses in Thai Medicine. So I think we will have more products in the future.

Q.: Making a decision about which massage course to follow might not be an easy choice. The possibilities are really many …
A.: Yes … we offer many courses … You can study for pleasure, to work in the Spa sector, in a hospital, elderly care, childcare …
I would say that, if the goal is not clear, to opt for General Thai massage.
If you don’t like it, try the “oil massage” (someone finds the Thai massage hard) otherwise something like the facial treatment which is in great demand.
We teach mostly without machines, we like to keep the method natural and if you go to work in a salon it is still easy to use a machine.

Q.: So, first of all, if someone doesn’t have a clear idea, your suggestion is to try the General Thai Massage, 5 days.
If it doesn’t fit you, go to other courses.
A.: Yes, it’s important: now we offer a 1-day lesson so that students can try. We call it “Wat Po experience”.
It is possible to study the Thai massage for 1 hour and have 1 hour of Thai massage treatment so that you can understand whether you like it or not.
“Wat Po experience”, which is 1 hour of study 1 hour of treatment is ideal for those who want to understand how our massage works.

Q.: It seems a great opportunity for foreigners who do not yet have a clear idea.
A.: Yes, for example: someone has difficulty or cannot sit on the floor.
This alone is a big problem to follow the course.
And for a 1-day course we can also organize the study of theHerbal Massage.

Q.: About the Herbal massage: I did not find the Herbal Thai massage Course on the website. Do you still have this course?
A.: We have 2 courses … But there has been a change for this course.
We have the Thai herbal treatment class for 3 days – short course without a certificate.
Those who want the certificate must take the “Women healthcare” course: because this herbal treatment is aimed at women who give birth.

Q.: I see…Those who follow these courses, I suppose, will not find the herbs once they return to their countries. Did you say earlier that the School can ship herbs now, right?
A.: Yes, we have herb extract and we can ship abroad.

Q.: Which Countries recognize Thai massage?
A.: France, Canada, Germany, Hungary…

Q.: Is it compulsory for all professional courses to sleep in the school’s accommodation?
A.: Yes, we are pleased that students are with us and can learn something about our culture, not just the techniques … that can understand why Thai massage is so important for us.

Q.: But can you provide accommodations in all your schools?
A.: Exactly, but it is mandatory to stay in the school accommodations just for the professional courses.

Q.: TTM has influences from Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine; why is there no acupuncture tradition in Thailand?
A.: Actually at Wat Po we offered it 50/60 years ago … but now in Thailand it can only be practiced in western hospitals.
If the doctor has studied in China, he is recognized and can get a license to practice acupuncture.
However it has never been a tradition in Thailand.

Q.: What are the main differences between Shiatsu and Thai massage?
A.: I think philosophy is similar … but somehow … in Thai massage there is a lot of stretching. I have tried many types of massage and only the Thai massage has stretching …

Q.: And the Thai yoga…?
A.: Rue-si Datton, we have exercise every morning at 8 o’ clock.

Q.: In front of the massage pavilions, inside the Temple?
A.: Yes…every morning, students- and other people .
200 years ago we had 80 postures in the temple, now we have 25/26 … Last year we reproduced some statues.

Q.: Based on which models?
A.: Old books from the National Library and also from our library.

Above (Wat Po): reproductions taken by original ancient drawings

Q.: Wat Po School  has always tried to preserve the Traditional Thai massage (T.T.M.) in its original form but in the same time has always been open to new techniques and developments in massage.
A.: Yes, because from the beginning, in 1955, we felt that to preserve our philosophy we should have avoided turning it into a sort of “old style”.
Therefore, in order to preserve or maintain, we had to organize and adapt the techniques to the modern lifestyle, otherwise only the knowledge that is attached to the wall of the Temple would remain.
You understand … it is good but you have never heard it, never tried it … This is why Wat Po has been granted  the award “Memory of the World” (MOW) from UNESCO : it is the memory, it is the knowledge that is still alive, still useful to the people.

Q.: I find this to be intelligent and farsighted.
Freezing the knowledge is a dangerous temptation in which many institutions fall.
K. Sarat we did the first interview 12 years ago but we have been in contact all these years and we have sent a teacher to Italy twice to hold the course in General Thai Massage at the Apulia School of Fasano.
Last time I came here you offered me a massage.
I myself had studied massage at Wat Po 21 years ago.
At that time the abdomen massage was also taught, but I saw that it is not practiced now …
A.: We can do it if required, but now we prefer to skip that part and focus on legs, muscles …

Q.: So do you still teach it?
A.: We teach it but we prefer neck, shoulder, arm; legs, muscles and joints and everything that can be seat of pain.

Q.: Can the school help foreigners obtain a Visa, which is necessary for longer courses?
A.: Yes, for example if you arrive with only the VOA (Visa on Arrival, 30 days) and you need a VISA extension, we can organize it.
We work closely with thai immigration and they help us to deal with this.Or, if you study in Salaya, usually on Sunday, when the school is closed, we organize trips to Burma, make a few visits and a visa for those who need it. So you can do both a trip and extend your visa.

Q.: How can the School maintain the quality and professionalism of masseurs and teachers – and the reputation and standard of the School itself – with all the students who get a certificate every year and practice abroad?
A.: We face this problem for long time…
We want lunch a kind of personal certificate. Who has completed a course in our school have to keep update..They have to re-certificate, we  require studenst that work in massage or Spa field to re-certificate…we plan to send our teacher to test again them in their country in a period of 5 years…We are starting to do this with a german fundation.
Will be not a full examination but we have to know how they arrange the treatment and if they keep on with the standard.
And we hopefully will have a QR codeand if you work in any structure any client can check with QR code your personal certification and what did you study here, how long are you practicing and what is your knolwdege.

Q.: This for masseurs. And the teachers?
A.: We have no training to become a teacher for foreigners.

Q.: Therefore, to date, the T.T.M. School does not recognize any teacher other than Thais.
You have always emphasized that massage is first of all practical, done with the hands, and it is empirical, an heuristic.
Is this why the School has never published any book on Thai massage?
A.: Yes, and you must receive the massage, not just give it.
Videos, presentations, how to learn by yourself… we prefer not to do it…We must continue to practice.
Students must come to study for at least 5 days.
And after this you have to keep practicing, again and again.
Thai masseurs follow the 5-day course but then have a long experience. After the course, if they want to work with us, they must spend at least 3/4 months, up to 1 year, with different teachers.
For those who have learned Thai massage in Europe, I think that if they are passionate, in the long run they should come to study in Thailand.

Q.: However, it is better to start with the right techniques and maneuvers rather than correct them later.
Wat Po School teachers can teach massage classes abroad and I think it is still the best option for students who cannot travel.
This is agreat opportunity for Schools abroadthat want to rely on the best professionals in the field .
Furthermore, Wat Po School releases, after examination, the same certificate that is issued in Thailand.
Schools abroad that want to apply for Wat Po School courses must pay the costs for the teacher – airline tickets, hotels, meals, etc. – and pay the fees to Wat Po School (currently 13k THB x student, min 10 students, 5-day course).
If some Schools abroad are interested, they obviously have to do their math.
How many students in a class for 1 Thai Massage, Foot Massage and Oil massage course?
 Around 16. If there are more you can organize 2 courses.

Q.: For how many hours?
A.: At least 5 hours a day.

Q.: So it could be quite difficult for the teacher … In these cases can it be possible to organize a 7-day course instead of 5-day?
A.: Yes, it can be a solution. In any case, no less than 4 hours a day are required for 1 course.

Q.:What is the Chetawan retreat resort?
A.: It is in Salaya and it is run by our managment. It is for tourists and can be a nice place before going back to Europe, spending there 3 days or so after a tour.
It can be a great way to refresh and relax.
We have natural food without chemicals, we offer massages, yoga, swimming and we have a trainer who takes care of the guests.

This interview was held in Bangkok, at Wat Po School, on October 25th 2018 and was updated with emails exchanged between Sarat and me, until July 2019.

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