C'mon, c'mon. I'm stressed and in a hurry, what is this? Somewhere just for you, as it happens; one of the best places in the world in which to learn traditional Thai massage - and how to ease up a bit.
OK, I'm listening … The school was founded in 1955, when King Rama III charged Wat Po, a historic temple and monastery, with establishing Thailand's first centre for domestic arts and knowledge. Also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (below, far left), Wat Po pre-dates 1782, when King Rama I established Bangkok as the capital of Thailand. Today, the school is managed by Serat Tangtrongchitr, the grandson of its founder, and most of the teachers are second- or third-generation practitioners of Thai massage.
What is so special about it? The temple is considered to be the spiritual centre of traditional Thai medicine and therapeutic massage. It was the first Buddhist monastery in the country to receive royal approval and it established the first ever school of Thai massage. The temple is considered to be an "open university" and was listed on the Unesco Memory of the World Register in 2011. The facilities are relatively basic but the quality of the teaching more than makes up for that.
What's on offer? The courses, certified by Thailand's Ministry of Education, range from basic to advanced. Those looking for a hands-on introduction to Thai massage might want to consider the five-day (30 hours) general-massage or foot-massage courses that focus on Wat Po's distinctive style, which is designed to promote relaxation, reduce tension and stimulate circulation. More in-depth courses include a 60-hour advanced Thai medical massage therapy course, which covers both traditional theory and practical training in the treatment of common complaints such as a tense neck and shoulders (that sound familiar?) alongside an introduction to basic traditional Thai medicine. Specialised classes on offer include oil and aromatherapy massage (30 hours) and massage for infants and children (21 hours).
Who are they designed for? Thanks to an increasing interest in health and relaxation among travellers, Wat Po's courses are now offered in English as well as Thai. Students range from locals looking to achieve professional certification and foreign visitors seeking an authentic experience to medical professionals and spa therapists.
Tell me more. This year, Wat Po joined forces with The Peninsula Bangkok, to train the hotel's spa therapists. Included in the Peninsula's newly launched wellness programme are two therapeutic Simply Peninsula Royal Thai massages, which are based on the temple's signature style and involve acupressure points and procedures usually reserved for aristocracy and the royal family. The temple will train therapists at all Peninsula spas around the world. For those just visiting Wat Po, within the temple is a series of halls decorated with beautifully painted murals and stone inscriptions that were originally designed to educate Thai viewers. Alternatively, stroll through the temple's garden and do your best to imitate the poses of its yogi statues.
What would a course set me back? They cost from 9,500 baht (about HK$2,200) to 42,000 baht, for the most advanced courses. Students can enrol by emailing [email protected].