Hello SuperChicks

Here I am now, nearly at the end of my second week in Thailand, but only at the very beginning of my world trip, which will take me in roughly 8 months to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Canada. Next to visiting all the interesting tourist sights I’m also on a quest to find out how the locals stay fit and healthy. And I can report, that already I’ve see some fantastic things here in Thailand.

From Bangkok I travelled to Sangkhlaburi, 5 hours west of the capital and at the border to Myanmar. The small, idyllic village, which was recommended to us by our local Thai restaurant in London, lies at a beautiful lake where everybody goes for a swim – not only an awesome way to wake up in the morning but also a great way to tone your body and an excellent cardiovascular workout as well. Swimming also helps in weight control (it burns 3 calories a mile per pound of bodyweight) and can relieve your mind from stress and tension, fueling your energy level to a large extent.

The village consists mainly of wooden shacks so I was taken by surprise when I came past an outdoor ‘gym’ after a stroll at the local market. All the machines were very colourful and it was therefore no surprise that all the school kids used it as a playground once school was over for the day.
Obviously I felt the urge to mingle with the kids and I was itching to try out all the magnificent machines in the outdoor gym. The children had a very playful approach to the different items and showed me, that even if the bike was too high for one to sit on they just stood one child on each pedal and cycled happily away. OK, this would have never gone through any health and safety inspection in the UK but hey – they had fun and I still believe this is the best approach to any exercise.

After Sangkhlaburi I traveled further up north to Chiang Mai. If anybody wants to try out different health and fitness related courses, this is the place to be: from cooking healthy Thai food to Yoga you can do almost anything. Buddhist meditation is offered in several temples. Its background is far too complex to explain nor do I consider myself as qualified (not even a far cry from it) to explain it in a few words. But as far as I understand it there are two poles to categorise Buddhist meditation and one of it is called ‘Samatha’. Samatha is focusing, pacifying and calming mediation, common to many traditions in the world, notably yoga. And boy they do yoga in Thailand! Nearly every Thai does it in the early morning hours, even before dawn. For children it’s a natural thing as their mum takes them with and as soon as they are able to stand they learn it in a playful way. The practice of yoga involves stretching the body and forming different poses, while keeping breathing slow and controlled. The body becomes relaxed and energized at the same time. Virtually everyone can see physical benefits from yoga, and its practice can also give psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and a sense of well-being, and spiritual benefits, such as a feeling of connectedness with God or Spirit, or a feeling of transcendence. Certain poses can be done just about anywhere and a yoga program can go for hours or minutes, depending on one’s schedule.

If yoga isn’t your cup of tea and you’re looking for something more fast paced and harder: how about trying out some Thai Boxing? There are places which instruct foreigners as well as Thais. Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) is referred to as ‘The Art of Eight Limbs’, as the hands, shins, elbows and knees are all used extensively in this art. To be fair – I skipped this (rather painful) part and went straight to one of the many available traditional massages for some relaxation. Chiang Mai excels in old-fashined Thai massage. The massage parlour might be just a few mattresses on the floor, but the practitioner can bend, stretch and pummel knotted bodies into jelly without New Age gimmicks. Just the right thing for me before I hit the next bus to go into Laos.

Hopefully I will be able to find as many interesting fitness/health related things to tell you all about. Therefore: stay tuned!

Gaby

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