Hello SuperChicks

Here is another fitness/health update of mine from SE Asia. Over the past 3.5 weeks I have been to Laos and since a bit more than a week I am in Vietnam. During this time I have been involved in different activities, tasted different foods and drinks and here I write down my most preferred ones.

I travelled from Thailand up to the North of Laos, 60km away from the Chinese boarder. The bus journeys in Laos are long and exhausting as the roads are in some parts dirt tracks and since the country exists out of 90% mountains they are long and windy. It won’t take you by surprise, that once off the bus, I was itching to move. After sitting for more than 8 hours in a crammed bus I knew I have to give my circulation a good kick-start. And being in Asia it didn’t take me very long to find the right tool for that: a bicycle.

Cycling facilitates blood circulation throughout the body, which carries oxygen-rich blood to all the muscles. The heavy breathing experienced after a few minutes of cycling increase the intake of oxygen, making it an effective aerobic exercise. The health benefits of cycling are being recognised around the world. Not only does it burn away body fat and getting rid of cellulite (yes – there is a cure for it!), cycling reduces the chances of heart diseases and also increases the body’s protections against various forms of diabetes and high blood pressure. Cycling can also be used as a stress-buster. Although I would recommend a scenic terrain much more than London traffic… A long, leisurely cycle on the weekend can definitely help reduce stress levels!

So I cycled 30km through hilly terrain to a scenic waterfall and back and was very pleased with myself at the end, for having put on a sweat through exercise rather more than just through the humidity.

Another possibility to get moving and experience the mountains of Laos is hiking. What a great way to get up close and personal with Mother Nature. Not only does hiking allow you to spend some quality time in the outdoors but it also maintains your body in good working condition by walking, which is really a good exercise. It improves the physical as well as mental health and the list of benefits from it is infinite. Researches show, that hiking is an excellent way to lose extra pounds and improve overall health. A short brisk walk of a few minutes  can be already sufficient. So I went on a one day hike on my birthday in the mountains of Laos through the jungle, met local mountain tribes (Khmu) and had a lovely healthy local lunch: fish, grilled in a banana leave, with cooked vegetables and tofu.

Since the country side sometimes isn’t readily available on the doorstep, why don’t you try getting off the bus or the tube a couple of three stops earlier and walk to your office? Or use it as part of your warm up to your Superchick session.

A few bus rides later – which probably took all in all 36hrs – I ended up in Halong Bay, Vietnam. Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in all different sizes and shapes – possibly Vietnam’s most famous natural attraction. So, there I was, feeling like James Bond in “Man with the Golden Gun”, sitting on a junk (a Chinese sailboat) and was wondering what will await me in Vietnam. I didn’t need to wait for very long: kayaking was on offer on my excursion and off I went. Kayaking is so much fun if you love being on the water. Smoothly the paddle breaks the water and the kayak glides soundless through the glassy sea; discovering the uninhabited islands in style from the sea.The only down side is that you’re followed by sandflies who regard you as ‘paddle-through’ food to feast on. But other than this, kayaking works nicely on your abs, arms, shoulders, back and chest and this in a high number of repetition. But whilst high numbers of repetitions are boring in the gym, the landscape distracts you while kayaking and you don’t even notice it – until the next day…

Feeling a little bit stiff from kayaking the following morning, I got up early and took part in Tai Chi. Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, is often practiced for health reasons. The slow, meditative practice helps to calm the mind and focus on senses on the present. Everyday worries can be forgotten about, to be dealt with later, giving the conscious and vital time ‘to breath’ and see everyday life in perspective. If you thought this is easy-going, think again! You’ll work up a sweat in Tai Chi practice. Forms make you stronger and more supple (great for my aches and pains from kayaking). Blood flows to the limbs and circulation is improved. Also, the flux of chi around the body has been proven to strengthen the immune system against diseases. And who doesn’t need a little bit of extra protection against colds and flues these days? Gentle postures are great for troubled knees, as vital nutrients can be delivered to the cartilage without the excessive force of many other traditional forms of exercise. Huge benefits are brought to the spine by consciously thinking about and working through a sequence of postures refined over centuries for their health benefits. Tai Chi has been found to decrease cortisol levels in the blood, eliminating mood imbalances. Aha! Finally something to control my PMS! As a spiritual martial art, it encourages peaceful interaction and understanding, as a way of life and as a means of conflict resolutions. Like all martial arts, Tai Chi seeks mastery of the external world through mastery of the self and promotes are more fulfilling, joyful life for its practitioners.

I have now seen the slow motion routines of Tai Chi often practiced in groups every morning in parks throughout Vietnam. And I truly do believe that Tai Chi keeps people so calm in the traffic of Hanoi. It’s terrifying! There are far too many honking motorbikes and cars in the narrow streets. And the only traffic rule which seems to apply is “fill the gap”. Survival tip: Walk – don’t run!Traffic doesn’t stop for pedestrians, it steers around them.

Oh – but if you now think I am only out and about trying out sports and living healthily I have to disappoint you. Far too many “Coffee Bailey’s with whipped cream” have been consumed already. Tea with sweet milk (aka condensed milk) is served daily and the highlight of my drinks so far was a “Gecko whisky with Chilly syrup” shot. Luckily I managed to stay away from snake, scorpion and black bee whisky – so far. But hey, I have still have time in SE Asia. Maybe I have more stories to tell next time.

See you all soon, Gaby

Morning Tai Chi on a Junk sailing boat

Tai Chi in Halong Bay