Getting on a healthier, more mindful path and going to Thailand on holiday aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. There’s much more to the magical ‘Land of Smiles’ than Full Moon parties and sun-kissed intoxication. As one of the world’s most popular and welcoming Buddhist countries, Thailand has a growing reputation for its outstanding wellness retreats. In addition, it has a wealth of experiences for travellers seeking to reconnect with themselves and nature, while exploring the country which inspired Margaret Landon‘s all-time favourite novel ‘Anna and the King of Siam‘.
Read on for my top 5 tips on how to embark on a Thai holiday to recharge, de-stress and pamper the body and mind.
1) Take it slow: If time is not of the essence, opt for slow travel and take time to explore the country by car. It’s very easy and affordable to hire a driver to explore further than the main cities (or drive yourself if you’re really up for an adventure!) Avoid flying from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, as most tourists do, but hit the road instead to gain a much better insight into this wonderful country. You’ll get the chance to explore outstanding historical sites on the way to the north, that most travellers miss.
2) When in Bangkok…get a massage at the temple: No need to read between the lines here, in Bangkok you can contemplate a Buddha statue one minute and get your limbs turned and twisted in yoga-like stretches the next. Where? At Wat Po, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
For many centuries, Thai monks were the ones who performed Thai massage so it only seems natural that the Wat Po Thai Traditional Massage School, one of the most revered in the country, holds court among the century-old walls of this vast temple.
Here in a neat communal room Thai therapists use their hands, knees, legs, and feet to move every visitor’s muscle and reactivate the qi (energy lines), for less than £6.
3) Adrenalin + Zen at Ayutthaya and Sukothai: Both destinations are ancient Siam capitals: a must for any culture vulture. Ayutthaya is located an hour and a half outside of Bangkok, while the UNESCO heritage site of Sukothai is on the way to Chiang Mai (if travelling from the south). Both represent the cradle of Siam culture, the cities that would define a society for almost a thousand years.
As a firm believer in mindfulness on two wheels, I see no better way to soak in the beauty of both cities’ historical parks than by bike. Speeding leisurely among XIV century statues depicting Buddha and Khmer style temples, spirituality and fitness come together on a day of engaging exploration.
4) Connect with the hill tribes: Northern Thailand is home to several tribes; some local, some from China and Myanmar. The charm of indigenous cultures is sure to reinvigorate your passion for exploration, travel and shed a new light on what you deem important or don’t appreciate enough in your life. Find a guide that will take you up to the forests around Chiang Rai, where most of these tribes live, avoiding the commercialised villages built for tourists, whose ethics are arguable.
Join the villagers in their rural lives, stay the night, learn their stories and engage in volunteering activities. Being of help and exchanging positive energy with another person is always ‘a psychological and emotional win-win‘ – and it’s impossible to disagree.
5) The power of turquoise waters: Never underestimate the soothing effects of crystal clear sea waters on the mind. And Thailand has some of the best.
If you are adding a flop and drop ‘beach’ extension to your vacay, it needn’t be all about reading cheesy romantic novels under palm trees and sipping strawberry caipirinhas. Sea water activities and sports are truly energising plus there are multiple health benefits in bathing in mineral rich-water: from aiding the skin natural exfoliation to wound cleansing and improving blood circulation, there’s few things sea water won’t cure.
And with all the Vitamin D from that much-deserved sunshine, you’re meant to be at your healthiest and happiest. Paddle board yoga, sunset kayaking, snorkelling and diving are just a few of the ways to get fit and improve mindfulness: focus on the rhythm of your strokes, enjoy the comfort of the water holding you up, the flow of the water past your limbs… And if your hotel offers ‘Watsu’ (water shiatsu), don’t miss the opportunity to make the most of the healing power of sea water.
Leave beach rave parties to others, the real Thailand is far more exciting.
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Written by Guia Sciortino, who is part of indigoeight’s network of pr consultants, and has a passion for Asia. Currently living and studying in China, Guia shares her Far Eastern experiences on our blog. Here she reports on a recent trip to Thailand.