Active travel: Thailand

Monday, June 11, 2018

I have been lucky enough to visit seven countries in the last six months.  Holidays are a great time to explore an alternative side to the local culture and see how they stay active and healthy.  In Thailand, the sun was shining every day, which instantly made me feel a bit more cheery.  Although it was way too hot and humid to run, I was able to use a few hotel fitness rooms to complete my corrective exercise homework from Function360.  But I really wanted to spend time doing activities that I couldn't do at home (when in Rome and all that!) so I booked in for several unique Thai experiences.

Feeling tough and super sweaty

Muay Thai
The first was Muay Thai boxing, of course.  Via Trip Advisor and Google, I found Master Toddy's Muay Thai Academy which is Bangkok.  The location didn't seem too far from our hotel but the public transport and traffic in Bangkok is a bit nuts so I took a taxi there and back.  When I arrived, I was greeted by a gym member who was originally from America.  He asked me what my experience in Muay Thai was and if I spoke Thai.  I replied I have none with either.  My instructor's name was Korn, and my new friend told me Korn didn't speak much English.  I expected this and wasn't too worried. As long as I could copy the movements he made, I thought I would be able to learn the technique.  After changing into my workout clothes, I grabbed my water bottle and headed into the ring with Korn.

Perfecting those pesky front kicks

We started off with a warm up and stretching.  Korn could count to 10 in English which was really handy.  The lesson was private, which meant I always had a clear view of him and he was watching what I was doing.   After the warm up, we went through basic punching and kicking positions in slow motion and without pads.  Finally, he go out the long pieces of cloth, wrapped my hands and chose my gloves.  I was ready to fight.

Playing in the background was a recording of about 20 three minute rounds.  My guess is that there was about 60 seconds rest between bouts.  We started off by working on the basic punches and getting power into the pads Korn was holding.  Then we worked on the kicks and sorting out what my natural range of motion was. Once he was happy with the my technique, he designed various kicking and  punching combinations for me to complete during the bouts.  The gym was a large fenced in garage so the temperature and humidity was the same in the ring as it was outside.  I had brought 2L of water with me and made sure to take sips when I could.  Korn had to help a bit because the boxing gloves limited my ability to open and handle the bottle.

Korn and I in the ring

Front kicks were probably my worst skill as I just couldn't get any power behind them.  I was pretty good at a side kick though and my hook is killer.  The session was two hours long which was probably better suited for a couple or group.  Towards the end, Korn took me out of the ring and had me practice on punching bags in the workout area.  The humidity made them a little slick but I was able to work repeatedly on one move at a time.  I think I would have preferred to start with the bags and then build my way up to the rings. Although I have a certificate saying I now know the fundamental basics of Muay Thai, I didn't feel very confident after my lesson.   I am really glad I had my first lesson where Muay Thai originated though.  If you are interested in taking lessons, Master Toddy offers accomidation for those registere in his intensive training program.

Selfie while wearing my Subea mask

I am lucky enough to be able to called myself a marine biologist (yes I have seen the Sinfield episode). I spent as much time as I could in the water while in Thailand.  True, there are many places off over the world where you can snorkel, but rarely do we visit those places.  James and I did a full day snorkeling trip from Kkao Lak, and then I did a separate excursion to Coral Island on my own.  We snorkeled a few times at the Khao Lak hotel, and the bride and groom arranged a day-long boat trip with the wedding guests too.  My bum totally got sunburned and my hair was salty but my heart was oh-so-happy.   Using the Decathlon Subea face mask, it so easy to see everything around us and not have to worry about clearing the snorkel.  Our masks didn't fog up and were easy to fit without any leaks (James and I had different sizes).

These fish were everywhere and would swim right over to you.

My G-Eye 900 action camera accompanied me on every dive.  I took both photos and videos to help me remember what we saw.  There is so much video to go through! I am not very good with Latin names but could pick out general groups of fish (such as trigger, damsel, parrot, etc).  Sadly, the guides on our trips didn't know what any of the fish were so I couldn't ask them too many questions.  I was thrilled to see a puffer fish and some small cuttlefish.  Sadly, we didn't see any turtles in the wild but did visit a rescue and rehabilitation facility near Khao Lak.  If I go back, I will try to go when the sea turtle nest on the beach.  How cool would that be?

If you go to Thailand, bring your bathing suit, cover up, water shoes and lots of sunscreen.  Being on the water totally calms me.  You don't have to get in but something about being on a boat is so relaxing.  The fish come right over to you so you will see lots of different critters while you are in the shallow water.  Try not to step on the rocks and coral because you could injury yourself and the coral is very delicate.  I wore my Keen sandals the entire time, which were a bit heavy but really helpful when I got caught in a current and needed to swim to shore for a rest.

Parrotfish in the center.

Thai Massage
My brother-in-law's wife (now my sister-in-law?) invited me to a spa day with the bridal party.  I booked myself in for a Thai massage and honestly had no idea what to expect. Every massage I have ever had, you undress, lay flat on a table and are rubbbed with oil or lotion.  But for a Thai massage, you put on these pajama-like scrubs and have your feet washed before you start.  You then lay on a table and the fun begins.

All treatments start with a foot bath, even the manicures!

Thai massage combines pressing on the body (rather than rubbing) with yoga-like body positions. My massage did have some traditional massage movements, but also a lot of stretching, pulling and body movement. I tried to stay as relaxed as possible as the women bent me in all sorts of directions. I even had to sit up at the end while she stood behind me to crack my back somehow.

I was more bemused than anything by the end but also felt a little lighter and taller.  There were massage parlors everywhere in Thailand so if you want one, it isn't hard to find.  I even got a foot massage in the international terminal in the Bangkok airport before we left for home.  It was really peaceful and relaxing, which helped me sleep on the overnight flight back to London.

Bride-to-be and I had our treatments in the same room.  That was another first for me.

If you have been to Thailand, what other activities would you recomend?  Leave a comment below and let me know.

All the photos in this post were taken with my G-Eye 900.  Some were actual photos and the others are screenshots of videos.  Anyone have tips on how to make videos into photos?  I would greatly appreciate some advice.

Decathlon graciously gave me the Subea masks and G-Eye 900 to review.  All opinions are honest and my own.

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