Thailand – The Land Of Smiles

Want a holiday from which you come back feeling inspired and rejuvenated?

Then look no further than Thailand – the land of smiles.

Because of its reasonable prices, outstanding weather and warm hospitality, Thailand is a top destination for those looking to learn something on their holiday.

Thai cooking, Thai massage and Muay Thai boxing are popular cultures of study that can be undertaken in a day or over an entire holiday.

I went in search to find a healthy balance between an activities based break as well as some serious pampering.

Thailand offers everything – fascinating culture, some of the world’s finest beaches, mind blowing (sometimes mouth burning!) cuisine, great shopping and real value for money.

In fact it’s been described as an ‘addictive” country because you can’t help keep coming back for more.

And on this trip, I wanted an extension of Thailand to take home with me by acquiring new skills such as Muay Thai boxing, learning how to cook and meditate.

Full of inspiration and desire to soak everything up like a sponge, my first stop was straight into the lap of luxury at The Shore at Katathani.

This beach front pool villa resort is located on Kata Noi Beach in Phuket and like all the villas, mine too featured a private infinity pool, sunken lounge, and a panoramic view of the clear blue sea.

Muay Thai Boxing

I had to literally tear myself away from the room to attend my Muay Thai boxing lesson which had been scheduled by the hotel staff.

I had two trainers who explained to me the disciplines of Muay Thai boxing, which uses feet, arms, fists and knees, has caught on in many countries.

Trainers like mine, undergo long periods of specialised training and are immensely fit and strong despite their slight build.

It comes as no surprise when much larger men without this training find themselves on their backs in a few seconds when up against these steely-muscled fighters.

After a brief demonstration, I had to emulate these moves which looked far easier from where I was sitting.

So I punched and kicked, and rotated using my elbows and fists just like my trainers.

Unfortunately I didn’t really convince them I was in control and a mere 10 minutes later I had broken into a dripping sweat. Luckily I was able to blame the soaring temperatures for that.

Still, I must’ve impressed my trainers a bit as they commented on how mighty some of my punches were.

All this boxing took a toll on my appetite, so it was just as well that the evening meal was a dine around menu at the Shore’s finest restaurants.

Sampling The Menu

The seven course feast began at the La Scala Restaurant with a hickory smoked duck and cherry tomato mousse followed by seared fresh yellow fin tuna and salmon salad timbale.

The next stop, a couple of minutes walk was at the Chanadda Restaurant, where we began noshing on Cappuccino of Tom Yam Ghoong, a concoction made of fresh garden herb, straw mushroom, lemon grass stick and coriander leaves.

A palate cleanser of pink guava granite ensued before I tucked into Sam Rub Thai which was a snapper fillet with tamarind sauce, soy bean braised veal cheek and massaman of chicken, served with steamed organic brown rice.

Our final “food crawl” was at the Fisherman’s Wharf, another couple of minutes walk away where I polished off a peach flambé and passion fruit soufflé and a green tea to help aid digestion.

You would’ve thought after eating all that, I would’ve undone the hard work during my boxing session, but so health conscious are the Thai’s that they had on hand the number of calories and fat I had consumed in that meal.

A total of 669 calories and 10.5g fat. Not that I was counting of course. I was on holiday after all!

Learning to Cook

It was time to learn how to cook some of that mouth watering food, so off I went to the Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant, in Phuket, to master those skills.

I was met by the chef Charles, a flamboyant character, who oozed that passion Thai people have when welcoming you with an ear to ear smile.

He explained to our group he would demonstrate dishes in front of us before we had a chance to cook them ourselves.

Charles made a number of dishes, but my favourite was Toong Tong Keaw Waan, crispy golden parcels stuffed with green curry prawn and chicken.

These looked so complicated but with the guidance of our chef, I was able to get them looking almost as good as his.

It’s just as well, because all the dishes I cooked were to be my lunch as part of the day’s activities.

I left a contented woman armed with a number of recipes which I have promised myself I will have a bash at when I return home.

Food for the soul is just as important as food for our bellies, so off I went to take time out to meditate.

Time To Meditate

For this I had to fly to Bangkok to attend the Meditation Study and Retreat Center in Yuwarachrangsarit.

I was met with Hanit, who was to give us an insight into meditation before guiding us through a short program.

Hanit told us about insight meditation, a way to purify the mind, to get rid of sorrows, physical and mental sufferings and understand the truth of life.

It was really hard to squeeze such a vast amount of information into just three hours, but it definitely made me think that I should regularly take a breather from my hectic life.

Hanit said everyone should meditate even it’s for five minutes at a time so that we can be peaceful and tranquil in the moment.

We were shown two forms of meditation. The most common one whereby you close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing and the other where you took small footsteps.

We had to walk in a straight line putting one foot firmly in front of the other before the other foot was lifted off the ground.

The whole process would involve around concentrating on your feet. Any other thought that popped in the head was to be ignored and banished.

We had to do this in a confined space, turning direction as we neared the end of the room, for a full five minutes.

I had been instructed not to itch or fumble at any point otherwise it would defeat the purpose of the meditation.

Typically, I had an itch on my nose within 30 seconds of entering this meditative state, I must’ve looked silly but I had make scrunched up faces to stop the itch.

It was really hard to ignore but I did my best to hold out as long as possible. The tutor said that this would come with practice and time.

And Time to Relax At A Spa

Thais take every aspect of their health very seriously, so a trip to Chiva Som International Health Resort in Hua HIn, some three hours drive from Bangkok, was welcomed.

This was my full day of pampering with pretty much back to back massages following an initial consultation to tailor my needs.

Chiva Som, a hit with celebs like Kate Moss and Elle Macpherson, offers a wide range of wellness programmes.

Spa aficionados are well catered for with more than 200 treatments and 70 therapists.

After my hectic week, I decided to have a full body, a deep tissue and a Thai head massage.

I must have been completely exhausted as I remember a couple of times nodding off only to be awoken up with my own snoring!

It was embarrassing but I was told this was normal with clients and it was a good sign that I was fully relaxed.

And as I lay there reflecting on my break I wondered whether I would I be practising some of the skills I have learned back home?

I decided to mull it over a massage I planned to book on my return.

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