December 4 – 12 (Days 39 – 47)
04.12.2012 - 12.12.2012 -32 °C
Well folks, it’s been a while since our last blog entry and we’ve just come back from our “Christmas-break” (it’s kind of a break from a break ☺) so it’s time to update our travel journal.
After a while in Bangkok carousing through the city, not having been as physically active as we should, not having eaten the healthiest food (although even the “bad” Thai food is considerably healthier compared to the typical Western fare and fast food) and generally not having taken care of our bodies enough we felt compelled to reverse this trend – at least for while.
We’ve been thinking and talking about this for some time and we did some research in terms of hotel and price options for detox programs. A couple of years ago we heard about the many detox options in Thailand from a friend in Singapore who spends one week every year to fast and detox in Thailand and said that it keeps her healthy and energized for a whole year. So, although we were not sure what exactly to expect, we gave fasting and detox a shot and booked a 7-day full fast/detox program at “The Spa Koh Chang”. We didn’t want to mess around with the two or three day semi-fasting programs; we felt they are for “sissies” and it’s time for us to man up and get serious about getting rid of all the toxins that have accumulated in our bodies.
“The Spa” is a small spa chain and the sister properties are in Chiang Mai and Koh Samui. We’ve been to all of these tourist locations and were open to considering any location but we found the proactive customer service in Koh Chang compelling enough to book there. We often make a decision for or against a hotel restaurant or other more “personal” purchases based on how we feel about the people we first interact with. And the spa in Koh Chang (The Spa in Koh Chang website) was the only property that contacted us by phone and our friendly customer relationship manager “Beer” was happy to discuss all possible options for the fast/detox program and accommodation. He even offered a small discount and overall the package sounded the most compelling. If you compare the price we paid for the full week detox including accommodation with Western prices in Europe or the US you would typically only get to day 2 of your program before you’d need to pony up some more money in order to continue.
We had been on the island of Koh Chang (btw – "Koh" means “island” in Thai and "Chang" means "elephant") a couple of times before so we knew the island and knew that we liked it. However, we hadn’t stayed at this particular place and on the eastern side of the island, which is much less developed than the western side. Besides a few local villages and individual simple teak wood homes in the forest and mangroves there are only a handful of small hotels and resorts and not much other tourism to speak of, so we were in for some quiet and secluded time.
In order to be at least somewhat flexible we rented a car and drove to Koh Chang, which is always a very pleasant experience. We love driving through Thailand ourselves as the streets are good, even in the most remote areas of the country, and Thai drivers are not as reckless as in some other Asian countries. Even driving in Bangkok is manageable and doesn’t give you an instant heart attack if you just go with the flow and don’t wait for others to wait for you. But driving though Thailand’s countryside is just utterly soothing, typically passing a lush green roadside and only interrupted by the storefronts of the towns and villages along the way which all look pretty much alike.
We make sure that whenever we rent a car we buy one of the flower garlands from one of the street vendors that wait for cars at major intersections and traffic lights. They only cost 20 THB and are nice to look at, smell good (compared to your typical “wonder tree”) and supposedly protect you from harm, i.e. accidents – if you are a superstitious person. At any rate, it’s a nice tradition and it keeps many flower sellers employed. It is a real service, they never try to cheat you and they stand in the exhaust fumes of cars all day to make ends meet. We are always more than happy to support these folks.
The journey from Bangkok to Koh Chang takes between 4 and 6 hours, depending on traffic and the ferry schedule. You need to take a ferry between Trat and Koh Chang and if you are lucky you don’t have to wait at the pier and can drive straight onto the ferry. Once you arrive at the pier in Koh Chang it’s about 20-30 more minutes to get to the Spa in Koh Chang.
(On the ferry from Trat to Koh Chang) (Sunset behind Koh Chang)
We arrived at the spa at around 6:00 PM, checked in and had a quick first briefing with Beer, our customer service rep. He’s originally from Chiang Mai and has been transferred here. He explained to us that we would need to take a litmus test (i.e. pH test) the next morning in order to assess our acidity level because fasting is most effective when started at an alkaline body state. So we went to the restaurant overlooking the little pond and mangroves and had some vegetable soup and fruit, something we pretty much ate for the last couple of days already.
(Our room at the Spa resort; selling for roughly US$ 60/night))
The next morning, bright and early at 7:00 AM we went down to the “Colema Center” where we met Beer. He gave us some small strips that we needed to put on our tongues for a few seconds to see how acidic or alkaline we were. Anna’s was still pretty much all yellow which indicated that she was still fairly acidic. Mine was only slightly green, which was a bit more alkaline but still not enough to start the detox. So Beer recommended doing one more day of pre-fasting, only eating raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices. So that’s what we did although we were a little frustrated that we couldn’t start right away. Since we had the day free we used the opportunity to drive to the western side of the island and spend the day there. We drove to White Sand Beach and visited “Thor’s Place” (Thor's Place link), which is a little bar/restaurant right at the beach. We had met Thor and his brother, who run the place together, on our previous visits to Koh Chang and always had long conversations with them. Thor used to be an investment banker in Bangkok and he decided with this brother to buy this small place in Koh Chang and live a much more tranquil and less stressful life. We said our hellos and caught up an all the news. Thor is always asking about Christina, who was with us when we traveled to Koh Chang the first time. It’s good to meet some “old friends” in places like this.
(Entry to Thor's Place)
(Thor and one of his staff)
(Thor's brother/chef at Thor's place and...one of his staff)
Unfortunately we couldn’t eat any of the delicious food they are serving since we were on our pre-fast so we stuck to lemon juice and took a long walk up and down White Sand beach, which was busy but not crowded. Despite the ongoing development of hotels etc. White Sand beach is still a beautiful and relaxing place to take a walk at and you still find very quiet little coves and bays at the fringes of the bay. One our way back we stopped at a little outside massage place and got our “massage fix” for the day, relaxing in the shade on the beach…life can be good!
Back at the hotel we had a light dinner a “Spa salad”, which tasted like the best salad we’d ever had. In fact, the restaurant at the Spa in Koh Chang has a reputation as one of the best restaurants in this part of Thailand and many visitors come to stay here to experience the great and healthy food choices while relaxing in the mangroves. We went to bed this evening hoping that we could start our fast tomorrow.
The next morning, again bright and early at 7:00 AM, we went to the Colema Center to take our litmus test. Surprisingly Anna’s test hadn’t changed much from the previous day, which indicated an acidic state, but mine was turning dark green very quickly, which means alkaline. So the question was, what should we do? Would we wait for another day, which meant that we couldn’t do the full 7-day fast, or would we just start? Anna was pretty adamant that she wanted to start that day and after a bit of back and forth we decided to give it a go. We were advised though that there’s a chance of a “crisis” if you start a fast in an acidic state but after we interrogated a bit what “crisis” really means we felt better. “Crisis” in their definition could be anything from bad dreams to headache to not sleeping well, so it sounded like the effects of a bad hangover. Since we couldn’t drink any alcohol for the next ten days anyway we thought that we were more than ready to handle it☺
So off we went. The first order of the day was to gulp down a “detox drink”, which is a mix of some indefinable juice, some fibers (husk) and bentonite clay to absorb toxins in your body. It didn’t even taste that bad. We had to get one of these detox drinks every 3 hours. At the same time we were handed out our 32! Pills that we had to swallow per day – a mix of herbal supplements and “chompers” and we had to take 6 pills every 3 hours. In addition, in our package of pills was a “probiotic” tablet that we had to take in the evening just before going to bed in order to repopulate beneficial bacteria in the intestines. And from now on, for the next 7 days, we were not allowed to “chew”, meaning that we couldn’t eat anything, were only allowed to drink water and juices and drink a clear vegetable broth in the evening. It was recommended we drink a couple of coconuts per day, which we happily obliged to since they were just delicious at this place and very refreshing on a hot day.
(Our daily Fasting/Detox schedule)
Now, there’s one more thing that we had to get familiar with on our first day of fasting and this was how to administer a colema, or colonic enema. On our first day of our fast in the afternoon we were shown a video in the colema center that taught us how to set up the “Colema Board” in our bathroom and how to administer the enema. It looked less intimidating than expected and once we were fully educated we received two large buckets filled with a concoction of fresh ground coffee. We also received some of the other pieces of “equipment” you need to do a colema and went to our room. Back at our room a couple of Colema Boards were already waiting for us so we were all set to do our first colema.
(The colema setup in our bathroom)
I won’t go into much more detail here but suffice it to say that it is quite an experience to shoot up a gallon of coffee water up ya bum twice a day for a week. Fortunately the whole process is much less uncomfortable than we had expected and after a couple of days you actually get used to it and it becomes a routine. It all helps with cleansing your body and getting rid of toxins that your body eliminates during the fasting. One of the effects that it had on me though was that I tended to be pretty wired after a colema and it obviously was due to the caffeine that your body absorbs while doing the colema. This also contributed to the fact that I couldn’t fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning and had a hard time getting up once I fell asleep – until the next colema at 10 AM in the morning that is.
Over the next 7 days we fully immersed ourselves in the almost meditative routine of a detox program, our schedule dictated by detox drinks, pills, colemas, steam saunas, yoga or Ampuku massages. An Ampuku massages is a special deep tissue massage of your stomach intended to stimulate your digestive system so that toxins are transported out of your system even faster. It felt actually pretty good and the open massage room high up in the trees overlooking the forest and pond was wonderfully relaxing. I just should have used the bathroom before the massage because somebody pushing your stomach down to your spine while having a full bladder can be pretty excruciating.
The rest of the time, in between all the activities of our “hectic” detox schedule, we spent reading at the pool, chatting with some of the other guests, taking walks in the evening, renting bicycles or a canoe and catching up on our Skyping with friends and family at home – so the ultimate relaxation experience. We also drove to White Sand beach a couple of time, packing up our detox drinks, which we mixed up when it was time to drink them, and pills so we could stay at least until our next colema which is understandable less portable than fluids and pills. But we spent a wonderful afternoon at this little secluded beach with white sand and a few little huts and visited friend Thor a couple of times to have a fruit juice and take a jealous glimpse at the food of other guests.
(The pool area at the Spa in Koh Chang) (View of the restaurant at the Spa in Koh Chang) (View of the pond and mangroves at the Spa in Koh Chang)
(At the fringes of White Sand Beach on Koh Chang)
But let me just talk a bit more in general about the whole detox/fasting experience and possibly also remove a few fears or myths that are out there. First of all, even a 7-day fast/detox is not “starving” your (healthy) body. Many people do 2-week detox/fasts without major problems. We actually lost a few pounds during the week but part of this is excess water in your fat tissue that will be replaced once you go back to a “normal” diet.
We also never felt excessively hungry during the whole 10 days of pre-fasting, fasting and post-fasting. It’s part mind-set and part getting used to having an empty stomach. Unlike some others, at least based on reports you can read from fasters talking about their experience, we never experienced total euphoria after a few days of fasting. Likewise, we never fell into any kind of serious depression, states of prolonged anger or aggression. Throughout the whole time we felt pretty “normal” and relaxed. Obviously the environment and relaxing activities we did contributed to it. So overall, we didn’t experience any “crisis” that some people report when they have done several day fasts. The one thing we both experienced towards the end of the fast was slight exhaustion – a few stairs felt like climbing Mount Everest - but that seems to be appropriate after not having eaten for 6 or 7 days. So we wouldn’t recommend doing a fast like this while you are working a normal, stressful job. Take a time out, immerse yourself fully in it, fill your days with enjoyable things and you will come out of a fast refreshed and renewed – you are actually giving your body a bit of a fresh and clean start. The “experts” actually recommend doing one of these 5-7 days fasts once per year and having a day or so every two weeks where you don’t eat or just eat fruit and drink fruit juices or clear vegetable broth. We are definitely recommending it and will for sure fast/detox again in the future.