A Travellerspoint blog

January 2013

Ancient cities of Isaan – Phanum Rung and Phimai

December 15-16

sunny 28 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

After a nice long breakfast and a chat with Mike, one of our newfound friends from Cleveland who we met on the jungle tour the day before, we left for Phanum Rung. Phanum Rung is an ancient Khmer temple complex East of Nakhon Ratchasima and close to Buriram and Surin.

As soon as we left Pak Chong and the vicinity of Khao Yai heading eastwards Isaan revealed its true nature – endless countryside, only broken up by small dwellings, forests, lakes, rice paddies or sugarcane fields. As mentioned before, we always enjoy taking in the Thai countryside as it is so green and soothing and Isaan is no different. And again, even though we were in one of the poorest and most remote regions of Thailand, the streets are well maintained.

We arrived in Phanum Rung mid afternoon and after a quick lunch on the roadside eating my all-time Thai favorite Phad Khra Pao, we bought our entry tickets and walked into the temple area. Phanum Rung is beautifully located on top of a hill with views over the countryside and surrounded by green shrubs and forest. Since it is in “the middle of nowhere” it has a very quiet and peaceful atmosphere and we saw very few foreign tourists – it’s just not on the main circuit of Thai tourist sites for foreigners. So we just walked around the temple complex, meandered along the long walkway from the east gate to the steps up to the temple.

Phanum Rung Wikipedia site

DSC01514.jpg (Phanum Rung historic park)

Coincidentally, on the day of our visit a Bangkok film crew shot a Thai movie production, apparently one of these historic epic movies, with lots of swords, fighting and the like. We were sitting in the shade of the trees for a while and just watched the painfully slow process of adjusting and re-adjusting the cameras, repositioning some of the poor “extras” mere inches, some of them getting really bored and starting to pick their noses. The obvious “star” of the movie was this 6ft 3 tall, muscular handsome guy with long hair (actually a hair piece as we saw them readjusting it) who tried to look so cool it could have frozen all of Thailand. It was quite fun to watch this unfold and in the breaks some of the scantily clad extras were more than happy to pose with tourists for photos.

DSC01605.jpgDSC01608.jpg (Movie set at Phanum Rung)
DSC01525.jpg (Actors/extras from the movie set)

Besides the fun we had with watching the movie set we really enjoyed Phanum Rung and both decided after our little round trip that it was our favorite temple. The peaceful atmosphere, beautiful temple ruins itself, the layout of the place and grounds and the position on top of the hill will leave a long lasting memory as one of the “temple highlights” of Thailand for us. Once we paused for a while and took in the whole setting and scenery it actually felt like a former spiritual place unlike some other, more commercialized temples we’ve seen across Thailand and Asia.


But it was time to leave Phanum Rung and make our way towards Buriram where we had booked a small hotel for the night. It took about an hour from Phanum Rung to Buriram and driving through the countryside at sunset was almost “magical”, the last rays of the sun turning the rice paddies, little lakes and small villages into a picture perfect backdrop for our adventure through Isaan.

DSC01773.jpgDSC01802.jpg (Isaan countryside)

It was already pitch dark when we arrived in Buriram, which is a very typical little town (and province) in the middle of the Isaan region although it is still very close to the Cambodian border. Many people in this region speak several languages or dialects - Thai, the Isaan dialect which is almost a separate language as well as Khamen or Khmer, the language of Cambodia. So, it doesn’t get much more Northeast than this.
Using our GPs and a map we bought before our trip we actually found the street and our hotel relatively quickly and we checked in to our room, which turned out to be the most expensive one during our whole trip through Isaan – we actually paid a whopping US$45 for a nice, large clean room including balcony. The hotel even has a nice pool – the only one in Buriram by the way – and it has a nice restaurant that serves Thai and Italian food, including a large selection of pizzas. The hotel is called “Muang Pizza & Resort Buriram” and many locals just call it the “Pizza Hotel” since it is still the only place in Buriram where you can get a decent Pizza.

DSC01619.jpg (Our room at the "Pizza Hotel" in Buriram)

We got to know the owner a little bit and had a chat with him. He’s a Dutch guy and married a girl form Buriram so they both manage the hotel together. Like so many other stories in Thailand, their story is very similar but also somewhat different, “same, same but different” as many Thaissay: Boy (or often man and in many cases old, ugly man) meets Isaan girl in Bangkok – mostly in a beer or gogo bar - he falls in love (she falls in love with the little money he has), they marry and in many cases it doesn’t last very long for any number of reasons. In their case, however, it seemed to work really well. They were both! attractive and relatively young, they had been living together for a couple of years in Bangkok before they decided to move to Buriram, the hometown of the girl, to build a small business. They started out with a Pizza place after some research and finding out that there’s good demand for Pizza but no “Pizzeria” in Buriram. And they were right, the little business took off and after a couple of years they bought some land and built this very nice small hotel where we were staying. He was managing the hotel and his wife was doing administration, reception and the like…and probably managing most of the staff in the “appropriate Thai style” whenever needed. So it sounded like a really nice success story and we both wished them all the luck for their future.

We were getting pretty hungry after we checked in and we decided to go out and not have Pizza in the hotel restaurant – it just doesn’t feel right to us not to have Thai food in places like this and we wanted to sample some of the local fare. So we just took a little walk and not far from our hotel was a little outside eating place where we stopped. It had a nice outside kitchen, a little bamboo style bar and a large screen showing English Premier league football. Thais are crazy about football and especially the English Premier league. You can get pretty much any PL game on some of the many satellite channels in Thailand and most restaurants and bars have screens or flat screen TVs showing just this. So we felt right at “home” and ordered some of our Thai favorites Phad Khra Pao, som tam thai (spicy papaya salad), tom yam goong and Leo beer, which is my particular favorite. Food was very tasty and the folks at the restaurant were very friendly, only one person speaking some broken English but that, together with our broken Thai (at least we know the names of the food we like), pictures on the menu and many hand signals we were perfectly able to communicate.

Totally satisfied we took a nice long walk in the relatively “cool” air (approx. 25 degrees celsius) and since it was a Saturday night we decided to have a night out in town. Buriram actually does have a little bar and nightclub area in the middle of town but don’t expect it to be anything like Bangkok or Pattaya (or many other larger cities in Thailand for that matter). It’s a string of about 20 small bars and a couple of night/dance clubs and we counted approximately 7-8 foreigners overall. Other than that it was a young Thai crowd going out and having fun. While we were having drinks in one of the bars, we curiously observed a group of 4 young women who were “getting ready” for the night. They all had a small snack but ordered a large bottle of whiskey and soda water. Before changing location to the adjacent nightclub they each must have gulped down 3-5 glasses (by the way regular water not whiskey glasses) of whiskey just watered down with some soda water. Surprisingly, none of them showed any signs of intoxication so we figured that couldn’t have been the first time they were doing this. But ordering a bottle of whiskey for a small group of people, no matter whether men or women, is very, very common in Thailand. You can still get a decent bottle of whiskey for a reasonable price and quite honestly, “it gets you drunk cheaper and quicker” than drinking e.g., wine or beer. Beer is actually priced at a premium rate compared to many of the whiskeys in Thailand. At the low end a cheap bottle of Thai whiskey costs the same as a bottle of beer. So there’s a real economic reason for the high consumption of whiskey in the country and it is indeed one of the biggest markets for many whiskey produces like “Johnny Walker”.
So we really enjoyed our night out and the people – e.g., staff at some of the bars – were all very friendly albeit not able to hold any meaningful conversation in English. When we decided to call it a night just after midnight we had a hard time finding a taxi or tuk tuk as this is not what you’d call a bustling nightlife city but we finally managed to round up a couple of guys with their motorcycle taxis who raced each other to take us back to the “Pizza Hotel”. By the way, taking motorcycle taxis is often very cheap and quick and, although it doesn’t always feel safe, is really good fun. Just tuck your knees in when they navigate through heavy rush hour traffic and don’t worry too much about the fact that the only person wearing any form of protective gear, i.e. helmet, is the driver.

The next day we had a lot of driving to do since we wanted to reach Nongkai, which is almost 500 km from Buriram. So we left Buriram early and a stopped in Phimai, the location of one of the other big Khmer temple complexes in Isaan.

Phimai Wkipedia site

DSC01638.jpgDSC01655.jpg (Phimai Historic Park)

Different from Phanum Rung, the Phimai historical park is in the middle of a small town called Phimai but once inside the temple complex, it is almost as peaceful and quiet as Phanum Rung. If you have been to Siem Reap and the temples of Anchor Wat in Cambodia you will notice the many similarities between the architecture and layout of the temples. But while Anchor Wat, due to its sheer size and the many temples surrounding it, is certainly impressive, we enjoyed Phanum Rung and Phimai as much or more than Anchor Wat. One reason is also the fact that the Khmer temples in Isaan are much less known to at least foreign tourists so you don’t have to deal with the hordes of European and Asian tourists on their photo safaris.
In that context (i.e., hordes of tourists travelling to Anchor Wat) here’s a little fun I’d like to share with you and hopefully it will make you chuckle as much as me. It’s a pictogram found at the airport restrooms in Siem Reap which welcomes many tourists now from countries and regions that are not familiar with the concept of urinals.


Anyway, we really enjoyed the temples in Phimai as well and after a couple of hours wandering the grounds and some sweet and spicy crepes form one of the street vendors we left Phimai and headed towards Nongkai. It was quite a long ride and we passed typical Isaan cities like Khon Khaen and Udon Thani before we reached Nongkai in the dark. We hoped we would find the little hotel we booked on agoda.com as easily as the one in Buriram but this time was much more difficult. We drove around for almost an hour, frequently stopping, looking at our map, checking the GPS and asking a few tuk tuk drivers. We finally found it by way of “eliminating” every little alleyway off the main road where we suspected the hotel to be. The reason it was so hard to find for us was because it was tucked away at the end of a little alley and the sign on the main road was written in Thai only. We checked in and were again pleasantly surprised to find a clean, comfortable room with ensuite bathroom, TV and little balcony for US$ 14. We were also immediately greeted by the two puppies of the owner, dressed in camouflage shirts and named King and Kong; they were just adorable and followed us everywhere we went.

DSC01693.jpg (Baan Tawan Hotel in Nongkai) DSC01686.jpgDSC01691.jpg (Our friends King and Kong)

After the long ride we were quite hungry and walked around for a bit in this sleepy little border town and ended up in the most “popular” place around the corner from our hotel, which was a Chinese & Thai open air restaurant. Again, delicious food was had by all and we ended our day with a very strange encounter that I will tell you more about in our next blog entry “Nongkai – the Visa Run city”.

Posted by Elmar123 08:50 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes art buildings historic Comments (0)

Khao Yai National Park

December 13 - 15

sunny 28 °C
View World Tour 2012/13 on Elmar123's travel map.

Our first stop on our tour through Isaan was Khao Yai, Thailand’s oldest national park. We didn’t know what to expect but we were very pleasantly surprised by the area around the park and the many safari tour options that were on offer. The drive from Bangkok to Khao Yai only takes about 2-3 hours and you drive mostly along the typical Thai “strip malls” and store fronts, so it really doesn’t give you the impression that you are officially entering Isaan and are in Nakhon Ratchasima province. Nakhon Ratchasima is actually called Korat (spoken “Kolaat”) by most Thais.

In terms of accommodation we were curious as to what to expect. We had booked a small bed and breakfast place called “Bobby’s” online through Agoda due to the consistently very high ratings it received by other travelers. The place is actually in Pak Chong, a little outside of the park and we had a hard time finding it. We knew from the descriptions online that it is close to the large “Tesco” in Pak Chong right on the highway. So once we located the Tesco we drove around and tried to find the place based on the location on the online map. As we have learned many times before, looking for an address, even with a GPS which we had with us in the car, is almost always a fruitless exercise since street names are being spelled in many different ways and often you have the same street name for different streets. So, our challenge driving through Isaan was to locate our hotels based on descriptions online and attempts to get as close as possible to the indicated positions on online maps. We also used the Google map on our phone which proved invaluable in locating specific places and we got pretty good at finding our way around without turn by turn directions provided by the GPs. The GPS was mainly helpful to get from one city to the next but once there it mostly reached its limits.

So, back to our search for “Bobby’s” place. From the Tesco we drove around the few streets surrounding the area but just couldn’t find the place or any sign directing us to it, so I finally called and spoke with Mike, the owner. Within 5 minutes he picked us up with his scooter at the parking lot at Tesco’s and from there it was only about 2 minutes to get to the hotel. It’s a small residential area squeezed between the highway on one side and a main road with some restaurants on the other and there’s a reason why we couldn’t find it – the complete lack of any sign or advertisement. Typically that’s not a problem since most travellers come by bus or train and Mike always picks them up at the bus or train station. It’s still relatively uncommon that tourists drive through regions like Isaan by rental car. We found it very convenient though and it makes you very, very flexible. It’s more expensive than the cheap buses but again, rental cars are actually not that expensive in Thailand and the road system is excellent.

Once we arrived at “Bobby’s”, we checked in to our room and were pleasantly surprised by its size, cleanliness and relative comfort given the room was exactly US$ 7!!!. It had a large bed, en suite bathroom a TV with DVD player and even a small outside sitting area. The place looks a bit like a motel in the middle of the US in the 60’s.

DSC01275.jpgDSC01280.jpg (Our US$ 7 room at Bobby's)

Mike, the owner, is a German who’s been living in Thailand for more than 20 years and he’s been married to a Thai woman called Meehow. The two of them are running the place after their partner, actually Mike’s stepson, went back to the UK where he came from. Meehow, however, seems to do most of the work, including great cooking in the morning and evening. Mike seems to have more of a “socializing” role, picking people up and dropping them off and keeping them happy with cheap beer in the evening. The name “Bobby” seems to be a bit of a sensitive issue and we could only find out bits and pieces but obviously it is the name of a son who passed away very young for some reason.

DSC01281.jpg (Mike, the owner of Bobby's)

Anyway, once there we could also book a jungle tour through Mike since they run a small tour operation as well and some of the guides are family members, too. So it is quite a compelling little business they are running from this place, cheap but acceptable accommodation, jungle tours and safaris and a good little restaurant with some of the best simple home cooked Thai food we’ve had in Thailand.

We booked a full-day tour for the next day so we were all set for now. So we drove around a bit to explore the area and drove towards the park entrance. It is a beautiful area with small villages, many restaurants and small hotels but also some gaudy looking resorts and condos for sale – probably to affluent Bangkok residents given the proximity to the capital. One of the most bizarre places has to be the development of an Italian looking village, all built in what Thais would think Tuscany looks like, with earth tone houses, water fountains and big gates.

IMG_0361.jpg (Tuscany in Thailand)

Once we went back to “Bobby’s” we ordered dinner and within 10 minutes had a great Thai meal in front of us, sitting in the little backyard restaurant with view into Meehow’s little kitchen. She’s a master in the kitchen, every ingredient neatly pre-arranged and she prepares every single serving fresh in her wok, which is meticulously cleaned after each portion. Together with a few Leo beers and interesting conversations with Mike and other fellow travellers it was hard not to feel like, “it can’t get any better”.

DSC01498.jpg (Meehow at work)

If you have followed us on our blog and have read the last entry about our fast/detox in Koh Chang you might wonder what happened to the post-fasting process. Now, everybody who is somewhat familiar with how fasts typically work knows that you are supposed to slowly break your fast over a couple of days and eat light food, typically vegetables and fruit, for about a week or longer afterwards. You also should stay away from alcohol for a while. Obviously that hasn’t happened with us as you can read in this blog entry. But there was just no way on earth we would travel through places like Khao Yai and not eat the delicious food from Meehow and have a beer with it. It would have been difficult to just get raw vegetable or salad and probably even somewhat insulting – if that sounds like a lame excuse, it’s because it actually is one. So, if you are really serious about post-fasting stay in the place where you did your fast and don’t get yourself exposed to the rest of the country because the food temptations are just too delicious.

The next morning, bright and early at 6:00, we got up, had a little breakfast and went on our Songthaew (a covered pick up truck modified with benches on either side of the platform) together with about 6 fellow travellers and our guide who is actually Meehow’s son. I have to tell you first however a somewhat funny and uniquely Asian/Thai story about the breakfast we had in the morning. As said before, Meehow runs a nice little restaurant business in her backyard and breakfast is no exception. You can get pretty much anything from American, Continental and Thai breakfasts to congee, fried rice or porridge. However, one of Meehow’s young sons, who was taking the order was pretty inflexible when it came to ordering anything that was not part of the standard menu or that was a slightly different combination than the “set breakfast” options like American. I ordered an American breakfast, which was simple enough. However, Anna just wanted some toast with butter and jam. The problem was that this was not on the menu. So after a lot of back and forth we ended up ordering an “American breakfast without the eggs and bacon”, which, not surprisingly produced a satisfied smile on the face on Meehow’s son who now was able to order something from the standard menu while just omitting some items rather than having to “create” a whole new combination of items, like toast, butter and jam. Once the humor of the whole situation set in, we had to chuckle so many times about this little incident as it is so typical for Thailand and in fact many countries and people for that matter. One of our fellow travellers, Mike from Cleveland who we met at “Bobby’s” even sent us a video clip from the movie "Five Easy Pieces" with Jack Nicholson which is taking a similar situation to a whole new level of ridiculousness (Five easy pieces dinner scene).

But back to our jungle tour, which was just beautiful, interesting and educational. Khao Yai National park is lush green and its terrain very varied, from open areas of elephant grass to dense mountain rainforest. After we entered the park we stopped at a viewing point and everybody was handed some blue colored ”leech socks” since leeches and other creepy crawlers might get on or under your skin if you are not protected. And we were planning an hour long jungle hike.

DSC01286.jpg (Khao Yai Park entrance) DSC01299.jpg (Thailand's latest fashion: leech socks)

From our viewing point we also got a first glimpse of some of the wildlife in the park as we could spot two large and colorful giant hornbill birds across from us in the trees. Luckily we had some binoculars, which helped us spot some of the animals in the trees. Throughout the day we saw many of the resident monkeys, mainly macaques.

DSC01307.jpg (One of the many macaques along the way)

We also had the pleasure of watching some white gibbons up in the trees making their characteristic noise, which one person described as a noise that reminds you of “spaceships”, or whatever you think the noise is that spaceships would make.

On our jungle hike we also spotted some snakes, including a green leaf viper and giant black squirrels who are the size of midsize dogs…never even heard of them before. Other than that we could see some of the different types of deer that live here as well as a couple of Asian water monitors, which are very common across Thailand and which can get up to 9 feet long. We’ve even seen some in the middle of Bangkok swimming in one of the khlongs (canals).

DSC01350.jpg (Green leaf viper) DSC01474.jpg (Asian water monitor) DSC01476.jpg (Deer)

Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the approximately 200 wild elephants living in the park or tigers which are extremely rare. At sunset we drove up to the highest point in the park with a splendid view over its rainforest and valleys. We returned back to Bobby’s where we had another delicious meal before we fell into our beds tired but totally satisfied.

DSC01431.jpg DSC01445.jpg DSC01464.jpg (Heo Suwat waterfal in Khao Yai) DSC01489.jpg (View over Khao Yai National Park at dusk)

So, if you are ever travelling in this region or maybe even just want to take a break form the urban stress of Bangkok for a few days, consider Khai Yai as a terrific getaway. We were very pleasantly surprised to find this paradise and tropical rainforest so close to Bangkok.

Posted by Elmar123 08:55 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes waterfalls mountains trees animals birds Comments (0)

Exploring Thailand’s Heartland–Isaan and the Central Plains

December 13 – 20 (Days 48 – 55)

sunny 28 °C
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We’ve come to Thailand for several years now and have been here probably more than 10 times but we have never visited the center of Thailand and the most populous of all regions, Isaan. Isaan, or the Northeast, is also the poorest region of Thailand and is often associated with the “Red Shirts”, who demonstrated in Bangkok a couple of years ago until a military crackdown cost over 90 lives. The Isaan region also mainly fuels the vast sex industry of Thailand with young women who don’t see a future in Isaan and who often have to support big families back home who have a hard time making ends meet.

Isaan and the Central Plains are also regions where you can find many of the manufacturing plants supplying products to e.g. Japanese, European and some American car manufacturers as well as companies like Jim Thompson, which produce silk for expensive pashminas and the like.

So, while we have heard many stories about this region we have never visited it and thought that on our extensive visit this time it would be a shame to miss out on a chance to get to know the “real Thailand” and not just the Thailand of the beaches in the South, hills in the North and Bangkok, which is in many ways unique anyway. Finally, we also saw it as an opportunity to get away from the typical tourist razzmatazz of most places in Thailand for a few weeks which you can grow tired of.

So our plan was to travel through Isaan for about five days, maybe catch a boat on the Mekong in Nongkai and make our way back to Bangkok through the Central Plains with the two old capitals of Sukothai and Ayutthaya. The following chapters describe the different stages of our Trip to Thailand’s Heartland.

Posted by Elmar123 08:15 Archived in Thailand Tagged landscapes people sites historic Comments (0)

Detox on Koh Chang

December 4 – 12 (Days 39 – 47)

sunny -32 °C
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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.

08A843A52219AC681710141BD115766D.jpg (On the ferry from Trat to Koh Chang)DSC01187.jpg (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.

DSC01221.jpgDSC01219.jpg (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.

DSC01189.jpg (Entry to Thor's Place)
DSC01212.jpg (Thor and one of his staff)
DSC01217.jpg (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.

IMG_0345.jpg (Our daily Fasting/Detox schedule)

Information about Fasting/Cleansing programs and methods

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.

DSC01252.jpg (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.

08C4CFF62219AC6817B05366E197F155.jpg (The pool area at the Spa in Koh Chang) DSC01236.jpg (View of the restaurant at the Spa in Koh Chang) DSC01227.jpg (View of the pond and mangroves at the Spa in Koh Chang)
DSC01244.jpg (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.

Posted by Elmar123 04:59 Archived in Thailand Tagged beaches spa relaxation Comments (1)

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