Thailand has been one of the world’s top vacation destinations for decades. Its natural beauty, culture, and scenery speak for themselves. Before moving to Denver to start PrimeHealth, I decided to seize the opportunity to travel for a few months, and Thailand was on the top of my list. After being in Thailand for just a few weeks, I see that there are many reasons why traveling here is so popular — and it’s not just for the beaches and nature. I have found being here exceptionally enriching for the mind, body, and soul. Here are some of the ways that you can enjoy a trip to Thailand and actually leave healthier than before.
Of course, the prerequisite is that you have to enjoy Thai cuisine, which is not difficult. If you do, it’s like a taste bud party every time you eat. Here are just a few of the many beauties of Thai cuisine:
1. There are tons of anti-inflammatory veggies — like garlic, onions, and chili peppers — in almost all of the dishes. Garlic and onions are immune boosters in addition to being extremely helpful for detoxification. The capsaicin in chili peppers has been shown to help people with irritable bowel syndrome.
2. There’s fresh tropical fruit available everywhere, like dragon fruit, papaya, and pineapple. Pineapple and papaya actually contain enzymes that help you digest your food.
3. Almost every dish is entirely gluten- and dairy-free. I have had patients who are very sensitive to gluten visit Thailand and have no problem at all while eating plenty of rice noodles and even indulging in the street food.
4. A tip that I have for people who are carbohydrate-sensitive is to ensure you only eat a carbohydrate-heavy meal once per day — meaning if you eat noodles with your lunch, skip the rice with your curry for dinner, or order a salad instead. If you have a serious food intolerance like celiac disease or an anaphylactic reaction to nuts or seeds, you should discuss a plan of action with your doctor before heading abroad and eating without regard.
It can sometimes be difficult to find ways to exercise when you’re on vacation. Luckily, in Thailand, there tends to be a gym in the nicer hotels or well-stocked gyms that you can purchase a day pass for around $5. By “nicer” hotel, I mean you may splurge for the $30-60 per night room as opposed to the $10-20 one. If you’re more into taking classes, there are plenty of Muay Thai and yoga classes that are around $10 for 90 minutes. I did an amazing yoga class at Sanctuary on Koh Lanta island while overlooking the gorgeous beach. If you’re particularly into yoga, I recommend traveling to Pai, an especially crunchy little town in northern Thailand. The yoga classes, vegetarian cuisine, cute cafes, and live music are abundant there.
In addition to formal exercise, it’s easy to be active here simply by exploring on day trips with a guide to hike, snorkel, or scuba dive around this beautiful country.
Thailand is home to numerous Buddhist temples. The spirituality is evident everywhere, as most residences have “spirit houses.” These ornate spiritual offerings are meant to keep the spirits around and happy in their homes. The infamous 10-day silent meditation retreat called Vipassana was actually started in a neighboring country, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. This is a meditation retreat where one does not speak for 10 days, meditates for several hours per day, and learns how to “see things as they truly are.” I’ve heard many accounts from friends and patients who have had life-changing experiences at these retreats, sometimes curing themselves of mild forms of depression and anxiety. I will be participating in one myself next month. Of course, talk to your doctor when considering a plan to wean down on any psychiatric medications.
I am certain that a trip to Thailand can be done on any budget, with minimal planning beforehand, all while keeping up with (and even improving upon!) your health through diet, movement, and mental health routines. I hope this guide inspires you to take that trip that you’ve always wanted to take and explore parts of the world and yourself that you never have before!