Happy couple on the tropical beach of Phi Phi island at sunset in Southern Thailand.
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
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Thailand Offers a Place to Unplug & Unwind

7 min read
Published on Feb 06, 2019
Christian Baines
By Christian BainesContributing Writer

Relax, Rejuvenate, and Refresh are Goway’s key pieces of advice to Globetrotters planning to enjoy Thailand in the coming year. With so many wellness programs on offer on a Thailand vacation (including a few new ones from Goway for 2019), it’s easy to bring some of those health goals you set in January to fruition, even in a far off land.

But what does "wellness tourism" mean?

For one thing, it’s big bucks. People are taking their health and wellbeing seriously no matter where they are in the world. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry is now estimated to be worth over 4.2 trillion dollars. That’s trillion with a "T." Of that multi-trillion dollar figure, 639 billion of it is spent on wellness tourism alone. That’s a staggering number, but it’s not so surprising. As our access to new information about health and alternative lifestyles has increased, so too has our desire to take better care of our bodies and minds.

That’s to say nothing of how busy we all are! A 2018 Global Mobile Consumer Survey conducted by Deloitte found that the average American checks their cell phone over 52 times a day, while overall digital media usage per person clocks in at almost 6 hours a day. We are more connected than ever before, but with all those pings and prods, many travellers just want their vacation to be a "digital detox" - or at least a brief respite. After all, can’t forget posting to the ‘gram!

Young woman practicing yoga and meditation in mountains during luxury yoga retreat in Thailand
Practicing yoga and meditation in Thai mountains

The term "wellness" goes far beyond just unplugging and detoxing. Who doesn’t - in theory, at least - want to spend at least a few moments each morning meditating? (Guess we shouldn’t mention there’s an app for that?) But wellness tourism has also evolved to include spiritual journeys, for travellers seeking a higher purpose. This "transformational wellness tourism" is a booming business and a Thailand vacation offers it all. From every type of massage to fine, healthy cuisine, to long walks on the beach, to hours of thoughtful reflection in a meditation practice with a novice monk, Thailand delivers.

Since there’s a healthy overlap between the wellness traveller and the foodie, let’s start with food. With fresh ingredients and ways to learn, Thai cuisine is loved the world over for its range and complexity of flavours, from mouth-watering salads to a wide variety of sweet and spicy curries, to the broad range of delicacies and street food staples brought from China, Malaysia, and other neighbouring countries. One way to enhance any Thailand vacation is with a cooking class, and few are better than those offered at Blue Elephant Cooking School. Part of the Blue Elephant family of restaurants, which has taken its exquisite flavours to such culinary hubs as Paris and Copenhagen, the Blue Elephant Cooking School brings things back to where they all began, teaching you how to prepare classic Thai dishes in the traditional style, under the tutelage and supervision of expert Thai chefs.

Anyone can hit the many tourist attractions and big sights in Bangkok, but as major world capitals go, this is also a terrific biking city, provided you avoid the chaos of rush hour. This shouldn’t pose a problem, since to make the most of exploring on two wheels, you’ll want to visit those out of the way sights. In Bangkok, that means hidden temples, local markets with eye-opening offerings you won’t find where the tourists roam, and the remains of a defensive wall built against western colonial invaders (while it achieved most of its success with diplomacy, Thailand is the only country in Southeast Asia to have fended off European rule throughout its history). Break up the trip with a ride on one of Thailand’s iconic long tail boats. This bike tour is ideal for return visitors seeking an active Bangkok experience, or first-time visitors wanting to go beyond the usual tour itinerary.

Long tail boat in Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand
Long tail boat in Chao Phraya River, Bangkok

Northern Thailand is often promoted as the country’s "cultural heart," and from traditional massages to unique cuisine to ideal environments for yoga and meditation, there are countless opportunities to build your wellness vacation around the cities of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. In Chiang Mai, the evening is all about street food! The best way to experience it is to hit the local markets with an expert guide, who can help you sort through the countless options to create an ideal taste of Thailand’s north. Come daybreak, it’s not a bad biking city either. It’s possible to reach the centuries old temples that dot the former capital of Lana, as well as a pottery-making factory, and a special school for monks. Chiang Rai is less visited, but no less beautiful. It’s an ideal base from which to meet the long neck Karen hill tribes, renowned not just for their unusual neckwear, but for their crafting and weaving skills. You’re very close to the Burmese border here, so Chiang Rai offers a wonderful opportunity to learn about the interplay between the two cultures, both historic and current.

Royal Twin Pagodas on top of Doi Inthanon Mountain, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Royal Twin Pagodas on top of Doi Inthanon Mountain, Chiang Mai
Karen Hill Tribe Woman Making Scarves in Long Neck Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Karen tribe woman making scarves

When it comes to the islands and beaches of Thailand, there’s really not much left to say that can’t be found in gorgeous photos of the region. All that’s alluring about the country from a cultural perspective can be found here, though it’s significantly different to Thailand’s north. Enjoy massage, meditation, yoga, dietary renewal, digital detox, or one of a host of other steps you might take to wellness on your Thailand vacation. If your idea of relaxation is to help out some of nature’s most magnificent beasts, consider a visit to Elephant Hills tented camp and sanctuary, a short drive from beautiful Khao Lak.

Khao Lak beach, Thailand
Khao Lak beach

Goway has curated a handful of Thailand vacations designed to maximize wellness, and even offer transformational travel for those who desire it. They combine Bangkok with some of Thailand’s most popular, yet idyllic destinations including Chiang Rai, Khao Lak, Chiang Mai, and the island of Phuket, blending a variety of activities to suit every interest. These include cooking classes, biking tours, temple visits, discounts on spa treatments, and of course, miles of long, white beaches to take you away from the noise and stress of the everyday.

If life’s feeling all too busy, a Thailand vacation might just be just the remedy you need.

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines
Goway - Contributing Writer

Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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