Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand. Detox. Not two words you would expect to see in one sentence. It seems it would be an impossible task given the soaring number of moonshine buckets, ping pong shows, pool bars and pole dancing venues in contrast to juice bars, organic cafes and yoga studios. Not that a detox even needs those kind of things, being 1st world comforts and all, but seriously you would think its easy to live an easy, clean life on an island, right?! Let’s just say, considering everything everyone had told me, combined with my past experience in Patong, I was beside myself when I found a natural coconut ice cream bar smack bang in the middle of Bangla Road – the red light district of Phuket!
Bangla Road was exactly how I remembered it from my visit 8 years ago, however this time I have resisted the “temptation” of being blindly lured into the street stores packed to the rafters with knock off gear, nor am I inclined to hold a chin up for 2 minutes in front of a sea of unruly tourists for a free bottle of whisky – although I’m adamant that I could do it if I tried! Instead, I’m more taken by the young local group of self-taught street artists break dancing smack bang in the middle of Bangla. These kids are a sub culture, actively looking for alternative ways to make money using their SKILLS, and not waving yet another laminated Ping Pong Show price list under my unexpecting nose. Although, I kind of find that the even more impressive spectacle is the sea of the full blown sleep-walking drunkard tourist splashing their cash into the mouths of the toxic enterprises, unaware that they have stumbled into this troops breakdancing loop, bringing the show to a halt. Oblivious to the situation, they stumble on to spend their cash on some knock-off Nike gear and get their free bottle of said whisky – however the fact they fell flat on their face and a man dressed as the Thai Jack Sparrow had to help them to their feet, suggests they might not qualify.
Ah, Patong. I thought you were going to throw me the most impossible of detox challenges as I prepare for a squeaky clean month-long Yoga Teacher Training in India. Cleaning up in the heart of a toxic bubble has actually been quite the opposite. I’m pretty sure I never want to touch an alcoholic beverage again. And looking around, this lifestyle aint so kind to the body either. I don’t want to touch another piece of processed, sugar-laden, animal derived product of any description ever again. And man, am I going to work HARD at this Yoga Teacher Training. We are only given one body in this so-called life and you sure as hell better treat it right. Patong, as it turns out, you have given me a new lease on LIFE!
I might stress at this point that I am not usually the cynic. I LOVE travel, all cultures and all walks of life! I just found myself in, after a serendipitous set of circumstances (story for another time), probably the least ideal conditions for what I was trying to achieve. What I did discover from this experience, is that with an open mind and authentic sense of self you can really find your peace and joy anywhere. I met quite the eclectic collection of people including a Burmese Buddhist come jet-ski ride promoter whom I joined in meditation with, an ex-lawyer who poured his heart out about work life balance and the merit of following synchronicity vs steering your ship through life, an ex Cirque de Soleil performer who realised that her dream since 9 years of age was all an illusion, and an Indian goddess in disbelief that me, my white skin and my short white blonde hair are doing a solo trip to India for a whole month. Aren’t you scared?! No, life is too short for that!
So, what does one do while detoxing DIY style in Patong?
Wake up early!
You might just catch the tail end of the party-goers heading to bed which can be a bit disturbing, but humorous none the less. Otherwise, the streets will be pretty much all yours. Get yourself down to the beautiful Patong Beach and walk the entire stretch of its white sand. Thailand can be very dirty, but they invest a lot of efforts to keep their beaches clean due to their reliance on tourism. Grab yourself a fresh coconut from a street vendor on the way back home. Coconuts are jam packed full of natural electrolytes, are immune boosters, have antifungal, antibiotic, anti viral and antibacterial properties, and are less than $2!
Head to Ella Bistro.
This place looks like it came straight out of New York with its industrial exposed concrete slabs, reclaimed timber benches, antique Singer sewing machine tables and raw bulb light fittings. They have a wonderful menu of smoothies, salads, wraps and organic bread made on site. While you’re at it, you may as well book yourself a room here too. Upstairs is a hotel, and the rooms are top notch!
Yoga does exist here.
They have classes at Maximum Maui Thai Combat Centre, but if you are looking for something besides power yoga and you can handle the temperature, check out Bikram Yoga Phuket. They offer tourist multi-class packages if you’re thinking of taking a few classes. For the adventurous, there are other yoga studios, detox programs and meditation centres all over the island. If you want to take your yoga to new heights, you can even try your hand at aerial silks at the Mid Air Circus Arts Academy where they have a range of aerials including the flying trapeze. Talk about exhiliration!
Get yourself a Thai Massage.
For less than $10 per hour, have every bone cracked and muscle stretched for some deep detox release. When I started my detox, I had accumulated so many toxins from my travels in Europe that an intense Thai Massage had me feeling like I had the full blown flu. Every single muscle and joint was aching and I could manage nothing more than my morning walk, massage and sleep, sleep and more sleep. That’s a lot of sleep. Be okay with the down that comes with this kind of release and embrace your dark side. Give your body what it needs. If it says sleep, don’t go jam another coffee down your throat. Just sleep. Simple. Now, while we’re on it, the massage parlours offer foot Reflexology which will unblock energy channels throughout your body, as well as Oil, Hot Stone, Swedish, Indian Head, Facial and detox wraps and scrubs. All are a high quality and insanely low in price. You can justify having these daily. Me? I’ve been known to have two!
Slurp down some Tom Yum soup.
Clear soup packed full of all the good stuff AND it’s delicious! Grab it from any restaurant or street vendor. If they don’t have it, you haven’t chosen your restaurant wisely. Go hunting somewhere else for Tom Yum.
Devour fruit from street vendors.
In the markets on the outskirts of town, or from the little carts, they have the best prices. Eat fresh Guava, Mango, Papaya, Dragonfruit, Pineapple and Watermelon to your hearts content. Fruit never tasted so good.
Yes, but what do I do at night?
Go explore! The nights are the most interesting time in these areas. Get lost in the sea of night markets. If you search hard enough you will find many stores with original Thai product. If you find something you like, join in the bartering game. My rule of thumb, is work out a price you’re HAPPY to pay (not just the cheapest you think you can get it for) and offer them 25% less to start with so you can slowly offer more until you reach your goal price If they’re not meeting you, try the oldest trick in the book – the walk away. They’ll chase you down the street “okay, okay!”. Win win. Just remember sometimes you’re haggling over the equivalent of the price of a coffee. Give them a break, they are working damn hard! Throwing in a few extra dollars means the world to them and really doesn’t set you back too far. I mean, you can afford a holiday in a tropical destination, right? Share the love and see how good it makes you feel.
Bangla Road is something that you do need to check out while you’re in Patong. My advice – go with a little class and catch the Trapeze Show at Higher. If you’re after a change of diet they have an amazing Sushi and Sashimi menu and some of the best views perched up above the madness. The trapeze artist has a professional circus training from Estonia, and rumour has it she traveled with the Cirque de Soleil!
Brace yourself and hit the thick of Bangla Road. My favourite thing while detoxing is to spend the money I would otherwise spend on drinks on the street artists. Wait until the crowd is full then make a beeline for their tip bucket. You’ll be amazed at how contagious it is and how powerful the act of one can be. Once I threw in just a few coins that I had left on me and then watched a trail of followers hit up the bucket with some big notes. Now, that definitely makes your soul sing!
While you’re down there, make sure you get some of that natural coconut ice cream. This stuff is delicious and contains no sugar and no dairy. May as well make it a double!
Get out of town.
There are so many natural attractions and beaches to keep you immersed in nature, healthy and active around the island. So what are you waiting for?!