Those who have been to Thailand will understand why it’s called ‘The Land of Smiles’. A culture that continues to cultivate an intimate connection with Mother Nature, the Thai people are born into a healthy way of life. From its natural wonders to world-renowned fruit, massage and wellness traditions, the country imbues visitors with a sense of happiness and calm that creates a restorative experience.
The Thai Touch
Thai massage has a long history and can trace its roots back to the Sukhothai Period, when the Thais already used massage to treat pain, fever and other illnesses. The first written historical record of a Department of Massage Medicine appeared in the Ayutthaya Period, and at the start of the Ratthanakosin era, Wat Pho became the primary place to learn all subjects – linguistics, literature, and Thai medicine including traditional massage.
Today, Wat Pho’s ancient foundation stone, texts and hand drawings by hermit practitioners who once resided here have been registered as UNESCO World Heritage items. The exercise poses shown in the inscriptions were believed to have originated as yoga positions. The practice gradually developed into a system incorporating into Thai massage to remedy a range of ailments and promote proper breathing and blood circulation.
In Thai medicinal tradition, pain and illness are believed to be caused by an imbalance of the four elements in the body, which may result from environmental and personal changes. The four elements are: earth, which is considered the primary building block of the body; water, substances that flow; air, which represents the respiratory system; and fire, which controls body temperature. The science of massage, in addition to changes in diet and behaviour, use of herbs, hot compresses and other remedies, plays an important role in improving and restoring balance.
Fruit of the Tropics
Rambutan, langsat, lychee, custard apple, durian…you name it. Located in almost the most humid part of the tropics, Thailand has just the right climate for growing these mouth-watering fruits. And if the durian is crowned ‘king of fruits’ for its rich flavour, then the mangosteen must be regarded as the queen.
Sweet and tangy, mangosteen is a weight-watcher’s favourite for it’s low in calories while highly nutritious. It is rich in vitamins, mineral salts, calcium, phosphorus and fibre, which helps regulate the body. The fruit also contains substances that heal wounds, suppress bacterial infection, relieve itching, rashes and a number of skin diseases, and promote clear and youthful skin by working against free radicals.
Another miracle fruit is the tamarind, one of the most beloved in the Thai household where it is regarded as auspicious. It is often used to add sourness in traditional cuisine. Like the mangosteen, it is also known as a remedy for treating physical conditions, such as swollen abdomen and flatulence, mucus, high blood pressure, skin disease and insect bites and stings. Throughout history Thai women have used this wondrous fruit in their beauty regimens, as tamarind is rich in vitamins A and C which protect the skin, as well as fruit acids that help promote new skin cell growth while eliminating wrinkles and dark spots on the body and face.
One with Nature
Despite modernisation, Thais – especially Southern island-dwellers and those living by the sea – still maintain a lifestyle in sync with the rhythm of nature. With the belief that Mother Nature keeps one beautiful and strong, they continue to plant and produce food, and medicine, according to the seasons.
Southern Thais are known to make good and thorough use of nature’s gifts. One example is the coconut: apart from its nourishing water, the shell offers practical uses, while the flesh and oil are ideal for moisturising the skin. Another natural product favoured in the South is black sesame which contains amino acids. It is believed to benefit the heart, skin and hair, counteract numbness and infection and aid weight loss.