Thailand: Travelling while staying goal-focused
I hadn’t planned on writing a blog post on Thailand as there are so many amazing blogs out there and as I always say, I’m not great at the written blogs! But I fell head over heels in love with Thailand - just like Croatia - except I left Thailand feeling ten times better than when I arrived, as opposed to wanting to go into hiding for a few weeks after Croatia!
I want to share my journey and how I managed to get into better shape while having no strict plan and not making any meals (besides in the cookery school!). I originally booked this trip around the week with Ko8 Escapes but I never thought I’d be able to keep progressing by myself around that.
Firstly I’ll give a little bit of information on where I went, the accommodation and anything else noteworthy. Then afterwards, I’ll explain in more detail how I approached my nutrition and training!
Railay Beach (Krabi)
Accommodation: Bhu Nga Thani Resort - One Bed Villa with Private Pool
My first experience of Thailand and probably the best in terms of an authentic Thai experience with the beautiful beaches, friendly locals and restaurants built out of bamboo.
My friend Jane and I decided we wanted a few days chill before we went to the fitness retreat and that is exactly what we got.
The resort was just perfect and felt like luxury in basic surroundings. We took the time to relax by our private pool and start getting a taste for Thai food.
Other activities I would recommend is the Cooking Class at Jem restaurant. It’s along the walkway from the beach to the pier and easy to miss. The chef is well trained and we made about 5 courses - each one delicious and there is something very satisfying about eating the dishes. 2400B per couple and well worth it. Just make sure you arrive hungry!
One of the most breathtaking experiences was simply renting out a kayak on the beach and going out at our own pace around the coast. The sea is calm and we were given wet bags to put our phones etc in.
In the mornings we went jogging and found some steps to get the heart rate up, and in the evenings we had ice cream and massages and left feeling completely chilled.
Railay Beach - Phuket via a speed boat booked on the street in Railay. This included a transfer to our hotel in Patong on the other side.
Patong (Ko8 Escapes)
Accommodation: Absolute Twin Sands Resort
We didn’t know what to expect turning up for our week with Kieran and Rebecca from Ko8. I met Kieran a few years ago when he introduced me to his Ko8 training equipment and we have kept in touch. I trained with him when I was in Dubai in May which is when he told me about the retreat he was planning in Thailand. I told him it sounded like a great idea and I would love to go. A few weeks later he messaged to invite me over as his guest and I booked the flights straight away!
My friend Jane booked on but I wasn’t sure who the other people would be so I was delighted to learn there were three other Irish ladies who had heard about the retreat through me.
I had heard about other training camps where you’re put in basic accommodation but this was a different level. We were staying in a fabulous resort where the chef made us smoothies plus our three main meals. Lots of healthy fresh Thai food and then we were free to eat whatever else we wanted depending on our goals.
I won’t go through each day exactly but I have to say, it was very well structured with intense training early in the day and then yoga and massages in the afternoon and evening.
Every morning we did circuit training on the beach using Ko8s, dumbbells, kettlebells etc. and it was a great way to start the day. Early in the week we also did the 45 minute step challenge… and wow was that tough but we had a good group of ladies who pushed each other on while still going at our own pace. I got 14 laps I think! My legs were like jelly afterwards so the dip in the waterfalls was much needed!
Also during the week we got our first taster of Muay Thai and the love affair began. I generally don’t like doing cardio but I loved this! We did 4 lessons during the week in two different Muay Thai gyms and all the instructors were excellent, with a strong focus on technique.
One of the best days we had was at the Elephant Sanctuary. We got to spend the day with the elephants that had been taken in after being abused for tourism or transport. We fed them, had mud baths with them and washed them. They are gentle giants and I was in awe of them. The sanctuary also put on a buffet of Thai food and everybody sat around eating together (not the elephants though!)
We went into Patong two of the nights and all I can say is that it is nuts! So different to the serenity of the resort we were staying in but it was fun to see. You get offered ping pong shows every couple of feet. There are markets with everything for sale. Lots of fresh fruit and food being cooked on the streets. We used Tuk Tuks to get back to the hotel and that was an experience in itself!
I could write for ages about the week we had but I would highly recommend it. I was delighted with my results without feeling restricted at all. Each of the ladies were hesitant about booking the trip on their own but we all ended up meeting like-minded people. The majority of messages I’ve received have been from women who would love to do it but are worried about going on their own. My answer is always - just do it!
For more information, check out ko8escapes.com and I currently have a discount code for £100 off - OHFITNESS100
There is also a youtube video of us talking about our experience which you can find here.
Accommodation: PP Princess Resort
This place is just so… instagramable!! You feel like you are arriving into a postcard. There is definitely a big party vibe here but it wasn’t what we were looking for. We still had a walk down to the beach to sit and have a drink while watching the infamous fire shows outside Slinkys.
I hopped out of bed the next morning to walk down to the deserted beach and it was so calm and peaceful - a complete contrast to the night before. There are tour companies everywhere offering different packages and I couldn’t see anything that fitted with what I wanted to do (e.g. I didn’t want to go to Monkey Island) so I paid a local long-tail ’taxi boat’ for 3 hours to take us to Maya Bay and to other areas for swimming and snorkelling. I paid 1500B for 2 people (About €35) and it was well worth it.
Maya Bay can get very crowded. We set off at 9am and it was ok when we got there but even within the half an hour it is very busy. It can be difficult to get that ‘postcard perfect’ picture with all the tourists! The snorkelling in a different bay was fun and I finally got a use for my GoPro!
After a day at the pool, we decided to go up to the view point in the evening to see the sunset. I read about it taking 40mins+ to get up there but it took us less than 20. The climb is steep and we were sweating and out of breath at the top, and we thought we were fit! The views are spectacular and I went back up the next morning for some exercise, when the sun was shining the other way and it was even better!
You could spend a lot more time in PhiPhi if you were there for the party atmosphere but the two and a half days was perfect for us to see and get a feel for the place.
Phi Phi - Koh Samui: I actually went to Chalong before Phi Phi but I will explain more about that at the end. From Phi Phi, I got the boat back to Phuket which included an airport transfer. I booked a return flight from Phuket to Koh Samui
Accommodation: The Beach Samui
I wasn’t sure what I would do when I went to Koh Samui, I just wanted to see another part of Thailand but a lot of people were telling me I had to go to Ark bar, and I was going to, but I was a bit hesitant because I feel like a sore thumb among all the young party people. But when I was in Patong for the Ko8 Escapes, I met Bryan - a lovely man from Liverpool, who owned all of the Absolute Resorts. He was asking about my travel plans and when I said I was going to Samui with no plans, he offered for me to be their guest at The Beach Samui. It is a piece of luxury boutique hotel on the south of the Island in a small village called Thong Krut. It wasn’t open to the public yet as it wasn’t finished.
Well, what can I say… it was a few days of pure paradise. I would say a perfect honeymoon location. I stayed in one of the penthouse suites which was split across two floors. It had a full kitchen, two bedroom and bathrooms, a huge smart television and a bath on the balcony. The view was breathtaking and I got so excited each morning to open the curtains to reveal the floor to ceiling views of the beach and Koh Tan.
I would like to say I completely chilled out for the 3 nights but I managed to find a gym in Lamai, which is about a 15 minute drive. The hotel provided a driver to take me there and back for training sessions and a Muay Thai class.
Other than that, I just completely relaxed. I had a Thai massage in my room as the sun set. I sunbathed during the day and dipped into the cold bath to cool down. The staff gave me a cooking lesson on my two favourite Thai dishes, and even brought me to the market to get the ingredients. Once you step outside the hotel, you are in a small village with plenty of beach-side restaurants - which I loved, because although I was staying in pure luxury, it still felt like an authentic Thai experience.
Accomadation: Cocoville Resort
After the week of training with Ko8 and feeling good, I wanted to keep that motivation going. I had heard a lot about Chalong from Amanda and Daniel at Recalibrated Bodies. Deborah, who I met at the Ko8 Escape was staying on another 4 days so we agreed to do two days here and two in Phi Phi.
There is so much I want to say on Chalong. I have never felt so at home somewhere. We stayed for two days but before I left I already decided to come back for 4 nights on my way home! We pretty much winged it for the two days. We had originally booked another hotel but it was about 1km from the main street where everything is. We just walked into Cocoville and booked two nights there. Don't be afraid to arrive without accommodation. There are loads of places on the main street (Soi Tai-Ed) and you will probably get a better deal than using booking.com
The street is lined with Muay Thai training camps, gyms, crossfit boxes, smoothie bars, healthy restaurants, masseuses, fro-yo and anything else you can think of to live a fit and happy life.
The best thing is that everybody is there for the same reason - to train and be the best version of themselves. There are people from all over the world, many of whom have quit their jobs or are going through transitional periods and everyone just has this lust for life! I would actually be surprised if I saw somebody with a drink but I think those that are here long term do enjoy a few drinks on a Saturday - plus Patong is not far if you need the party vibe!
The big surprise love affair of Thailand was Muay Thai. I was originally introduced to it on the Ko8 Escape and straight away I knew I found a form of cardio I really enjoyed. I tried a few different Muay Thai classes and they are all pretty similar in structure and cater for all levels. If you want to try a class I'd say you can just walk into any gym. English isn't even that necessary! In Chalong, I did all my Muay Thai in Phuket Dragon Muay Thai. This is the only Thai-owned gym. I didn't try any of the others as I was happy with the private lessons and classes. Now I just need to find somewhere as good in Dublin!
There are many training packages you can book if you want the whole trip planned out for you. I would recommend looking at what Cocoville has to offer as it is not affiliated with any one gym or training facility - plus the accommodation was perfect. The restaurant there has all the macros on the menu. I will definitely be back. You can view their fitness packages here.
I trained in Titan's indoor gym while I was there. It was fully equipped with weights and cardio machines. Titan have a full range of classes going on all day every day covering everything from Yoga, to Crosstraining, to Spinning and Olympic Lifting. Just before I left I tried an Olympic Lifting class as this was something I had never received any real coaching in.
Chalong - Phi Phi: We booked a return ferry on the street which included pick up from the hotel in Chalong and then a return transfer to the airport when we got back. When you get to PhiPhi there are no roads so there was a hotel rep there to help us with our bags.
Consistency over Perfection
Now what you’re really here for - how I managed to come home leaner than I went away.
In short, I was a lot more active in Thailand than I would normally be at home. I don’t usually do much cardio because I don’t enjoy it but now I have discovered and fell in love with Muay Thai! I tried to get in at least a Muay Thai class or gym session in most days, and some days, both.
Doing a lot of cardio can result in muscle wastage so I knew the importance of keeping the weight training up and increasing my calories to match my output (but still in a deficit). I didn’t bring my weighing scales with me but I did track EVERYTHING in MyFitnessPal. 90% of my meals were complete guesses. I would estimate the amount of chicken, rice, veg and usually add in a tablespoon of olive oil to make sure to cover any oils used in cooking. I had lots of fruit (especially pineapple!) which wasn’t very calorie dense. I also spent some time investigating the nutritional labels on products (i.e. Icecream!). I could then track my ice cream exactly. The food was extremely fresh and tasty so I didn't feel like I was dieting in the slightest!
There is obviously huge room for error but I knew my activity levels were so high that I had room to play around with. I had been aiming for 2000 calories. Even at the Ko8 retreat, I knew the meals were about 1200 calories so I just tracked an additional 800 each day, with an even mix of carbs, fats and protein.
My coach Larry suggested increasing my calories to 2400 when I went back to Chalong and I felt like all I was doing was eating and training (the dream, really!). Lots of places in Chalong had calories and macros on them, which was a great help!
There were occasions I went over my calories, for example, at the cooking class when we had five courses, but I never ever said “aw feck it, I’ve ruined the day now, might as well keep eating” - and that is a big change for me!
At the end of the day, what it all comes down to - “Consistency over Perfection”
Thank you for reading! I hope that helped and answered any questions you had. If you have any more you can leave them in the comments section below and I will answer there.