Talking Health,Wellness And Lifestyle: An Eastern Perspective

Trevor: When I stay in Thailand, my first port of call on arrival is China Town in order to pick up a massive bag of Green Tea and some raw Ginseng root. I find there is nothing like starting off the day with this boiled combination. Usually my jaunts in Thailand last a month at a time and after taking this for the full month I find I am feeling on top of the world. I get Green Tea back in the UK, but it’s just not the same and Ginseng root as far as I know is nowhere to be seen. I usually bring back as much Green Tea as I can pack,  but I really miss the Ginseng, proper Ginseng.

I decided to delve further and check out health, Wellness and lifestyle from an eastern point of view by having a number of conversations. The first conversation was with Kade our Bangkok, Thailand correspondent and by now you will all know Kade from her interviews and excellent articles on the blog. However not only did I talk to Kade from a Thailand perspective, but also a lady from Bandung, Indonesia called Siu Fen to give us an Indonesian angle.

Kade (nickname), but real name  Kasinee Silapee keeps in shape by playing sports, Yoga and general exercise. Kade also enjoys taking photographs, playing guitar and singing. Other passions include doing handicraft works like knitting and costume jewelry designs. A very strong passion for Kade is cooking delicious and healthy food. Kade speaks English fantastically well and has a talent for learning foreign languages in general.

Kade not so long ago did an interview for me on Thai Food and showed a few of her own delicious creations.

Siu Fen like Kade is  a lady who is always on the go and is also very passionate about cooking her own healthy and delicious food. Siu has a motto that she lives by and that is to learn something new everyday. Besides her rigorous outdoor life Siu is also a keen football fan and a massive Manchester United supporter and that goes down very well with me. The big passion of Siu is photography especially street photography and she has entered many of her photographs in competitions. Siu is also massively proficient with the English language. Impressive photographs from the work of Siu Fen can be viewed here.

So with two very talented and charming ladies, one massive subject and armed with a few questions to once again pry in to the lifestyles of others. I bring you part one of the interview.

Trevor: In Thailand herbs are widely used in cooking, but are there any herbs that you like to use daily to promote good health.

Kade: Bangkok, Thailand

Kade: In Thailand we are lucky in that we cook with so many healthy herbs. I absolutely love cooking food for myself and other people and love to invent new recipes. I of course always  make sure I have my quota of chilli during the day alongside plenty of lemon grass and basil .

Meals containing  Chili peppers can actually help to control your calorie intake. Spicy food feels you up quite quickly compared to other food types, meaning you won’t have to eat so much. Additionally it has been known for a long time that eating chili boosts the metabolism which then causes you to burn energy.

Fresh Chilies

Lemon grass has lots of health benefits as the fresh leaves of lemon grass are said to help reduce high blood pressure and hypertension. The root can be used to address stomach disorders like an upset stomach and diarrhea. The main trunk is said to help improve indigestion and help with urinary tract problems.

The fresh leaves of Basil have a very pleasant smell coming from the essential oils in them and  are also good to assist in stomach disorders. Basil can help with stomach gas by expelling air and in other forms of stomach upsets.

Trevor: I must admit Kade that basil is very much part of one of my favourite Thai dishes ”Phat Graphao Gai ” – Stir – Fried Chicken and Basil with Rice. Simply delicious.

Siu Fen: Bandung, Indonesia

What About In Indonesia Siu are herbs widely used in cooking and what herbs do you use daily to promote good health.

Siu: Indonesian people use herbs for cooking,too. We especially use lots of red and white onions though.We believe that red and white onions are really healthy for the body.

The most important of health tips for indonesian people though is Jamu.

Trevor; What is jamu , can you tell us a bit more about it and its benefits please, Siu.

Siu: Jamu is predominantly made from parts of plants, such as roots, bark, leaves and fruits.We can find Jamu sold on the streets by hawkers in the form of refreshing drinks. Usually the taste is bitter, but we can add honey to sweeten it.

We use Galangal Rice jamu  for the elimination of physical sores, Sour Turmeric jamu  to cool the body or facilitate menstruation and Chili and Lempuyang rhizome Jamu for the elimination of stiffness or fever. I really like the taste of galangal rice jamu it is sweet.

Jamu  drinks give you a range of assorted benefits including energy, strength, body-mind balance, and internal and external radiance. A glass of jamu a day will keep those chronic ailments away.

Jamu Drinks, Indonesia

Trevor: What sort of ingredients are to be found in jamu, Siu

Common Spices ;

Cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed, cloves, black pepper, cardamom, cumin, and others

Common Roots & Herbs;

Ginger, Turmeric, wild ginger, white turmeric, and many others exotic roots and herbs

Most jamu drink colours are light brown. but you can find jamu in dark colour,too. If you find the darker colours that  means the taste is more bitter. Now We have  instant jamu which is sold in stores. We now only need to pour hot water on the dry ingredients.

Have you seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love featuring Julia Roberts. It’s in that movie that Jamu heals Elizabeth Gilbert.

Instant Jamu, Indonesia

Trevor: We have always had the saying over here in the UK  Siu that an apple a day keeps the Doctor away and I rarely miss my daily apple. I must see the Julia Roberts movie Siu I don’t remember that one, but then again I rarely watch television, however I do like a good movie though.

Trevor To Kade:  Do they use traditional Chinese medicine or other forms of traditional medicine in Thailand?

Kade: Yes, Chinese medicines are still very much alive in Thailand especially in a lot of towns that sell Chinese herbs and provide treatments like acupuncture. However its always best to go along and get a consultation first in order to know what works best for your problem.

In Chinese medicine a lot is taken in to account in determining the problem. In the Western medicine it seems that there is one cure or a similar set of cures for a certain disease what ever the person’s age and what ever their circumstances are. The Chinese want to know more about you as an individual and will also question your family history, personality, food likes and other before determining the diagnosis and treatment.

The same can be said of Ayurveda (Indian) and of our own traditional medicine. Thailand still very much keeps traditional medicine and ancient practices alive.

Chinese Green Tea and Ginseng products are very popular in Thailand.

Excellent Green Tea From China Town, Bangkok

Trevor To Siu:  Do they use traditional Chinese medicine or other forms of traditional medicine in Indonesia? 

Siu: Most of the Chinese descendants in Indonesia  always buy Chinese traditional medicines. The majority of  Indonesians go to the doctor and the doctor give us western medicines, but we still buy Chinese medicines as well. Indonesian people are firm believers in chinese medicines also.

For instance my neighbour only uses chinese medicines when she needs it. Back along she used a chinese medicine called Angong Niuhuang Wan. It was obtained for her Mother who had a stroke. It is expensive, but has many good effects and can be used for a number of problems. Of course you must always consult a specialist before taking anything.

We also like acupuncture , but we call him the Chinese needle doctor. They put many needles in to various  parts of the body. Where in the body and how many will depend on the illness. This treatment can be used for headaches, to aid in weight loss, cough, stroke and many others. The main thing with acupuncture is just be patient when having the  treatment, and it will give good results. This treatment is very famous here, both for the chinese and Indonesian people who strongly believe in it.

Trevor: That sounds about right Siu as my brother has been having acupuncture treatment for a shoulder problem and it appears to take a few treatments before it starts to reap the rewards. However I have never had acupuncture treatment for anything.

Ginseng Korean: In Tonic Extract Format

Trevor: One of the main problems in the UK at present is the rise in obesity figures. In the UK  it has been estimated that roughly 60 per cent of adults and 3o per cent of children are overweight. The figures from 2009 also showed that a quarter of adults in England could be classed as obese. It is predicted that if this climb continues then three – quarters of the population could suffer the diseases and ill effects that come from excess weight in 10 – 15 years from now.

Trevor to Kade: When I first went to Thailand in 1984 and then throughout the Eighties seeing overweight Thais was certainly in the minority, but now I feel that has changed. Do you think the large amounts of western food that exist are now to blame and what tips do you personally and the Thai people in general employ for keeping weight in check?

Kade: Yes, there is a lot of western food here now and I believe it has gone some way to contributing to excessive weight here in Thailand, but it is not all the fault of western food. You have to educate yourself and take responsibility for what you put in to your body.

For myself I operate by living with a few golden common sense rules. I never eat after 6pm, I eat smaller portions of food and live by the quotation of eat to live, not live to eat, I get plenty of exercise and I drink lots of water especially first thing in the morning.

Another key point for me that I feel helps tremendously is living sufficiently. Where ever I can I eat what I grow and that means plenty of vegetables. I stick by my 2 meals per day skipping dinner and replacing it with fresh fruit instead. I also  make sure I have a good balance of Chili paste, vegetables and curry. This works for me.

Plenty Of Vegetables In Thailand Always

Trevor: I agree Kade. There are certainly calories to be consumed in everyday Thai life as well. Some of the delicious roadside vendor treats add to your girth I mean just look at delicious Gai yaang fried chicken with a sweet dipping sauce or other fried treats. I love Gang Massaman and Gang Gari curry, but only have on the odd occasion because the coconut milk content can push the calorie and fat levels up. Mostly I make sure I stay away from the fizzy drinks and keep beer to an absolute minimum.

As my grandmother always said ” all things in moderation” and I still believe in that saying. It is of course easier to say than do like a lot of things in life, but then that superb word of discipline must enter the fray.

I have certainly noticed the weight increase in children in Thailand, but I believe like everywhere its the combination of too long sat down at a computer, too much sweet snacks and little if any exercise.

Trevor to Siu: When I first went to Indonesia in 1984 the same thing could be said that being over weight was in the minority. Is that the same today Siu? Have you had an influx of western junk food ?  What tips do you personally and the Indonesian people in general employ for keeping weight in check?

Siu: There are so many types of western food here in Indonesia now and these can be found in many places. Most of the  Indonesian people like western food especially people from the big cities, because its simple and easy. Weight gain is noticeable but by and large I see so many diseases now, largely due to unhealthy lifestyles. I am not talking about western food only, as an unhealthy lifestyle has many aspects to it like junk food, smoking, pollution, stress etc.

For myself personally I don’t like fast food. I like to cook my own food and I eat lots of vegetables both cooked and raw. I also like to keep myself very active and on the go all the time including plenty of exercise.

I have certainly noticed that Indonesians seem to have taken up a lot more sporting activity these days for health and in an attempt to keep weight under control. There is a Car Free program every Sunday morning in Bandung city, near where I live, where people can walk together, run and ride bicycles there .

My aunt lives in a village in the Center of Java island. She told me that village people are more healthy than city people, but there is no secret recipe they just live a healthy life every day. They eat vegetables in preference to meat. They also eat boiled leaves, such as papaya, cassava and other leaves along with rice. Besides this of  course they also like to drink plenty of jamu.

Additionally Turmeric jamu if you drink daily keeps your skin looking young so there is an anti-aging tip to throw in with it.

The Magic Of Jamu, Indonesia

By the way Cassava is used in a variety of ways in Indonesia and is often eaten as a vegetable. It provides plenty of vitamins and protein with high  fiber and potassium levels.

Although I have never yet been to Thailand I think there seems to be quite a few similarities between Thai food and Indonesian food.

Trevor: I think I will have to put in an order for a load of jamu it sounds like the magic potion I have been looking for.

Don’t miss part 2: Where Kade and Siu talk more about the traditions and beliefs for good health and Wellness in Thailand and Indonesia respectively.


For more articles on the subject of Health and Wellness please visit the main website at engaging Thailand .com


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