Practicing Walking All Day In The Heat Of Bangkok, Thailand
Practicing Walking All Day In The Heat Of Bangkok, Thailand
The newspapers proclaim that this summer has been the hottest summer ever recorded in Japan.
Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan that is usually cooler in summer, has been experiencing unusually hot temperatures this year.
Kyushu, the island we will be circumnavigating by foot, is the southwestern-most of Japan’s main islands (excluding Okinawa) and it is also experiencing warmer than normal temperatures.
Because it is usually hot in Kyushu, we decided to start walking at the end of September, when we were hopeful that the temperatures would be cooler.
After all, it is always easier to walk in cooler temperatures than in warmer weather.
If it is cold, you can always wear another layer of clothing, but there is nothing you can do if it is too hot, and it can be very fatiguing to walk all day in the heat.
Our plan was to come to Thailand earlier, adjust to the difference in time zones, practice some walking every day and then go diving on a small island called Koh Lipe, located in the Andaman Sea on the border with Malaysia, for two weeks.
Every morning we got up early, went for a delicious breakfast in a nearby bakery cafe serving a variety of breads, salads, fresh juices and avocado toast.
Then we planned to walk an average of 15 kilometers per day, in order to get used to walking and being on our feet all day.
On the pilgrimage, we are hoping to walk an average of 20-25 kilometers per day.
But for now, we need to build up to it and I can tell you, it wasn’t easy.
On the first day, I wore a pair of Merrell walking sandals, hoping that airing my feet would help with the heat.
We walked to River City to see some great contemporary art, sat in cafes, had a great lunch and a good dinner.
But even though I had a fun day, wearing the sandals was a mistake, and I developed a blister on one foot.
I was only able to walk 10 kilometers instead of the 15 kilometers we had planned to walk every day.
The next day we walked to Chinatown.
Bangkok has a fabulous Chinatown with beautiful temples and shrines, vibrant markets and delicious eateries as well as street stalls selling fresh fruit and juices, hand pulled noodles, fragrant soups, and herbal medicines.
Chinatown is also known by the Thai people as ‘Yaowarat’, which is derived from the name of one of the main streets in the Chinatown area.
The path of this street is said to resemble a dragon’s body, making it an auspicious location for businesses.
There are many small alleys lined with shops and vendors selling various types of goods.
In these narrow alleyways, you can see shirtless men sleeping the heat of the day away, at the entrance to their shops.
Toothless grandmothers peel garlic with thin gnarled fingers, and then place the cloves in big plastic bowls to be used later in cooking.
I wore my pilgrimage light hiker shoes and the blister didn’t bother me at all.
We bought loose leaf tea from Taiwan, (arguably one of the best tea producing regions in the world), and some fragrant Oolong tea from the northern mountains in China.
I also bought some Jujube (dried dates) and plump Goji Berries.
We took a break from the heat in a small tea house where we ate delicious dim sum with lots of Oolong tea.
On our walk, we drank fresh pomegranate juice and sat in air conditioned cafes sipping Thai Iced Milk Tea made with oat milk.
My feet felt much better, but it was hard to adjust to the heat, and we walked only about 12 kilometers that day.
That night my feet were throbbing and I rubbed them with a menthol cream that I had bought in Chinatown.
Six months ago, I developed Plantar Fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is a swelling of the thick tissue on the bottom of the foot, connecting the heel bone to the toes.
Two small yet painful bulges developed on the arches of my feet.
The medical advice is:
“Rest your feet as much as possible, avoid running, excessive walking and long periods of standing.”
Of course I didn’t listen to the medical advice.
Instead, in the past six months, I have run three to four times per week every week, walked as much as I could and booked this long distance pilgrimage in Japan, of more than 2200 kilometers.
The Plantar Fasciitis has improved significantly.
The inflammation has decreased and I have no pain in my feet, unless I press very hard on the arches of my feet.
Still, I was a little concerned about starting a long pilgrimage with Plantar fasciitis and I didn’t know if it would get worse or better by the long walk.
The next day my feet felt better.
The blister had disappeared completely and I was able to walk 15 kilometers without any discomfort.
We had a great day and even at night, after a great refreshing shower and doing our daily laundry in our apartment, my feet didn’t throb at all.
I rubbed them with menthol anyway.
Currently I am still getting adjusted to the different time zones.
I wake up really early in the mornings before the sun rises, and I am so sleepy by early evening.
It usually takes me about ten days to get adjusted to the opposite rhythms of the day and night.
But my big concern is the heat and the humidity..
Currently, I can only walk about an hour and a half before needing to cool off in an air-conditioned cafe or a mall.
Of course walking in Bangkok is not easy.
The sidewalks are often broken and the traffic is heavy.
In order to cross the bigger streets, we have to climb up and down many stairs and cross over on pedestrian bridges.
We often have to take detours on bridges crossing over the river and canals and climbing up to the metro and the sky rail, not because we want to ride them, but just to cross over to the other side of the streets.
I know that it is always difficult to get used to walking all day.
In the past, it took me almost two weeks to get over the hardship and start to really enjoy the journey.
Regardless, I am very grateful and happy to be here.
The concierge and the front desk in our hotel, all know how much we love to walk.
Every morning and every evening when we return, they jokingly tell us that they don’t have to make any recommendations of places for us to visit, because we probably know Bangkok better than all of them…
The photos above are of paintings made by two twin young men from Bhutan.
They call themselves Twinz and they paint together on the same canvas.