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You probably know by now that I’m not a big drinker. I say I drink when I have to, and that’s not often. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for the best non-alcoholic drinks around the world to enjoy when I’m traveling.

Smoothies and Juices

These two go without saying and are available in nearly every part of the world. I’m particularly fond of the juices and smoothies in southeast Asia. Not only are they often prepared fresh in front of you, they’re also very cheap. Some of my favorite juice bars in Chiang Mai, Thailand sell a large smoothie for less than $1. You just have to make sure you ask for “no sugar”, as they love to add a thick sugar water.

Smoothies in Luang Prabang

Another country that stands out for its juices is Romania – particularly the lemonades. In Timisoara, Romania, they offer well over a dozen flavors of lemonade, all made with fresh fruit or other ingredients. Peach, blueberry, and pineapple were my favorites. I purchased quite a few on the hot days I was there back in 2015, especially since they were also about $1 each.

In some places, the juice scene is just starting to catch on. I was surprised to see how long it took Edinburgh to open a few juice bars. In the past couple years, Hula Juice Bar opened a couple shops, but otherwise, I used to get my smoothies from Black Medicine Coffee…which I still think makes the best fruit drinks in town.

Third Wave Coffee

On the subject of coffee, I’m doing everything in my power not to be addicted. That’s extremely hard when I’m based in Edinburgh, which has some of the best cafes anywhere. That the city where I learned what third wave coffee is, but this hipster version of coffee isn’t just available in Edinburgh.

In a nutshell, third wave coffee isn’t Folgers pre-ground instant coffee (first wave), nor mass-produce single-origin coffee like Starbucks (second wave). Wikipedia defines third wave coffee well by saying, “Distinct from the first two waves, the third wave of coffee disrupts the more commodity-focused trade of coffee and prioritizes taste quality, unique flavors, and equitable relationships over low prices and standardizations in flavor.”

Many of the backpacker and hipster hubs around the world have several cafes serving this type of coffee. In Bucharest, Romania I enjoyed several cups at Origo Cafe. In Chiang Mai, it was Ristr8to Lab, Akha Ama la Fattoria, and SS1254372 Cafe. While staying in Rotterdam this summer, my favorite cafe to visit was Bagels & Beans where they get all their coffee from a small family-run plantation in Panama.

Cuba Coffee #2

If you do happen to make it to Edinburgh, there are almost too many cafes to choose from. My favorites include Castello Coffee, Black Medicine Coffee, Machina Expresso, Fortitude Coffee, Wellingtons and Cult Espresso. I used to like Brew Lab, but they were recently bought out by the London-based company Union, and it just doesn’t feel the same anymore there. I’ll have to get a full post out soon on all these cafes.

Black Medicine Coffee Mocha

Kombucha

The first time I had kombucha was at By Hand Pizzeria in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I’ve tried it a couple more times since then, such as at Frenchie’s Cafe in Haarlem, Netherlands. This is the only fermented (and slightly alcoholic) beverage I have on my list, although the alcoholic content is usually about 0.5%. I certainly don’t drink it for the alcohol or even health benefits, but rather for the unique taste. I’ve heard it’s become more popular in the States since I left. I’d recommend trying it if you happen to run across it at a cafe or restaurant in your travels.

 

French Bulldog at Frenchie Cafe in Haarlem

Indian Chai

When I watched Slumdog Millionaire when it came out in 2008, I was stumped at what a chai wallah was. Googling it, I learned a wallah is a person who makes and/or sells a commodity. Chai is the Indian word for tea, but not in the sense that we think of tea (a tea bag in a cup of hot water). While they use black tea leaves as a base, this is then mixed with ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and other spices.

This is quite different from the Chai tea lattes I’ve been purchasing from cafes since long before I started traveling. While those are enjoyable, they’re usually made from a powder. I haven’t been to India yet, but I’ve been to Little India, a neighborhood in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There, I visited a hole in the wall restaurant where they placed a large banana leaf on the table and then spooned rice and curry directly on to the leaf to eat with your fingers. I ordered a chai, which came in two small vessels – a small steel cup inside a bowl to catch the spills. This was nothing like the bastardized cafe drink popularized by Starbucks in the late 90s; it was so much better!

Chai Tea at Indian Restaurant #3

Since then, I’ve found a handful of Indian restaurants around the world that serve a chai that’s up to par. One was 10 to 10 Dehli in Edinburgh. I always ask restaurants if their chai is homemade, although I’ll still probably get it if it isn’t. I’ll even order the Chai latte more often than not when I see that a cafe is serving one.

My 10 Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drinks Around the World 1

Thai Tea

I didn’t try Thai tea before my first visit to Thailand. Now I can’t stop drinking it, and I even have the ingredients to make it at home in the UK. Some people refer to it as orange tea. It’s a special blend of black tea which turns orange when it’s mixed with sweetened condensed milk. It’s almost always served over ice, and couldn’t be more delicious in the hot weather of Thailand.

Selfie with Thai Tea

If you want to make this at home, you can order the tea leaves online. The name is in Thai, but in English, the package says “Number One Brand” with red and gold packaging. In the US and UK, I use Carnation sweetened condensed milk, and I usually put in a little less than the recommended amount of sugar. There are a bunch of Youtube videos that show how to make Thai tea correctly.

Mexican Horchata

Horchata can refer to several different beverages produced in Central and South America and in Africa. The variety I’m familiar with is horchata de arroz from Mexico, made with rice milk. As with many of these drinks, the best horchata I found in Mexico City was at street vendors. Not every Mexican restaurant has the drink available; I’ve actually had a hard time finding it around the world outside Mexico, but I can always look forward to it when I’m back in Latin America.

Moroccan Mint Tea

Mint tea is obviously available in far more places than just Morocco. It’s one of the most popular beverages in Korea (per my English students) and I had some delicious cups in Turkey, but the Moroccan blend really stood out for me. The Moroccan version is correctly known as Maghrebi mint tea. It’s more than simply a drink in Morocco. Just like vodka is part of the bonding process in Russia, Moroccans use mint tea ceremoniously when welcoming guests.

Server Pouring Moroccan Mint Tea

My favorite part about Moroccan mint tea (aside from the delicious taste) is the presentation. In order to create the bubbles in the cup, the tea is poured from high, sometimes several feet in the air. It’s always fun to watch servers pour with perfect accuracy. Just give it a second to cool down. The glasses rarely have handles and they can be really hot!

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

I’d never heard of egg coffee before I landed in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. On my first day walking through the city, I saw a cafe advertising it and thought it was perhaps a joke. Intrigued, I ordered a cup. It was delicious! It was as if someone had topped a really good espresso with a large dollop of custard cream. Well, that’s exactly what it is.

A couple days later, I joined a local food tour where I got to learn the real scoop on Cà Phê Trứng (Vietnamese for egg coffee). It was started in 1946 by a guy named Nguyen Giang. While thousands of cafes have tried to copy his legendary drink over the years, he keeps his recipe highly guarded and it tastes truly unique. I know this as the tour took us to the original cafe where he served egg coffee. That cafe, called Cafe Giang, is now managed by his son, while a second cafe in the center of town, Café Đinh, is managed by his daughter. They stick to the original recipe and, although the price might have risen over the years, a cup of egg coffee will only set you back $0.65!

Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Malaysian Iced Cham

This next one is super unique, and probably an acquired taste for most. Iced cham is a mixture of coffee and tea in proper ratio. That might sound crazy, but I found it surprisingly good. It was really refreshing, especially considering how hot Kuala Lumpur was when I visited. I’ve heard this drink is also available in Hong Kong under the name yuenyeung, and in Ethiopia where it’s called spreeze. If you find yourself in any of these locations, I’d recommend trying out a cup for yourself. Maybe you won’t like it, but maybe you will.

Iced Cham Drink

Kompot

Finally, I have to mention kompot (or compot as some countries spell it). This drink is served throughout much of Europe and Asia. It’s made by cooking fruit (such as strawberries, peaches, cherries, or many others) in large quantities of water, mixed with sugar or raisins, and sometimes spiced. It’s never brewed to the point where it develops alcohol. Some countries have started serving juice more than kompot, as this drink stems from the days when food was rationed out and fruit was received in limited quantities.

Kompot in Krakow

I first ran across kompot in Odessa, Ukraine (one of the countries where it’s still very popular). A couple years later, I had a glass on my food tour in Krakow, Poland. Granted, I’d probably go for juice over kompot if it’s available, as kompot is sometimes a bit watery. However, I still really like the flavor and grab a glass now and then when I see it.

Bonus: My Special Drink

There’s one more drink worth mentioning, but not something I’ve ever found while traveling the world. It’s a concoction I had as a child, made by my healthy parents, and I continued to use it often when I lived in Los Angeles where I needed electrolyte boosts to combat the heat.

My special drink is made primarily with honey, lemon juice and apple cider vinegar. All three of these ingredients have huge benefits. While I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, I’ve felt much healthier when making this drink on a regular basis. If I’m feeling a little sick, I’ll also add a bit of cayenne pepper, or some powdered ginger if it’s hot outside. Similarly, I’ll serve it hot in the cold months, and over ice in the summer.

As to the proportions, it’s completely based on taste. I like my apple cider vinegar strong, and I use the Bragg brand if I can find it. This isn’t medical advice, but I’d say you’d need at least a teaspoon of ACV per glass. If that seems strong to you, just increase the lemon juice and honey to neutralize the kick.

 

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One More Thing

If you know another non-alcoholic drink around the world that I need to try, please let me know so I can make sure to get them when I’m in their respective countries.

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Non-Alcoholic Drinks Around the World Pin

Further Reading

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

Before I went to Morocco, I had no idea what a hammam was, let alone whether I should try a hammam for men in Marrakech.

What is a Hammam for Men

I confess I may have thought of a Muslim harem when someone first mentioned the word “hammam.” A harem is the part of the household dedicated to women, while a hammam is a Moroccan spa. Although women can partake in a hammam, they were actually designed for men.

As I arrived in Marrakech, I quickly got the impression that they were all for women. All over the city were luxury spas offering top-notch pampering. One famous establishment in town advertised their basic hammam for 250 Moroccan dirhams ($26) and had other packages for as much as 450 dirhams $47, depending on how many scrubs and massages you wanted with your hammam.

Hammam Mouassine Packages

Apparently, there are two very different types of hammams. Simply put, one is for tourists and the other is for locals. The tourist ones are more like a spa where you have someone else washing you, scrubbing you and perhaps giving you a massage. The local version is almost the opposite.

An authentic hammam is just a bathhouse for the locals to clean off the dirt and grime invariably accumulated after traveling through the desert. Usually the locals bring their own soap, but the hammam can provide it too. The biggest difference is the price. While tourist hammams charge $20-$50, the locals only have to pay 10 dirhams ($1) to use the hammam.

As a trained massage therapist, I love to experience different massages and spas around the world. But I didn’t want to go over budget in Morocco, especially when I had several locals telling me how cheap a real hammam was.

So I set out to find an authentic hammam for men in Marrakech. I was actually given a recommendation from my tour guide on my Marrakech walking tour. When I followed up on it, I found the location to be an acceptable suggestion.

Getting an (Almost) Authentic Hammam in Marrakech

A couple days before it was time to leave Morocco, I made my way to Hammam Mouassine, no small task when you have to navigate through the rat warren of streets that comprise the Marrakech Medina. Hammam Mouassine was established in 1562, and is a hammam just for men. It’s certainly not luxury in any sense of the word. In fact, a casual glance of the exterior might even put you off from wanting to visit at all.

I went in, still not really having any idea of what to expect. Inside was a small reception area with some towels and cubbies for storing your stuff. The manager showed me the menu. Their basic hammam package was 150 dirhams ($16), and there were a few different massages and scrubs to choose from. I wanted to try the Moroccan massage package for 300, but I hadn’t brought enough money with me. I pulled out what I had and asked if I could get a special deal. The manager barely hesitated before he accepted my money and directed me to the changing room.

One thing I had heard about the hammams is that you’re fully naked. I’d even had some blogger friends tell me stories of rather uncomfortable experiences about fully stripping in front of strangers. Thankfully it turned out that this was not always the case. In the fancier spas, they usually have private rooms for each person, although you still have the masseur or masseuse observing you in your birthday suit.

Thankfully, I was given a pair of shorts to wear. My clothes and sandals went into a basket which I was told would be returned to me later (I was a little concerned that my passport was in the pocket of my shorts, but nothing was taken). After donning my trunks, I was led into the first room of the hammam.

While the outside of the hammam is unassuming, the interior is even more so. It looks like it hasn’t been renovated since its construction in 1562. The bare, nondescript shower rooms have undressed stone walls and concrete stained with an ancient patina on the floor.

Hammam Mouassine Bath Room

I was directed to sit on a thin yoga-style mat on the ground. A few minutes later, a local came in. He filled up a couple buckets from one of the taps lining the wall, and then slowly poured one over me. The water was hot, but not scalding. He then used a thick soap to wash my entire body (well, not quite everything; he thankfully avoided the shorts). I had my eyes closed against all the suds that were running out of my hair, so I didn’t get to see what kind of soap it was. It felt slimy.

This was followed by more buckets of water to wash away all the soap. Next was the scrub. Some sort of clay or exfoliating substance (I still had my eyes closed) was ruthlessly rubbed all over my skin. It was certainly a rough treatment, but I knew it was getting rid of all the dead skin and I had no problem with it. However, the last action was a final bucket of water dumped over my head. I don’t mind water thrown at my head, but that one was ice cold! A couple more buckets of cold water were poured over me to get rid of the scrub and I was directed into the next room.

There are only two rooms (that I saw) at the Hammam Mouassine. The second is apparently the steam room, which also has water faucets around the room for filling up more buckets. But my cleaning was over. I was directed to lay down on another mat, which I did for several minutes. Then another man came in and gave me what was apparently a Moroccan massage.

Hammam Mouassine Shower Room

It was amazing. I can only describe it as a combination of a deep-tissue sports massage and the assisted yoga stretching of a Thai massage. For several minutes (I really lost time with that one), he pounded and twisted all the tension out of my body. By the end, although a little unsteady, I was completely relaxed.

The best part of the experience was how professional every member of the staff were. Despite all the horror stories I had heard, I was never made to feel uncomfortable, either with nudity or in any of the actions of my…umm…manservants – or whatever the right term should be. Obviously the decor is nothing impressive, but the experience was amazing and something I would very much enjoy doing again.

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Inside a Hammam for Men Pin

Further Reading

Headed to Morocco? Here are my other articles about my first 12-day adventure in the country.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

The Svata Katerina Resort possibly seems out of place in the country that has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world. But when you factor in that the Czech Republic also has some of the best spas in Europe, it totally makes sense. It also made sense that I had to visit the spa myself while I was in the country to learn just how good the Czechs are at relaxing.

The Czech Republic readily boasts the fact that they drink more beer than any other country in the world – over 42 gallons of beer a year. That’s an average of a pint a day, but that’s also averaged out among every citizen in the country, babies and grannies included. When I first heard that the Czech Republic was big on wellness centers, I thought that was a joke considering their drinking habits. Then again, if you drink a lot and like to relax, why not visit a spa as well? Of course, many spas in the country combine drinking and relaxation in their beer and wine spas, where you actually bathe in a tub of fermented barley or grapes.

What is the Svata Katerina Resort

Svata Katerina Resort doesn’t have a beer or wine spa, but they have just about everything else. Located about an hour and a half southeast of Prague, the resort covers several acres of rolling hills and forests. Also contained on the grounds are horseback riding facilities, seven different gyms, tennis courts, sports fields and a golf course. But those pale in comparison to the actual facilities of the spa.

Svata Katerina Resort

Centuries ago, a spa was built around the Saint Katerina spring after the healing properties of the water were discovered. Over the years, the spa has flourished and expanded. There are now several dozen staff delivering massages and manning the three hotels, a restaurant and two cafes. Others groom the grounds, offer yoga classes and pilates, and generally make one’s stay as pleasant as possible.  The resort even has a salon where you can get manicures and pedicures.

Svata Katerina Wellness Suite

There are many treatments and packages offered by the Svata Katerina Resort. You can either order à la carte, choosing which massages, meals, activities and accommodations suit your fancy, or you can pick one of the dozens of packages. Many of the packages are for two or three days, perfect for a weekend break, and include yoga, massages, healthy meals and fitness activities.

Svata Katerina Massage Room

My First Time Going Horse Swimming

This is a bit of a tangent since it’s not something actually offered at the Sveta Katerina Resort. On the way there, a fellow blogger and I were asked if we wanted to go horse swimming. Of course we said yes. After dropping off our bags and having a quick lunch, we went to one of the nearby lakes where two horses had been brought to swim in the water and escape from the blistering heatwave the Czech Republic was experiencing.

After taking some time to get photos and videos of the two horse handlers swimming around with the horses, and then a brief indoctrination, we were given a chance to try out horse swimming for ourselves. Now, just to clarify, this was bareback riding and we had to launch ourselves out of the water onto the back of the horse. With nothing to hold onto but the reins, we took the horses into the center of the lake where the water is deeper than the horse.

There’s a magical feeling when the horse suddenly becomes weightless beneath you and you realize that you’re actually swimming through the water with the horse swimming beneath you. The trick is to keep yourself positioned just right over the horse for when he gets his footing and comes up beneath you. It didn’t last nearly long enough, and soon we were headed back to the spa for our first day for our entrance consultation.

Checking Into the Svata Katerina Resort

The Svata Katerina Resort puts relaxation above luxury. You won’t find the crystal chandeliers, gold handrails and lapis lazuli tile floors you might expect in a 12-star resort. Instead, the simple, elegant decorations promote calmness and peace of mind. Then again, you don’t need all the fancy decorations when you’re surrounded by beautiful forests and fields, sunbathing on one of the patios, or swimming in the ponds.

Svata Katerina Decorations

There are several classes of rooms available, from standard to superior. Sticking to my lifestyle, I had a simple, standard room. It’s what I expected to see at a yoga retreat – a bed, bathroom, closet, and a table to work at. I’m always happy to find rooms without a TV. Why would you want to waste time watching shows when you’re at a resort?

Svata Katerina Bedroom

The staff was very accommodating, ensuring the stay was as comfortable as possible. Although this is the Czech Republic, I didn’t have trouble conversing with them in English. If I did run into a staff member who didn’t speak my language (which was rare), they were quick to get someone who did.

Along with my room key, I was also given a yoga mat, yoga roll and a hot water thermos to use during my stay. In the room, a bathrobe and slippers were neatly packaged for me, and there were plenty of towels to use throughout the day, whether I wanted to go swimming, visit the fitness center or clean up after some sports.

The Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program

Among the many packages offered are five Ayurvedic treatments. I’d heard references of Ayurvedic massage through friends visiting resorts in India and Bali, but I’d never experienced one myself. Perhaps it’s a little strange that I should pick a resort in the Czech Republic to get my first Ayurvedic massage, but Svata Katerina hires all their Ayurvedic staff directly from Kerala, India where they are trained by the Kairali Group, one of the leading Ayurvedic centers in the world.

The Ayurvedic packages offered are for weight loss, back pain, yoga detox, rejuvenation and panchakarma (a five-fold detox program). The rejuvenation program has packages for 4, 6 or 8 days, while the other packages start at 8 days and go up to 22 days. Accommodations and meals are provided in the Ayurvedic packages, the latter created by Kairali-trained chef Rahul. Ayurvedic meals are vegetarian and are made without oil (except coconut oil) and very little dairy. Plenty of Indian spices and herbs are used, and the meals are simply delicious.

Svata Katerina Special Ayurvedic Meal

The rejuvenation program that I took was tailored for three days but included most of the regular package. I had my intro and outgoing consultations, an hour yoga class, an hour lecture on what ayurvedic massage is, and four massages – two Abhyanga and two Shirodhara. I enjoyed both of them, as unique as they were. It was particularly interesting receiving the Shirodhara massage, which started off with warm oil getting slowly dripped on my forehead.

What is an Ayurvedic Massage

Read my article on What is Ayurvedic Massage for the rest of the details about my Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program.

Meals at the Svata Katerina Resort

I have a confession to make. I didn’t stick to the Ayurvedic menu for the whole weekend. Don’t get me wrong – I ate every meal they served me, but I had some additional meals!

In the morning, there was a large breakfast buffet available to all guests. Among the selection were pastries, meats and cheeses, fruits and vegetables, bread, hard-boiled eggs and homemade yogurts. At the end of the buffet was a cooking station where Palacinky (Czech crepes) were prepared on request and topped with powdered sugar, fresh cream and berry jam. These are one of the most common breakfasts in the country, and I’ll admit I had one each morning I was at the resort.

Another treat that the other blogger at the resort and I shared was the grilled teriyaki salmon steak with fennel salad, radishes and fresh basil. The Czech Republic is a landlocked country, and I assumed that they used frozen fish shipped in from the Nordic countries. Our grilled salmon steak certainly didn’t taste like that though. Maybe a nearby salmon farm? I didn’t bother to ask.

Svata Katerina Salmon Steak

On my final evening at the resort, I went for the 1/2 lb beef steak with baby leaf salad and cherry tomatoes, and a side of potato puree. I’m not usually a big fan of steaks, especially when the meat is too chewy. This one was anything but. I followed it with the chocolate fondant with raspberry sauce and coconut-chocolate ice cream. Can you say decadent?

Book Now at the Svata Katerina Resort

The Svata Katerina Resort is open year round, and some of the more beautiful packages are available during the winter when everything is covered in snow, and ice skating is available on the pond. The prices at the resort are fair. The Czech Republic is one of the cheaper countries in Europe, so don’t expect to spend a month’s rent for a weekend of relaxation.

Click here to book your package at the Svata Katerina Resort.

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Svata Katerina Resort Pin

Further Reading

Are you visiting Ostrava and looking for more activities? Here are some other articles to help you out.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.

What is Ayurvedic Massage? That’s the question I had when I went to the Svata Katerina Resort in the Czech Republic to try their Ayurvedic Rejuvenation Program. In a nutshell, it’s a great treatment but it might not be for everyone.

Disclaimer: I am not a practitioner of Ayurvedic Massage, nor have I officially studied it. I write this from an observational standpoint after receiving one and compared it to my own knowledge of medicine and as a Thai massage therapist.

Where Does Ayurvedic Massage Come From?

To keep in line with other forms of massage such as Swedish and Thai, perhaps Ayurvedic massage could be over-simplified by calling it Indian Massage. There could be other forms of massage from India, but Ayurvedic is definitely Indian and has its roots in ancient times.

Ayurvedic massage is just one part of Ayurvedic treatment which is a system of healing in India. The massage concentrates on rehabilitating the lymphatic system of the body and thus helps to detox the body and build up its immunity to diseases. I was interested in their use of oils to detox the body, which was very similar to another detox program I know of which, in part, uses healthy oils to replace bad oils in the body.

What is an Ayurvedic Massage

The entire team of Ayurvedic massage therapists, and one chef, at the Svata Katerina Resort are all Indians from the Kerala region of India and are trained by the Kairali Group. Kairali is a century-old Ayurvedic health and training center, and one of the top Ayurvedic destinations in India (and probably the world).

Ayurvedic Massage at the Svata Katerina Resort

The Svata Katerina Resort in the southern Czech Republic offers several different Ayurvedic treatment packages. These include weight loss, Panchakarma (a five-fold detox program), back pain, yoga detox, and a general rejuvenation program. Most of the programs last from 8 to 15 days, except for the rejuvenation program which is 4 to 8 days. I was on a bit of a time crunch and thus had a tailor-made 3-day rejuvenation program.

My schedule consisted of consultations, yoga, special meals and massages. The usual rejuvenation package has three types of massages – Abhyanga, Shirodhara and Podikizhi. I only had the first two. There was also an hour seminar describing Ayurvedic treatments by the Indian doctor.

I seemed to hit a snag when I received my entrance consultation. Basically, the doctor couldn’t find anything really wrong with me. It wasn’t that this was bad, but I got the impression that Ayurvedic treatment was more for people with ailments, both physical and mental, and not necessarily for people already in good shape. This could be a completely inaccurate description of Ayurvedic medicine, but that’s how it came across to me. I was recommended a few basic practices of a general nature, such as gargling coconut oil each morning for fifteen minutes and scraping off my tongue afterward to get rid of toxins. Of course, yoga and the Ayurvedic diet as part of my prescription were a given.

Other than that, the program ran rather smoothly. I didn’t get up as early as the doctor had wanted me to (he said 6 a.m., but I had difficulty waking up before 8), and I didn’t manage to find the standing stones on the property where I was recommended a meditation session, but between the massages, meals, yoga and relaxation, I can say it was a great three days!

Ayurvedic Yoga Class #1

Ayurvedic Massages

There are four different Ayurvedic massages offered by the Indian masseurs and masseuses at the Svata Katerina Resort. I only received two of the four, so I’ll only mention those. The massage therapist is always the same gender as the client. The rooms are set up with original wooden massage tables imported from Kerala, India. They are beautifully crafted and functional for the oil used in the massages.

Abhyanga Massage

The first I massage I received was the Abhyanga massage. This is the full-body oil massage of Ayurvedic therapy. The oil is a proprietary blend (I couldn’t actually find out anything beyond that the ingredients come from India) and is intended to balance out the systems of the body. The warm oil is applied to each limb, the stomach and the back and thoroughly massaged in with long, deep and vigorous movements. It was a huge counterpoint to Thai oil massage, which uses slow and precise movements to manipulate the muscles, although both massages used a comparative level of pressure.

After the massage, I was sent to the bathroom where the shower had been converted into a steam chamber. Basically, it was a one-man sauna. Very cool! I spent 10 minutes flushing out my pores and sweating off the oil and then took a shower to clean everything off.

Ayurvedic Steam Chamber

The massage lasted roughly 50 minutes, plus 10 in the steam chamber. I was provided with underwear to keep my own from getting full of oil during the massage and steam chamber. Meditative music was played throughout. There was no question that I was relaxed by the end.

Shirodhara Massage

This massage was a bit more interesting. For the first part, I just lay on the bed while a brass pot slowly dripped warm oil onto my forehead. Over a gallon of oil was used, intending to stimulate various hormones in the head and thus relax the body. This was followed by a head massage and the steam chamber. While I had a hard time sensing how my mind or my immune system were improved by the oil on my forehead, I was certainly relaxed by it. It was a struggle not to fall asleep, and I actually might have for a few minutes.

Shirodhara Ayurvedic Massage Massage

Ayurvedic Diet

The diet which went with the Ayurvedic rejuvenation program was incredible. The doctor had informed me that I had to be off coffee, tea and other caffeinated drinks – not that I drank a lot of those anyway. I later had a chance to meet with the Ayurvedic chef, Rahul, who has trained all over the world in his craft. His creation of Ayurvedic meals without using oil (except coconut oil) and very little dairy products was amazing. Oh, and it was all vegetarian too. It was probably the first time I consistently ate vegetarian without feeling like I was starving.

Here’s my menu:

  • Friday lunch: minestrone soup; cucumber, capsicum and celery salad; tomato rice; shallots and tomato curry sambaram; banana sago in coconut milk.
  • Friday dinner: greens and lentils soup; bean sprout and capsicum salad; dal mughlai; steam rice carrot halwa.
  • Saturday breakfast: carrots, apples and ginger salad; red aval upma; spicy carrot chutney; fruit fillets.
  • Saturday lunch: palak soup; baby corn, bean sprout and cucumber salad with lemon basil dressing; zucchini rice; masala bell peppers; palada payasam.
  • Saturday dinner: tamatar ki shorba; beetroot and tomato salad; chole palak; roti; rice and sago kheer.
  • Sunday breakfast: sweet orange and lime juice; upma; sambar.
  • Sunday lunch: vegetable clear soup; beetroot and gherkins salad; lemon rice; suhki (dry) green dal; majjiga (andhra spiced buttermilk); coconut balls.
  • Sunday dinner: green gram soup; cucumber salad; pumpkin erissery (curry from Kerala); roti; ada pradhaman (Indian rice pudding).
  • Monday breakfast: pear, mint and lemon salad; oats kitchadi with fruits.

A lot of those dishes were Kerala in origin, and I honestly didn’t have any idea what spices were used, let alone how they were made. But I didn’t need to know what was in them to tell how healthy they were. A couple were a bit strange (the buttermilk was hard to get down), but nothing was overly spiced, and my plate was clean after every meal.

My Opinions on Ayurvedic Massage

I’m with mixed opinions about the Ayurvedic treatment system. With my own background of studies in the mind and spirit, as well as formal medicine, I don’t like some of the materialistic views of Ayurvedic treatment, such as how the seasons affect the body and immune system. On the other hand, I do understand the benefits and healing properties of Ayurvedic medicine, including the healthy lifestyle,

As to the comparison with other forms of massage, I still prefer traditional Thai over all others. I look at massage as a direct address to the muscles and through them the other organs of the body. When there are problems with the body, it’s difficult to repair the mind or the spirit, so bodily ailments are obviously the first target of address. I feel the deep tissue techniques of Thai massage help this the most.

While the techniques of Ayurvedic massage might not have readily apparent benefits to me, I can’t deny that it does relax the body, and I’m sure the oils and herbs used help with the immune system of the body. There honestly doesn’t seem to a lot of information on-line about Ayurvedic practices. Perhaps this is simply a lack of translation of materials which date back into ancient times and were written in Sanskrit.

The Ayurvedic meditation style differs from mine, but I’m not going to tromp on the toes of the millions of people around the world who find benefit in a meditation which looks inward. Personally, I prefer to meditate by putting my attention outward into the environment.

Do I recommend getting Ayurvedic massages and therapy? Sure! I don’t see anything detrimental in the treatments. At the very least, you’ll walk away ridiculously relaxed and probably healthier just through the menu alone. Although the Svata Katerina Resort is the only center in the Czech Republic which delivers true Ayurvedic treatments by Kerala-trained massage therapists, the subject is growing like wildfire and new centers are opening up all over the world. Perhaps next time I can do a longer program to see if I notice more benefits.

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Further Reading

If you’re not familiar with Thai massage, here are some articles.

Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.