Been there Don Det: chilling and fasting on the 4000 Islands

It was 3 in the afternoon; my belly was doing funny noise, my head spinning and my energy level at its lowest. It was only – or already – the second day of my three-day juice fasting and I couldn’t have been grumpier. Why on earth was I doing this for? Let me go back in time and explain.

A few weeks earlier, I had spent 6 days at the Hariharalaya Yoga and Meditation retreat centre in Cambodia. I had promised myself to keep up with the good work with regular yoga classes and meditation sessions. Unfortunately, the travel life got the best of me and I hadn’t been practicing as much as I wanted to. Going to retreats is a great thing, but inserting all the beautiful things we learn into our daily lives is even better. After two weeks of intense traveling, moving places almost everyday in the Northern parts of Cambodia, arriving to the 4000 islands in Laos where everything – and everyone – is much slower felt like the perfect opportunity to catch up on my spiritual homework.

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The 4000 islands are composed by three main islands – Don Det, Don Khon and Don Khong – plus thousands of tiny little ones. During the rainy season, most of them are covered by torrential muddy waters. I arrived there early October to find the aftermath of the rain; the paths were muddy, the fishing traps in the water destroyed and very few tourists had made their ways to the islands yet. Ideal conditions for a relaxing few days.

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Because of the low season, many of the daily activities were not an option. Plus, the very strong current of the Mekong River discouraged me from doing a kayaking trip. In six days, I basically rented bicycles to visit Don Khon island from Don Det, hung out at the Shangri La guest house green water pool and drank at Adam’s Bar. Nothing special, but everything I needed.

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Now, why a juice fasting? There are many benefits of cutting food and drinking liquids for a few days. Approximately 70% of our daily energy goes into the digestion process. By cutting this process for a few days, we boost our metabolism – although not eating can make you feel really tired at first. On a more spiritual level, the energy we save from eliminating digestion helps us being more connected to our body and mind in order to improve our awakening yoga and meditation practices.

But fasting should be done wisely and this is where my first mistake was. Choosing the right types of liquids to drink is essential to get the best possible experience. Super foods such as coconut water or sugar cane juice are highly recommended in fasting. Same for having a juice-maker and using diverse fruits and vegetables. Surprisingly, it turned out that finding fresh coconuts on Don Det island was a huge hassle and I ended up drinking watermelon and pineapple juice for three days; not very nutritious unfortunately.

Meditating twice a day was very helpful to kill the hunger and the grumpiness and once the fasting period was done, my energy levels were touching the sky. It took me three or four days to return to a ‘normal’ alimentation as it felt my stomach had shrunk – yes, in three days only. Fasting was a great exercise to improve my ability to focus on the positive and to let go of the unpleasant sensation of insufficiency, of missing something.

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If I had to do it again, what would I do?

  • Fasting alone can be depressing. Finding a fasting buddy can extensively improve the experience and there’s nothing like having someone that understands your pain to be grumpy with.
  • Make sure the right food is available and in high quantity. Fasting shouldn’t lead to starvation and there’s no limit on how much juice to drink each day.
  • Creating the right environment is essential. Watching people eating and partying whilst drinking watermelon juice is kind of a torture.
  • Keep busy with more light exercises and non-physically demanding activities. There’s nothing worst than being bored and hungry.

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And you, have you ever tried a juice fasting or would you like to try one? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

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