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The only difference between first class travellers and first class idiots is the price they pay.
Vijay Verghese, Editor, Smart Travel Asia

Stay fit or fake it

Body sculpting is the new pursuit for beach-bound travellers. So what does this have to do with the Taliban?


Vijay Verghese/ Editor

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King Kong - nothing fake about this guy...
Now he at least, is all man

FITNESS is catching on. People are adding muscle, tone, and personal trainer bills at an alarming rate. It is a trend to be lauded. A friend remarked over lunch how a colleague had suddenly bulked up into the Incredible Hulk – all this without alien provocation, complicated grammar, or ripped shirts. His friend let him into his secret later, summed up in one word. Silicone.

While women thrust fake Grand Canyons at bankers, in search of an easy fat dollar date, men are padding up their calves, abs and pectorals with litres of plastic. Bottoms are rounder, muscles are firmer and there's no way to know what's fit or fake unless you drop suspiciously well proportioned people from a high place to see if they bounce – always a dead giveaway.

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This is all very cool unless you're sun tanning in Phuket or Boracay and the silicone packs overheat and explode. This is probably what brought an abrupt end to the TV show Baywatch. A silicone-powered marine corps could wage stealth war on the Taliban, blowing up biceps at the prick of a pin. Things could get tearfully better. "Halt, or I'll do push-ups till I explode!" "Hah! Too late. I'm doing 10 fast squats already and shall be off to meet those virgins long before you." "Hey I really like your abs." "Thanks, your pecs are divine." "Wanna hold hands and walk into the sunset?" "Aw... okay."

Cosmopolitan surveys say that men prefer real bosoms as opposed to the ones that require a wheelbarrow and tow truck to haul. Yet there are clearly enough men out there with eager wheelbarrows and tow trucks waiting to make a difference in someone's life. Does heft equal happiness?

Body-shaping gear has been all the rage since the dawn of time since the first caveman awoke to find his wife being ravished by an unruly woolly mammoth...

Women cringe at the thought of men wandering about with cucumbers in their pockets. And rightly so. Informal polls at our office – dominated by women – have resulted in angry glares at any mention of environmentally friendly vegetable enhancements. The cucumber approach is immediately childish, distasteful and dishonest. Yet it is cheap, quick, and reversible.

Body-shaping gear has been the rage since the dawn of time since the first caveman awoke to find his wife being ravished by a woolly mammoth. “Darling you really must do something about your waistline and all that hair,” he must have said before enviously immortalising the beast on the cave wall with mud paint. Women have taken this advice to heart. World commerce has been driven at a furious pace with ladies buying masks, lotions, potions, creams, cleansers and toners promising all manner of instant gratification and ensuring men remain permanently mystified. The wraithlike models on the covers of Vogue are all slim enough to slip under a door and most pass out with malnutrition right after the shoot. So, is slim sexy? Or sumptuous?

Contour tights at the LAB outlets at Queensway Mall Hong Kong start at HK$340 – enough for a good dim sum lunch for four. You can buy them off vending machines. SPANX body-moulding underwear conjures up delightfully alluring curves using just plain old belly and thigh flab. Then there are hip pads, bottom pads, shoulder pads...

If women are padding up, why don't men simply don American football gear and stroll the streets like Real Men, tackling people who talk too loudly on the phone and crushing taxis that refuse a fare? Worried about big jowls? Just slip a pantyhose over your face and head to the bank for some lively reactions. Do a giant King Kong or a softer Sponge Bob. You can look big without numb Botox buttocks.

Bodyline may not matter for most of us Neanderthals carting our meat to office on the 8am train, but it is rather critical at 833mph, just over the speed of sound or Mach 1.24. Austrian daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner set a skydiving record with a freefall leap from the edge of space 38km up. This was an astounding feat. With people whooshing around the stratosphere what happens to Boeing and Airbus?

Baumgartner does not need to rely on derring-do any longer. Jumping from the edge of space is great for a finance sector resume. As we know, banks offer fat salaries to senior staff who perform precise and intelligently calibrated world recession battling tasks as only qualified professionals can – donning a smart suit, driving to office in a BMW, catching the lift up to the penthouse investment suite, and leaping out of a window. Baumgartner had two things most bankers lack – a parachute, and the intelligence to use it. He may never get that job.

Travel is full of imponderables. I'm all for hotels turning green but how the hell do you take a walk in an eco-friendly vertical garden?

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