A Day of Contrasts

Trip Start Sep 08, 2011
Trip End Jan 08, 2012

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Roof View Place Bangkok
Read my review - 4/5 stars

Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, September 26, 2011

The day was clearly split into two parts, the first part of which was spent sightseeing around Wat Pho, a temple which contains The Reclining Buddha, the largest Buddha in the world at 42m long. Wat Pho is a lovely place to visit, but it is full of Buddhas, about 400 of them. Understandably, by the end I was all Buddha'd out and was in danger of slipping into a zen-like coma. I needed something to get my adrenaline going again. Ah, that would be the second part of the day, or to be more precise: the evening.

There was a Muay Thai (Thai boxing /kick boxing) tournament on at the Rajadamnurn Stadium, Thailand’s premier boxing stadium, and I had a ringside seat. This was bound to get my juices flowing after such a placid day with the Buddhas.

My only experience of a fight night was watching boxing on TV, where the boxers come out to music, limbering up and snarling at all and sundry. Well, Muay Thai is different. There’s no fanfare when they come out. The fighters are totally calm – no scowling, no grunting, no emotion. The first time you see them, they look tiny – well, actually, they are tiny. They look like children.

The boxers start with a pre-fight ritual: first they go to each corner of the ring and, seemingly, say a short prayer or blessing (I’m not really sure), they then kneel in the middle of the ring to pay homage to their king, family and Buddha and then they perform a slow 'warrior’ dance, like a Thai version of a Haka, but far more graceful and peaceful. It’s a dance (literally) that incorporates their fighting style. It’s fascinating to watch, but it hardly gets the blood going. Then the bell goes...and they beat the holy living crap out of each other.

It’s one thing watching something like that on TV, it’s quite another altogether to see someone get knocked out and carried out on a stretcher right in front of you. Watching this also cleared up the age old conundrum, "Who would win in a fight at their prime, Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali?" Well, I can tell you that the speedier, slighter boxers got their punches and kicks in, but once the (slightly) shorter but more muscular boxers got their shot in, it was pretty much over after that. Only one bout disproved that, but in the other bouts, I saw one boxer bring his knee up into the solar plexus of the other, knocking the wind right out of him. Not only couldn’t he breathe, but he couldn’t defend himself either, forcing the referee to stop the fight.

Another boxer had slow reactions and kept getting caught by his taller, more agile opponent – that is until he roundhouse kicked him in the side of his chest. After that for three rounds he went for the same part of the body, as the erstwhile faster, nimbler opponent was getting slower and slower with nasty red welts all over the side of his chest. He must have at least cracked a few ribs, if not broken one.

The strange thing is all of this is done with no emotion, except for the main bout. In this case the faster man was winning, but he was also smiling a lot at his opponent – which is tantamount to showboating in Muay Thai, this incensed his opponent so much that he found unknown reserves of adrenaline and then proceeded to smash him around the ring – I hadn’t seen a turnaround like that since Newcastle came back from 4-0 to draw 4-4 with Arsenal. It was simply amazing.

The boxing aside there were other things to keep me entertained – the crowd wildly betting on the matches; the referees getting physical with the boxers (they literally manhandle the boxers to get them to break/separate); the insane music which is played during the fight, but which you quickly become accustomed to; members of the crowd coming up to the ring to offer advice to the boxer, while the manager’s trying to keep him focused. Even the rubdowns between rounds were unusual, as the boxers get their legs pulled apart as they sit to keep them limber.

All in all, Muay Thai seemed to mirror my day; a calm, reflective beginning before descending into violent mayhem. 
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Jay on

Live Thai boxing. You have no idea how jealous I am of you right now.
No idea!!!

Jay on

Right!!! Just saw the Newcastle comment. You best be learning a few tricks from those boxers pal,, coz me and you are getting in the ring when you come back. You'll be waking up in 2014.....ggggrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!!!

kyzia on

George, after that day in Bangkok, are you thinking of changing career?
I don't mean becoming a reclining buda, rather a job in boxing!

spanna on

well, why not a reclining buddha, kyzia? i think he would make a wonderful icon of peace and serenity... i can see myself worshipping the big golden fatboy g...

Sun on

What a day of contrast. I do prefer the first part, though. You know me: no fighting, no hitting, not even students!

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