Thailand Part 1: Bangkok and Phuket: Excess and The Art of Eight Limbs

Thailand bracketed my entire south east Asian trip. I flew in from Korea in March and flew out to Taipei in June. I only visited 4 cities: Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Kanchanabury. The only way to capture Thailand’s awesomeness is two cut it up into two parts. Part one is about the craziness that is Bangkok and my attempts to fight in Phuket. Part two is about the much more laid back trip to Chiang Mai and Kanchanabury.

At first I wanted to move to Thailand to find work as an English teacher while I trained in the brutal martial art of Muay Thai. But it was not to be. About a week before I was to leave for Bangkok, a friend of mine suggested I go and see what it’s like before committing to anything. Well, once I saw Bangkok for myself I realized it wasn’t the place for me to live. Visit? Absolutely! But not to live. Dirty, polluted and full of noise, Bangkok is a Dionysiac playground (“See, Athenians, THAT’S how you do it! Look at them lady boys!”) The heat, lady boys, martial arts, cheap food, night life, and a dozen other things are all over the place, and these are the things that make Bangkok so remarkable.

The first night I was actually in Bangkok I stayed at a hostel where the owner was willing to organize a night out for the boys. Sparing you the mundane details, I will share with you the knowledge I acquired that evening: Gentlemen, in Thailand, you are not the hunter, you are the hunted.

Mr. Hostel Owner informed us that Thursday night was particularly good for us to go out: the working girls were looking for weekend boyfriends which could mean any number of things. It was at this point we, our group of 20-something men, learned about the four types of hunters you will find in a Bangkok night club:

  1. The high-class workers. These girls will laugh at all of your stupid jokes and make you feel like a big superstar. Anything more, and you’ll pay somewhere in the neighbourhood of $60 plus hotel expenses, etc. for their “company.”
  2. The not so good-looking but good enough women. Price negotiable, these girls are often looking for the weekend boyfriends. When you get traded up depends on how big your bank account is.
  3. The girls who will buy stuff for you. Good luck bedding these girls, they just want to be friends and probably are locals who want to watch the scene.
  4. Lady boys. Well, I never got a price for these folks.

Those are the four types you’ll probably run into in just about every club in Bangkok. As for the bars, once the legal bars shut down, don’t forget to ask to be taken to the Spicey Club. You shouldn’t have to pay for a cab ride there since they get commission for bringing you there. Once that’s done at 6 in the am, if you haven’t been sucked into a purchase already, you can join the fun in another club right across the street.

After that night of fun I spent the rest of the week unwinding and prepping myself for training in the art of the eight limbs: Muay Thai. (Eight limbs? Yes: shins, knees, elbows, and fists.)

I spent three weeks in Rawai, Phuket at a Muay Thai camp. From what I could tell by walking around and some research, Rawai is one of the better camps in Thailand, especially for foreigners. If you want harder training than they do here, you’d probably have to go to Bangkok and get your ass kicked there. The workouts were early in the morning (7:30-9) and early afternoon (3-4:30 or 4:30-6). Before each training session, you had the option to run 4kms. Training sessions consisted of stretching, 5 rounds on the punching bags, 5 rounds of pad work in the ring with a trainer, and then sparring or some lessons on technique. In between each round you were expected to do either 10 push ups or 10 sit ups. Once the session was over, 150 sit ups. Not going to lie, after 3 weeks I looked good. Even I’d pay myself for the privilege of being with me!

Once of the cool things about the Muay Thai camp were the people who were training. Some people trained to fight (including a mammoth American Muay Thai fighter who works in Antarctica for six months and then fights in Thailand for the rest of the year, and a whole bunch of Thai kids who could kick the shit out of me), but most were there for fitness (including a Canadian contingent of rugby players, a big-buxomed beauty from Down Under (who informed us that she had some enhancements made, which we all agreed looked great), and more folks from around the world. I also met a Canadian chick who gave me a picture of her dressed in some royal clothes. Hoping that she was a princess (from Canada?) and could foot the bill for all of my creative movie and music endeavours, I asked where she was from. Vancouver. The picture was Photoshopped 😦

After my three weeks were over I returned to Bangkok to catch a bus to Cambodia (see the first few posts of this blog, Day 0 to Day whatever). I only stayed for one night and paid for a bed to sleep in only to get chatting with this cute hair stylist who then took me out on the town. I seriously walked in there only for a hair cut, but Bangkok won’t ever let you do just what you want to do.

Thus my introduction to Bangkok, the city once known as the “brothel of the world”, and the martial art of Muay Thai. Part two will cover Chiang Mai and Kanachanbury.

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