30.12.2008 - 02.01.2009 24 °C
It's been awhile and mostly because we couldn't find any cheap internet sites. We arrived in Bangkok in style...somehow we were upgraded to business class for our too-short flight to Bangkok. We lounged in the Silk Lounge for awhile nibbling on all the desserts since we missed breakfast at the hotel. The flight was really nice, especially since we could recline all the way in our seats.
We got to Bangkok and were immediately surprised by all the hustle and bustle. Our hotel was not actually in the main area of Bangkok but right across the river. The view from our room was amazing since it overlooked the river and the night lights of Bangkok. Again, Bangkok is very similar to many big cities we have visited on this trip, it is caught between being very cosmopolitan and old traditions. To get around from our hotel we took a ferry to the other side and from there we could take a ferry taxi, subway, or above ground train. On occasion we took all 3 forms of transportation. When we arrived we wanted to get in some sightseeing, so armed with maps and guides we took the hotel ferry to the regular ferry. We were able to see the reclining buddha and climb Wat Arun.
After sightseeing we were off to the fights. Muy Thai boxing was high on Andy's list of to-dos in Thailand. We bought some excellent ringside seats for the tuesday night fight in Lumphihi stadium. Muay Thai boxing rings can be found all over Thailand but the best and most legitimate is supposed to be in Bangkok so we saved it for Bangkok.
First off, I have never been to any fight so I was not sure what to expect. I did learn a little about Muay Thai during my training for the wedding. I took a year of boxing to get ready...but as far as getting into the ring, I mostly chased my trainer around and never got a good hit in.
We got to the ring early to make sure we could find it first. Apparently there was no assigned seating, only seating by section. We were ushered in and took the next available seats. Luckily we were so early that we were able to get second row in the ringside section. We left our place markers on the seats and went to grab some quick pad thai and fried crabs.
When we got back to the stadium the fights had begun, I was surprised to see little boys in the ring. There was a lot of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly mine) that night. I couldn't watch the little boys fight, they must have been about 12 or younger. I buried my face into the guide book and read up on the history of Muay Thai and the associated traditions until the little ones were done fighting. The fighting is hard to stomach, maybe because I watched a 20/20 episode on how the children are sold into fighting to support their families. I had to question the authenticity of the report and whether that pertained to the sport as a whole or a fraction.
I could see that it was not simply fighting, but a lot of long standing traditions to the sport. Before each fight the fighters do a traditional dance around the ring, simultaneously. The dance is coreographed by the fighter and the trainer. The dance is meant to pay homage to the sport and gods. The fighters do the dance around the ring and stop at each corner to pray. When the dance is done, the fighters retreat to their corners and pray with their trainer, who then takes off their headpiece and flower garland. The fight consists of 5 3- minute rounds. Between each round the fighter is rubbed down and cleaned off. Judging is scored on not only punches but how the fighter defends himself and recovers from hits.
We watched 5 separate fights. Some were bloody, some were not. At the end I decided I had probably had enough Muay Thai for my lifetime. I still questioned whether I had just fed money into some sort of child fighting scheme but I could see that Muay Thai is a part of tradition for the Thai people.
On the last day of the year we took in some more sights and the thornburi water canals by long tail boat. The long tail boats were the only way to navigate the canals but sort of a rip-off. We were promised some floating markets ( we didn't get a chance to do the Mekong Delta one) and it really consisted of one lady chasing down our boat trying to sell us some fanta and various carved souvenirs. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool.
For New Years eve we had some Wagyu steaks at one of the restaurants at the hotel. The view was amazing and so was the food. We then headed out to Central Worlde Square for the count down. We were supposed to meet up with a buddy from GP...but once we got there it looked to be impossible. First off we headed to the Hard Rock Bangkok to get a gift for one of our roomies and then we battled the crowds at the square. I have never seen so many people in my life. Central Worlde Square is similar to Times Square in New York for Thais in Bangkok. There were so many people crammed in such a small place. We drove through hordes of people until we were in a perfect spot and waited for the countdown. Immediately after the countdown we turned around and tried to get back on the train. We were on a deadline because the hotel boat would stop making runs at 2am and we didn't want to get stuck on the wrong side. While we pushed and squeezed our way through we heard large bangs and police cars. We didn't see anything so we just thought it was some people getting carried away. Unfortunately it was not until the next day that we realized what it was. One of the clubs in the Square had caught on fire. 59 people died and over 200 were injured. Really makes you realize that life is short and unpredictable.
The next day we headed out on another plane ride to Phuket. Unfortuantely, our delicious new years eve dinner did not quite agree with us. Both of us were a little sick the whole day and didn't do much of anything besides watch tv. We didn't feel too adventurous in the way of food so we had some spaghetti and ice cream for dinner.
Today we are doing much better, we dropped off 5kgs of laundry and sunned at the beach. We are winding down the vacation and looking for a little more rest. We opted to take a few days in Phuket lounging at the beach. Apparently so did most of Europe. We barely got reservations and settled into Karon beach, a few kms from Patong and Phuket town. Apparently, Karon is also very popular with the Danish. All the restaurants are danish-thai. We are thinking of trying some danish food for dinner with a nice side of curry.
We hope everyone had a safe and Happy New Years.