At the beginning of March, Anders and I were staying at the gym after the afternoon session because we were off to watch Chewey (one of the younger boxers) in a fight in Bangkok. He was fighting at Rajadamnern Stadium, which is the “Wembley” of Muay Thai boxing. We had normal training sessions but felt very lazy and only managed to run a short distance before running back with little Mook. She had come out to follow us on the motorbike with Lunglit and decided to accompany me on the way back. Even though she could pack a good punch and did so frequently, she was really sweet that day and kept picking flowers for me. After the other guys left I had a shower, which was in a small room at the back of the kitchen. There was a big tank like structure full of water and a smaller bucket which I used to pour the water over me with. I have got used to the Thai way of showering, and I quite enjoy it, but that first time I shared the bathroom with a dead cockroach and two dead fish that were for dinner! We had dinner and Ewan (Wan senior’s friend and business associate) took us back to his house, which was a short truck ride away and we stayed there for the night. We watched an hour of Thai TV and then went to sleep on the floor with only a cover and a duvet for comfort. Apparently I snored and both Anders and Ewan found it very funny because, in the morning when Ewan explained to us that he had opened his door in the middle of the night, wondering what the noise was and thought it was Anders who was the one snoring.
The following morning we got up at 3am and went back to the gym to pick up Wan (senior), Maue (another young boxer) and Chewey. We arrived in Bangkok about 6am and Chewey weighed in and then went to check into a hotel, that the family had arranged. We were to spend the day there because Chewey wasn’t fighting until the evening. However, when we got there I had forgotten to take my passport so they wouldn’t let me into the hotel. Wan and Ewan stayed at the hotel, and Anders and me left with Chewey and Maue and basically walked around for the whole day. Actually thinking back, whilst writing this, Chewey was fighting that evening and he had been instructed by Wan and Ewan to look after us all day, while Wan and Ewan slept in a nice cosy bed. We went to a nearby temple and sat a while watching the fish in a small lake and then we walked a bit further to Dusit Zoo. We wandered around looking at the animals, had something to eat and then sat down in a shelter by the lake. We had a really good laugh with the youngsters, we kept getting Maue to say the word “shorts” but he couldn’t get his tongue around the “sh” and kept saying something like “chartsh”. Maue was a very funny kid and was always making me laugh, and even though he was only 15 at the time, me and him ended up getting on really well and having a real laugh together. We stayed in the zoo all day long, and even had a couple of hours sleep having been up so early.
Earlier that morning, when Chewey was weighed in, Anders and I put an order in to have some custom made shorts done, with our names in Thai and the name of the gym we were training at, which is traditional in Thailand. When we arrived back at the gym later I found out that my name had been spelt wrong- apparently my name was now Jim!
The first fight started at 6.30pm, there were 10 fights and Chewey was no. 9. The atmosphere in that stadium was electrifying; the trainers from both the red and blue corners were going crackers, egging their boy on to win. The art of Muay Thai is spiritual as well as physically powerful. Before the fight begins, the boxer comes into the ring, adorned with a mongkon headband. They then move along each side of the ring, bowing to each corner and perform the Ram Muay ritual, which is a dance like ritual and done with a series of gestures and movement to the rhythm of ringside music. Each of the movements represents a spiritual prayer to hopefully overcome your opponent. This ritual is done as a mark of respect to the trainer and to the parents, and at the end the trainer is the one who removes the mongkon from the boxers head. We enjoyed watching the fights leading up to Chewey’s and when he came into the ring with Maue, who was his coach for the fight, we cheered as loud as we could. After a valiant effort, he unfortunately lost.
During the whole 8 weeks training the days were mostly the same with some random excursions thrown in. I loved the whole experience and something that I will remember for the rest of my days. I wholeheartedly recommend anyone thinking of doing something like this to go for it. You won’t be disappointed, and you will leave with some very special memories.