Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fights, Beaches and Water Cannons - Thailand

With tiny Thai fighters dancing in Dany's head, I made sure the first thing we did in Bangkok was to see a Muay Thai fight. The Small stadium was half full, literally. The smoking section (left side) was full and the non-smoking section (right side) had two people in it with Dany and myself at ringside directly in between the two sections. It gave the stadium a slanty shanty kinda feeling.

Before every fight the fighters enter the ring and do a traditional dance while a simple three piece band (two drums and a chime) play. To my pleasant surprise the band continues to play as the fighters punch, kick and knee each other black and blue. The music moves with the fighters as the action increases and decreases like a theatrical score. In spite of the violence in the ring there is an incredible sense of respect and admiration between the fighters. With eight fights on the card there was plenty of action including a wild knock out. One fighter came out at the bell, kicked the other square in the temple and knocked him out cold for at least a four minutes. Three seconds, fastest fight I've ever seen. The place was quiet with everyone's mouth hanging open waiting for something to happen as the first fighter shrugged with disbelief.

Next stop, Chiang Mai for the Songkran festival. This is the Thai New Year and is celebrated form the 13th-15th of April. In Northern Thailand this festival is stretched to a week or more. Historically, the first day of the festival is spent cleaning ones house. This includes cleaning any Buddha statues in the house by pouring water over them. The now "holy" water is then gently poured over the shoulders of loved ones for good luck in the New Year. It has, however, evolved into one of the most colossal, outrageous water fights I have ever seen. Chiang Mai's Old City is surrounded by a moat where thousands of people line the street brandishing plastic pails with ropes tied to them. Pails are thrown into the moat and pulled back up full of water ready to splash pedestrians, motorcyclists and trucks filled with people armed with their own arsenal of water projectiles. On the other side of the road, businesses have sizable vats with water running into them continuously. Others, like myself, are equipped with water guns and 10 liter backpack reservoirs (these don't last nearly as long as you would think) as they roam the streets looking for trouble.
One minute you are engaged in an intense water fight with a group of Thais and the next you are refilling your water supply from them and idly chatting only to have one more quick fight before moving on to the next. The best "fights" are with the Thai children. Eager to initiate a water fight but once retaliation is commenced shouts of "Meow! Meow! Meow!" (No, No, No) are heard with laughter to quickly follow. Laughter is unavoidable and the only draw back is the threat of getting a mouthful of funny smelling brown water. I was sure that both Dany and I would be fighting for the bathroom the next day.
After an afternoon of being continually pummeled with water, a stop at the amazing food stalls were welcomed while we slowly drip dried in the shade and listened to bands playing across the promenade. Near the end of the day a large precession of Buddhas (one from each Wat in the city) traveled through out the city as thousands of worshipers line the streets to throw scented water on the Buddhas. This was so much fun that we repeated the events the next day and the next...... I'm still pruney.

The only negative point to this amazing festival was the fact that I forgot to leave my money belt that contained all my documents and travelers checks in the guest house. Everything was completely soaked and even after becoming dry again my passport looked like an accordion.
Now it was time to hit the beaches. After a bus, bus, tuk-tuk, train, bus, ferry, truck, long boat and a hot 46 hours we were at Hat Kuat (Bottle Beach). The closest thing I've seen to paradise. Beautiful beach, lush jungle, very few people, great food, and an amazing staff at Smile Bungalows that quickly transitioned from strangers to friends as we ate, drank, sang and teased each other for five amazing days. Days were spent eating, reading, eating, swimming, eating, hiking, eating, kayaking, eating and bobbing in the water every evening as the waves gently pushed us from side to side and we discussed the rigors of life.

With one more train ride to Bangkok, Dany was gone back home and I was on my way to Laos.

Thailand pictures Part I

Thailand pictures Part II

"Truly great friends are hard to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget."


  1. Eek, amazing once again!

  2. wow !!! so nice.........hope to see you next month...(June) coz you promise me already dont forget it....

  3. ya, for sure. just one thing...... who is this?