June in Thailand: Muay Thai

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Tom had already seen a muay thai fight, so I went with Erico to check it out. Sure, the place we went to in Chiang Mai was hardly Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium, but it was reasonably priced and we just wanted to see any muay thai, not necessarily the top in class which we might not appreciate anyway. For a drink and some ringside action, it was quite a deal for us tourists.

I was quite dismayed at the beginning to see that most fights were between really young looking children who looked no older than 10! It felt almost like child abuse to watch them slugging it out in the ring with such precociousness. It was then that I realised why the prices were so low: muay thai fighters started training from a young age and of course the lower level championships were much cheaper to watch than the higher level ones with correspondingly higher stakes.

After the children finished slugging it out, the last two matches were of at least teenagers. Here there’s a video showing the pre-fight ritual dance in which the fighter practices some stylised moves to show respect to his coach, the audience, and the spirit of muay thai.

And then the action begins! The two launched into kicking and punching from the get-go, though there were a few too many clinches that got the referee (and the audience) pretty annoyed.


The awesome and of course dangerous thing about muay thai is that just about anywhere on the body is fair game. Here there’s a flying kick straight to the head, crazy stuff.


Erico wanted to put in a bet on who’d win. I refrained because I normally have the worst luck at betting. Now I can’t remember who won that bout, just that I remember that the guy I put my mental bet on lost. C’est la vie.


The last round was a really odd one, it was a bit like a blindfolded Battle Royale where a whole bunch of fighters were blind-folded and stuck in the ring to battle it out with everyone and anyone. Of course there wasn’t any point in betting on this, it was really just for laughs.


The funniest bit was seeing the fighters mock-fall on the ground and try to avoid being stepped on.


When the vaudeville music was over, it was time to leave and find a cheaper place for beer. We had it at what was proudly “may be the smallest bar in the world” and “not recommended by Lonely Planet.” We sat down to our Leo beers and then I promptly had a headache. Give me the light, smooth taste of Singha anytime!



August in China: Yangshuo

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Tortoise and I headed over to Yangshuo, which was about a couple of hours away by coach. While still touristy, this place certainly has a lot more charm than Guilin. It has slightly cheesy but very atmospheric restored ancient street, complete with old-style inns and dining places. It was fantastic walking down the street and looking up to see the hills looming above.

Still, there was no escaping the tourists. Check out the number of tour buses and coaches in the small tourist parking area.


We made arrangements through our guest house for a trip on the Li River. After about an hour on public transport in a packed minibus and then a modified jumbo tuk-tuk of sorts, we came face to face with one of the most famous images in China.


This appears on the back of a ¥20 note so we had no choice but to follow the lead of the domestic tourists to whip out our prepared notes for a photo!


We then got onto our private bamboo raft and chugged up the river. It’s a pity that the sun was in our eyes and the light wasn’t good for photos. You’ll just have to make do with the ones here.


The limestone formations here covered the gamut of weird and wonderful. Our map described a good 10 names of features we could hardly make out. After a couple of times shouting over the phut-phut of the engine to our raft driver, we gave up trying to figure out which name corresponded to which spot. It was all starting to look the same kinds of weird to us.


Before long, other rafts carrying domestic tourists came by and starting spraying water on us. They’d bought plastic spray guns from street vendors and indiscriminately drenched passing rafts. We beseeched our bewildered raftman to avoid them as far as possible. He probably wondered why we didn’t want to have fun playing in the magical murky waters. No good pictures of the water fights for fear of getting too close and then being caught in the crossfire!