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Monday 6 Oct 2003
Bangkok, Thailand

The Final Countdown

I grabbed my Phuket flight and once again, have returned to my second home, Bangkok. I was saying to some English girl on the bus how I'm really getting to like the place. They have everything here. Anything you want. Whereas the rest of Thailand is kinda "parochial" in comparison. I suppose if you visited Ireland and spent ages in Dublin, the rest of the place would seem really quiet. Oh well. In any case, she didn't agree at all! Is there anyone in the whole world who actually likes Bangkok?

I'd had my eye on something I spotted in the Rough Guide. You could show up for Thai boxing lessons in a local gym. I reckoned I was hard enough for that. After spending ages looking for the place, which was on the tiniest of tiny side streets in amongst a maze of market stalls, I paid my 300 baht and donned my boxer shorts. The place was grotty but functional. But I hadn't reckoned on the heat. My god it was intense. When you're doing a workout in 30 degrees the energy just saps out of your body.

I covered the warm-up, moves (I had one-on-one tuition, so it was good value), and then some bag work (i.e. kicking and punching a punching bag). The sport is a combination of boxing-style punching (with your fists kept high alongside the face) and martial-arts-style kicking. Finally I got to the bit I'd been waiting for - I got in the ring with some lad! He just had pads which I was supposed to kick and punch. He'd shout instructions, e.g. "Kick! Punch! Kick! Now elbow! Knee! Knee! KNEE!!!" It was great, but exhausting. I went for 3 five-minute rounds with breaks. Well worth the price.

That evening I wanted to check out a proper Thai boxing match in one of the major stadia. I'd been recommended this by the Irish girls in Chiang Mai up north. They told me that the atmosphere is absolutely amazing - the crowd are just so into it. So I made the mistake of walking to the nearest stadium! You'd think at this stage I'd have learned my lesson. Bangkok is NOT a walkable city. You should not attempt to walk to something - this is the basis upon which the tuk-tuk chappies business is based. They know that anytime they see someone walking, chances are their destination is not within walking distance.

Arriving half an hour late, I could hear the amazing sound of the crowd chanting, and the frenetic betting going on outside. Sadly, though, I was extremely disappointed to find that the match was nearly over. The Rough Guide had been wrong for the first time ever! Well, it was 500 baht though, which was a tad pricey...

A bit put out, I watched some of Gangs of New York in a pub and sank a large Chang beer. Which was gross. Off to bed with me. A bit of let-down for the final night. But what a month it's been. Chiang Mai, Cambodia... Wow.

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Around The World In 80 Ways

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