Thai Kickboxing Experience - Rumble in the Jungle, Canadian Connection
The Thai people are well known for their placid nature and ever smiling faces though there are exceptions to every rule. They have an unequalled passion for Muay Thai kick boxing and it is an violent a sport as any in the modern day. When we decided to visit Thailand, kick boxing wasn't on the radar. After watching some live matches, I think we may be hooked.
We left Sukhothai, Thailand on a 10:30 government run bus bound for Ayuthaya. The 6.5 hour trip was only interrupted for a pee break mid way as the toilets on the bus were out of order. The tradeoff for a broken toilet was functioning air conditioning, which was well worth it if only one of the two could be chosen.
At the end of our bus journey, we never did really arrive in Ayuthaya. The bus did not go into town so our “stop” meant a drop off on the side of a 6 lane highway beside a pedestrian bridge. This is where the economics of Thailand became interesting. It cost us a total of 414 Bhat for the 390km bus ride and additional 200 Bhat for the last 10km trip into town. Granted we exchanged our comfortable, quiet air conditioned seat for a windy, hot, bumpy and noisy ride in the back of a 3 wheeled tuk tuk. Of course you’ve got to pay extra for those experiences.
The archeological sites around the city are very impressive. So much so that they deserve a post of their own so back to the kickboxing story.
When finally arrived, we found ourselves at the Park Hotel, just across from the largest archaeological park in Ayuthaya. The street in front of our hotel was packed with vendors and pedestrians. The hotel’s open courtyard was equally packed. The funny little man behind the bar got our attention by yelling at us “Hey! Do you have a reservation?” We replied affirmatively and he responded “See that window there?” pointing to the second floor. “That will be your room. You go. I am too busy now. You go and take it now. I am too busy now.” We walked through the very busy lobby and up the stairs and found what had to be our room.
After dropping our bags off, a quick face wash and a brief rest we were ready to explore our newest Thai city. In heading back through the lobby it became readily apparent that the crowd was dominated by big, scary guys wearing muscle shirts. They had close cropped hair, no hair, tattoos, square jaws, stern faces and invariably a braided arm band around their much muscled biceps. These guys were fighters. There were dozens and dozens of them.
It was at that point that we noticed a very large, temporary style, tent located in the park across the street from our hotel. There was a crowd of people around and under the tent. As we drew closer, the cheering became louder and the ring was revealed. There was a big screen TV and loud speakers playing the almost hypnotic Sarama music as two men, one African American and the other Thai punched and kicked the crap out of each other. With each landed blow, be it a punch or kick, regardless of the delivering competitor, the crowd would cheer.
This was the first live prize fight either of us had ever seen. It was far more fast and brutal in person than it had ever appeared on TV, and almost shamefully, we liked it!
The fight that we had walked up on ended in the following round by TKO. So there was a break before the next bout so we took that opportunity to walk around and take the carnival-like atmosphere. It was hot, like 38oC hot and we couldn’t imagine how these fighters had any energy to beat each other up.
We had found ourselves some shade under the back part of the tent, opposite the ring when the next set of fighters was introduced. The fighters were two women. Just like dogs in the back of a vehicle driving by and spotting other dogs on the sidewalk, our heads whipped over when the contender to the champion was announced as being Canadian. We were into it now. We had skin in the game, a homegrown favourate and an underdog at that, in a distant land.
Round one was more or less even. These women were tough. They fought without head gear just like the men. Both fighters exchanged blows from fists and feet. The crowd had plenty to cheer about.
By round two it was becoming apparent that our Canadian combatant was the better puncher. By round four that fine edge of being a better puncher had morphed into a clear advantage. We agreed that if she were to hang in there and just keep throwing punches, she could possibly win.
Just past the mid point of round five, our scrapper had her opponent pinned in a corner, a landed punch wounded the champ and her guard lowered, the next punch dropped her like a bag of wet cement. The champ was completely knocked out. It took an almost worrisome 40 seconds and some smelling salts for her to come around. Meanwhile, we cheered as loud as we could for the new Canadian champ as she bounced and bound around the ring with her hands in the air.
It was awesome. We were so proud of and for her. After, we made our way around the tent and bid congratulations to the new champ.
The rest of the evening was spent walking the ruins, eating at a restaurant overlooking the river and reflecting on our day.
Don’t be fooled. The placid, smiling, friendly Thia people have a side that embraces the violence of Muay Thai kick boxing!