Saturday, February 19, 2005

Chiang Mai: Tai Boxing

A few of us met last night in the SP Hotel outdoor patio, just in from where I'm staying. My two Friends from Massage were there along with the, now world famous, Dennis (Yes Angie, he's still here).

After a little while we were joined by the resident entertainer, A Thai guitarist who loves to play Beatles songs.

Steven, from Laval Quebec, Canada, (treated us) to some Karaoke as we drank our Singha beers. He wanted to send this message home to his family:
"Allo, Caro et William (his year-and-a-half-old son), Je pense a vous, je vous aime. Jespere que vous tirez se message...bye, Steven"

Then there was Patrice who says that he hasn't had a really good shower to sing in for a while, so he sang the ever present, 'Hey Jude'. Some of you out there might want to sing along. I know I did. Patrice wanted to send this message to his sweetie: "Cherie mon coeur est avec toi, comme tu peux voir je parles de toi a' toute lemande!"

Someone suggested that we had Kenny Rogers with us, so quite a stir was created when this famous Country singer graced our gathering with a song as well. (I hope I don't have to pay royalties for this.)

Sensing that some strange Thai animal was squealing in pain in the lobby, Kevin and Carol joined us. They are brother and sister from Brisbane Australia. I know that Carol is 22 years old and is studying Eco biology. I told her that she would enjoy meeting you Sarah since you both have such passion for life. I forgot to ask Kevin what he does but I assume he is ex-CIA and just left it at that.
Steven (sitting next to the Aussies) suddenly started chanting 'Thai Boxing' and so off we went. When we arrived at the match, the really chincy amongst us (Dennis and me) almost had a heart attack (just a figure of speech Angie, I promise) when we found out it cost 400 baht each. I know that is only $12 Canadian but when you can get a whole Massage for $6 it has a new meaning.

I was thinking maybe we should just stay a short time but then Patrice reminded us that he was pretty good at Karate and he wanted to stay, so it sounded like a good idea to do what he said.
The sound of Thai Boxing is clashing symbols, bells and a snake charmer's recorder gone terribly wrong. Within this monotonous cacophony of noise, the boxers kick and punch each other and mostly just hold on to each other to keep from being kicked harder. Meanwhile, the onlookers eat Styrofoam dishes of rice with tomatoes and balls of deep fried pork and chicken on wooden skewers. These meals are bought from vendors outside the arena at a cost of 20 baht a meal.
The serendipity of this situation was that we were sitting up on the wood slat bleachers right beside the keynote fighter of the night: Leam Phet. I motioned to his trainer to ask if I could take a picture as he got ready for his fight. Leam was delighted and let me take this picture.

That fight took place at midnight, against an American Kick Boxer; Jack Jai. Jai's body was covered by tattoos including one across his chest that read "Loved+Lost". My expectation was that Jai would be the stereotypical Ugly American but he was anything but. I stood at ringside and I saw the force of the kicks as each man punished the other with bone jarring blows. Jai certainly had the advantage size-wise, but Leam Phet was all muscle too.

The match was short lived though, when Phet started to bleed above the eye.

The ref declared it a technical knock out, but instead of the American putting his gloves up in victory, he immediately ran to Phet and threw himself onto the mat in a bow of respect. Then after a few moments Jai jumped back up and the two hugged as friends. I had never seen such a display of sportsmanship in my life.

I took this picture of Jai as he stood for photos a few minutes later.

My favorite sight that night though, was Leam Phet's son, who was given a blanket when he just couldn't stay up any longer to watch his dad. Phet's trainer took tender care of the boy as he slept quietly in the stands, amongst the cheering and clashing symbols and bells down below.
Such a beautiful scene.


Anonymous said...

I want to hear about the massage.

Anonymous said...

Is that like Casey at the baht?
(scott your brother)

Anonymous said...

me too !!
(sly tiboule)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am Dennis' older brother Peter (he has 4 brothers) and I am really enjoying seeing him and you and others travelling together.

We all admire him for going to Asia on his own. The boxing pix are great.

Steven said...

Scott: I have just received a warning from the TPP (Thai Pun Police) They have you in their files and they are watching you.
Consider this a first warning...

Steven said...

Peter: Dennis is a lot of fun to travel with. I just try to keep up with him the best I can. Glad you're looking in. All the best and Namaste' my friend.