Monday, February 2, 2009

Thailand, Vol. III

I'm feeling lazy and rather dull today, like a donkey... not clever and determined, like the noble burro. But I'm gonna sit down and write for a bit anyway, lucky for you!

Let's see, where did I leave off? I know, I know, it's a fairly simple matter to just go look at the blog, but I'm going to sit here and try futilely to remember for a bit first, so bear with me.

Meh... never mind. I know this is all happening immediately in your imagination, but there was about a 6 minute break just now where I stared blankly at the wall and drooled on myself... ok. I'll be right back.

There we go... we had just had dinner with the Thai who owns the guesthouse, and we were on the way to meet the Aussies for drinks before the Muay Thai fight. I'm using the royal "we" here, for no good reason... I'll stop. I went to John's Place (the name of a bar, not the house of a guy named John). Anyway, when I got there I sat down with Gaz and Jess and their Irish friend... we'll call him Seamus. That's not his real name, but due to the prolific amount of beer I drank and his wonky Dubliner accent, I know absolutely nothing about this guy... except that he can drink like a whale. We had about an hour and a half before the fights started, so we got down to some serious drinking, and by the time 9:00 rolled around I was already feeling pretty loose. We had plans to meet the "Aussie sluts" at the ring, so we kinda strolled around this indoor/outdoor arena, consisting of a few bars, a boxing ring, and lots of like, picnic tables surrounding the ring. The Aussie sluts are actually 3 British girls who had been out the night before and had an older English guy walking by look over at them and mutter, "Aussie sluts." Curiously, the part of this they really took exception to was the "Aussie..." not so much the other half. Yeah, so Gaz, Jess, Seamus and I found them right by the ring, sat down, and ordered 3 more rounds of drinks, to be delivered whenever we needed them. This made the paying situation easier, but didn't turn out as well for me, in the long run. I guess that's how they roll in other more alcohol-friendly parts of the world... I dunno.

The fights, what I remember of them, were pretty sweet. One weird thing: they start learning fighting when they're really young, and by the time they're 14, they're professional pummeling machines, weighing about 105 pounds of solid writhing punchy-ness. So the first couple fights were actually training matches, like 11 and 12 year old kids just beating the living shit out of each other... it was really bizarre. Then there were a couple of lady-fights, with chicks who could probably wrestle a jackal with their bare hands and live to wear his skin home as some sort of trophy. Then we got to the real professional matches. This isn't like boxing as we're used to it; these guys can kick, elbow, knee and punch to score points. The elbows and knees, if I remember correctly, score more, because they're harder to land. A good chunk of these fights (they're pretty short -- 3 or 4 rounds, usually) consist of jabs and straight kicks to find your range, then backing the opponent into the corner and repeatedly jamming your knees up into the other guy's abdomen (which he blocks with his forearms and/or knees), followed by an attempted elbow to the side of the head. It's pretty entertaining to watch actually, and I'm not much of a violent-sports kinda guy. Then came the ... halftime show, I'll call it. I didn't remember this until I saw my own pictures of it... ha. But it was this tall Thai (what I assume must have been a) ladyboy with giant fake boobs, wearing nothing but a veil and a thong strutting around lipsynching to (what I assume must have been) popular Thai music. I'm pretty hazy by this point, but that's the gist I get from the photos. Finally, the headline match... between a Spanish guy and an actual Thai professional Thai fighter. We figured the Spanish guy would be SOL, but he freakin dominated... knocking the other guy out in the first round with (as I recall) a lock against the ropes, a series of knees, and a crazy spinning kick to the head that just dropped his opponent. It was nuts...

And then we drank some more at the ring, I chatted with these two French guys in Spanish for a while, and we went back to John's Place (just around the corner) for round 2. And this is how, in a previous entry, it came about that we ended up drinking with Mr. Victorious Spanish guy... who was actually really cool. I finally took my leave around (I'm guessing) 3am, and started to head home. Now, here's the fun part. This bar was on a main street, just across from the canal. All I had to do to get home was go out of the bar, take the first right, and walk for about a half-mile until I saw my guesthouse on a corner, on the right-hand side. Somehow, I managed to fuck this up royally. Maybe an hour later, when the worst of the alcohol haze starts to fade, I'm starting to wonder how much farther I can possibly have to walk, when I realize I'm in a completely unfamiliar neighborhood. Now, don't be worried, because by this point I was fortunate enough to have no phone, no watch (both of which I had left at the guesthouse for just such an occasion), and no money (left), so the chances of getting robbed were exceptionally remote. I take stock of my surroundings, see nothing whatsoever that might be of service, so I figure I'll just pick the direction that feels right and keep on truckin. This seems to be going fine for a while, in that I wasn't bored or anything, but it certainly didn't help me find my way home. Finally, I see a policeman standing guard outside of some gate. I ask for help... but by some unhappy coincidence he doesn't speak English, and I (to my surprise) don't speak Thai. He did manage, however, to track down a cab for me and I told him the road I needed. I neglected to mention, of course, that I didn't have any money. I figured we'd cross that bridge when we came to it. And that's the way it worked out... when we got there, he named some ridiculously high price, and I, being at this point sober enough to bargain, offered him half. He said ok, and I made the international sign for cash (rubbing my thumb against my first two fingertips back and forth, and pointed upstairs. He waited while I woke up the guesthouse lady, went upstairs, found an absurdly large denomination of Thai money, and he still made change for me at the price I had requested. They're good people, these Thais, I tell ya.

The next day, I slept late, ate spicy Thai food for breakfast to kill the hangover, drank a boatload of water, got a massage, ate more Thai food from a street stall, and went to bed. My flight the next morning left at 7 am, so I figured I should leave the guesthouse by no later than 5:30 to get there on time. Had to walk for about 10 minutes to find a tuk-tuk (like a motorized tricycle with 2 little seats in the back and a small roof) to take me to the airport, but it's only about a 10-minute ride, anyway. Caught a flight to Bangkok, then another to Phuket, an island in the south of Thailand on the west coast. I had heard that Phuket was kind of shitty, and it turned out to be more or less true, but I needed to go there to get a boat to Phi Phi, so I figured I'd spend a day there and take a look around. In retrospect, I'd say this was a poor decision... nothing bad happened, it just really is a shithole. I was couchsurfing though, so at least I didn't have to pay for a room for that night. Plus the guy I stayed with had a kick-ass house and took me to his favorite restaurant for dinner, and we had amazingly spicy and good food (laab ped and som tam, I think, plus some sticky rice and a couple different kinds of sausage. The laab ped (I seriously doubt I'm spelling that right, but whatever) is duck, ground and cooked and mixed with vegetables and Thai chiles... the som tam that we had was a cold cabbage salad with raw crab legs and Thai chiles... I was later told that it was awfully dumb to eat raw seafood in Thailand, but it was actually really good. Sweet and juicy and spicy all at the same time. Then we went to a nearby bar for a beer, but he had to work the next day so we headed back to his place and crashed pretty early. Next morning I got up, had a donut, read and interneted for a while and then he took me to a nearby hotel where I could catch the minibus that would take me to the pier and the ferry to Ko Phi Phi.

Wow... that was a lot of writing... sorry to put ya'll through that. I mean, no, it's good, right? You're still with me? Yeah, you're still with me. Well, don't turn that dial, because the next installment of Sean in Thailand is coming up right after this message from our sponsors.

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