Muay Thai In Chiang Mai

Not your average Sunday evening: whiling away the weekend watching Thai boxers kick the shit out of each other and pondering my own chances in the ring...
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Not your average Sunday evening: whiling away the weekend watching Thai boxers kick the shit out of each other and pondering my own chances in the ring...

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So here I am in the north of 

Thailand

. The ancient city of Chiang Mai. Did you know it’s got a moat? Well it has. Anyway I’m kinda over the culture stuff so I booked myself a VIP ticket for some Muay Thai. It's pretty big here. Chiang Mai isn’t a huge place but there’s at least two ‘stadiums’ both of which seem to have fight nights every night bar Sunday.

I got a motorbike taxi to the Thaphae Stadium, basically a car park with some kiosks built around the edges flogging beer and Pad Thai to thirsty and hungry fight-goers.

I’m fascinated at my lack of fear when it comes to transport in SE Asia. No way would I get on the back of a Honda 125 without (or even with) a helmet back in London, but from Goa to Seminyak, from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane I’ve hopped on with nary a thought to what could possibly go wrong. I know that deaths from bike accidents in this part of the world are possibly higher than anywhere else in the world, but yet it’s so quick and easy to get around, not to mention cheap that I do it whenever possible. Maybe it’s cos they’re mainly Buddhist countries and I figure if I go out here, I’m coming back as a supermodel next time!

Anyway back to the fight. This is the second time I’ve been to a Muay Thai fight night, the first was in Phuket a couple of years ago, so I am hardly an expert on it all. I’m sure that if you saw it in Bangkok at Lumpini Stadium it’d be very different, but here it appears to be ‘Tourist’ Thai boxing. The majority of the spectators were Western, the Thais there were working or coaching it seemed.

Don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell wouldn’t like a kick off any of these fuckers except perhaps one of the two kids who looked less than 10 years old in the first bout of the night. I reckon I could take either of them, especially the one that started crying the minute his oppo touched him thus ending the battle. I could definitely beat him.

I love the ceremony of it all, the way the fighters perform the pre-match ritual known as Ram Muay, the dances they do, the way they kiss each corner of the ring, all of that, but in my experience those rituals take longer than the majority of the matches. The devil in me watches thinking ‘if I was fighting, I’d wait till the other fella was on his knees kissing the canvas and kick his ass’. Not very spiritual of me I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell wouldn’t like a kick off any of these fuckers except perhaps one of the two kids who looked less than 10 years old in the first bout of the night

They had a novelty bout where four fighters were put in the ring and blindfolded - a bit like the ‘Feel the Sportsman’ round on They Think It’s all Over. One of them was a chunky lad and it was very funny watching the ref trip him up so that he’d bring the other three down with him like skittles.

The bill for tonight promised two women Thai boxers but they didn’t show up, although in their place were two guys who fought like a couple of daft lasses. When it said “Lady Boxer” on the flyer these two took it literally.

Both times I’ve been there’s been a random Westerner fighting. On Phuket it was an English guy who’d barely got his robe off before they were lifting him out of the ring, but tonight it was an American who fought valiantly for five whole rounds, and while he had size and strength over his Thai opponent, we knew he wasn’t gonna win. He had no elegance. (Look at me, the instant expert!) Sure enough he lost on points.

The whole night was fantastic fun, nobody fell out of the ring into my popcorn like they did on the other side of the ring. The whole thing reminded me of when I was a kid and my grandma used to take me to the Public Hall in Preston to see the likes of Mick McManus  wrestling. Everybody knew the moves were choreographed but my gran used to get caught up in the excitement and yell and curse like a docker. The mostly male crowd here were doing the same, especially as the night and the beer wore on.

The few women who were watching -myself included - were less engaged, and I wondered why that was. Watching the fellas get so emotional I worked it out. I used to get like that when I watched Sex and The City (God rest it’s soul). That’s it, that’s why macho men love this kind of sport, cos they aren’t allowed to get emotional when Samantha gets cancer or Carrie scuffs her Manolos.

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