Day 1: had a long, although not unpleasant flight from Vienna over Dubai to Bangkok. I expected greater difficulties with dealing with the fact that I switched from -10°C to + 30°C over night. Nothing. Went really smooth. First trip took us to the Khao San Road night market. Had some tasty Pad Thai and fresh fruit juice. Delicious. After that, it was back to the hotel, pop some melatonine and try to overcome jet lag
Day 2: turns out we haven’t been to Khao San Road yesterday. Actually, it was Rambuttri road, which is another nightlife hotspot, minus the alcohol and go-go most commonly associated with Khao San. Works for me. Today we did a walking tour (thank you Lonely Planet) and visited the usual tourist spots such as Wat Pho, the grand palace, etc. Had some seafood at the amulet market. By the time we got to Pratunam market, it was already closed. Tough luck, I guess.
Day 3: Bangkok to Ayuttaya by minivan, with a private driver. I voted for the train, but when you’re going in a group of multiple people, you got to compromise from time to time. There, we hopped on bicylces and visited the temples. More seafood at Bann Kun Pra (again, thank you Lonely Planet) before hopping on the train to Pak Chong. 3rd class, of course. It’s winter (chilli 30 degree C), so it gets dark pretty early, at around 6pm. Hence, by the time we got to the scenic part of the track, it was too dark to actually see anything. Went to our guesthouse near the Khao Yai park entrance by taxi.
Day 4: Did a day tour through the national park. Saw some Gibbons, Makakes, Tucans, Deer, and elephant poo. No other sign of elephants, tough. As for bears, we saw their marks on a lot of trees, but that’s about all the evidence we got as to their existance. Back to Pak Chong by Taxi. Found a nice hotel and decided to stay for another night, rather than heading straight to Bangkok. Dinner at the night market. Fried noodles, grilled Satai, Banana Pancakes. Guess my next weight cut will be fun.
Day 5: After breakfast, we hopped on the bus to Bangkok. First class bus for around €3,- / person. Not bad. Back in Bangkok, we went to the MBK center – namely, the Thai Battle booth on third floor – and, following a hint from muaythaicitizen.com, I went for a pair of Sukothai range shorts. After that, I got myself a Twins Special bagpack from Action World. On to China Town, where we spent most of the afternoon on the Talat Mai market. After that, finally went to Khao San road, probably for the last time. I don’t like that. Not one bit. Quickly headed back to the Thanabumi guesthouse – which I strongly recommend, despite the fact that prices may be a bit higher than in other places – where I improved my Thai language skills
Day 6: Bangkok river tour, more sightseeing. Went to Don Mueang and took a flight to Chiang Mai. Looked for the Saturday Walking Street night market, only to find it’s cancelled for today. Met a couple from England and had dinner together. Decided against street food and regretted it.
Day 7: It’s Sunday, December 23rd. Outside it’s about 30 degree. Found a gym for tomorrow morning, then did a long walk in the old town. Finished the day at the Sunday Walking Street night market. Today it was on. I’ve almost forgotten how much I hate hordes of people. Glad to have been reminded.
Day 8: Started X-mas day with the first training of this trip. Went to Sit Thaharnaek Gym, near the Night Bazaare. No running. I was told that the Thais do this before the (2-hour long) session, but they fought in Bangkok yesterday so no training today. Also, the head instructor wasn’t at the gym for that reason. Didn’t get to spar or clinch, these things are done in the PM session. My training partners were Farang (westeners) exclusively, but that’s understandable if the A-squad just had an out-of-town fight. Also, two of my training partners had fights here in Thailand. As expected, the Trainer-to-athlete ratio was fantastic. Three trainers for eight athletes. Lots of skipping (around 20 minutes), then gymnastics, shadow boxing, general conditioning (pushups and situps, mainly), some clinch prep drills (without getting into true clinching, though), some specific conditioning (1-minute rounds of „speed punches“ against the heavy bag, interspersed by short „breaks“ during which we did some more push-ups and sit-ups), pads (three, three minute rounds, pushups after each round) and heavy bag work (around six, three minute rounds). After that some cool-down (stretching, really) and go home. Merry X-Mas!
Day 9: Elephant Rescue National Park. Full day trip, hence, no Muay Thai. The trip took us to a Kaarn-tribe-run elephant sanctuary where we fed and washed the grayskins. Nicely organized, professional guides, tasty food, eco-conscious (for Thailand), supports and ethnic minority. All in all, good fun.
Day 10: Went to Sit Thaharnaek Gym again for my morning session. The structure was pretty much the same as last time, only this time the athlete-to-trainer ratio was even better. Five (Farang) athletes were trainer by three Thai trainers. One of them asked me if I was interested in taking a fight on January 7th. I’m flattered, but can’t really take the offer for rather obvious reasons. Went to town and chatted with a monk at the Wat Chedi Luang . Nice young man from Vietnam. Was a novice for five years before graduating (if that’s what you call it) to full monk just a couple months ago. Plans on being a monk for four more years. Here in Thailand, all young men are expected to be ordained as monks at some point in their life. Most only do it for one reason period, though. Coming back to our chat, that particular young monk had a very relaxed approach to Buddhism. For example, he told us that „people shouldn’t ask Buddha for help – he’s not alive, so he cannot help anybody“. Obviously, I’m paraphrasing here, since the conversation wasn’t particularly fluid. I really like the „no god“ aspect of Buddhism. If I had to choose a religion, this would probably be it. For the time being, I’ll probably just stick with science and try to be a reasonably decent human being, though.
Day 11: Thai cooking class. Went to the Smile Organic Farm, which is an one-hour ride away from Chiang Mai. Great fun. The Mango with sticky rice actually looks like something I could serve I The morning at a training camp. There’s a ton of sugar inn Thai Cuisine.
Day 12: Started my day by going to the morning session at Sit Thaharnaek. I had planned on visiting Lanna Muay Thai camp during my stay here in Chiang Mai, but Sit Thaharnaek was just so conveniently located. Just took a ten-minute run to go there. Also, despite the fact that only Farang trained there during the classes I attended, I was pretty happy with the training quality. The trainer I worked most with, Bucky, is great. Patient, pays a lot of attention to details, even corrected me in between rounds When I was working the heavy bag and he was holding pads for someone else. After that, we started our journey south. Took a flight to Bangkok,then caught the connection to Surat Thani. The whole trip took around eight hours. So much for fast and convenient air travel. I always prefer night trains.
Day 13: Took the Ferry to Koh Samui. Arrived in time for the evening session at Lamai Muay Thai Camp. The structure was very similar to Sit Thaharnsek Gym. Group size was much bigger though (still only Farang), so the group was split into beginners, intermediates ( I dare not say advanced), and children. During the third rounds on the pads, I nearly gassed out. Haven’t had any proper food due to the rather hectic journey. Got to take care of that before the next session.
Day 14: It’s sunday, so no training. Spent the day sightseeing here at Koh Samui. Had some good food, too. Prices here are, on average, higher than in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, from what I can tell. Went to the beach to get a 300 Baht massage – that’s roughly 8 Euro for an hour. Turns out, what you pay is what you get. Sabine can’t lift her arm overhead since the treatment. My best guess is the infraspinatus took damage. Hard to diagnose, though.
Day 15: More sightseeing. In particular, we went see the Na Mueang waterfall. Very nice. After that, visited the Thong Krut fisherman’s village. Went to Lamai Gym for the afternoon session. Today was very technical/tactical, lots of defense and some counters to round kicks. Only two rounds of pads. Altogether very relaxed. Much easier on the cardiovascular system than any session I took here in Thailand before. Then again, I ate and hydrated properly and even managed to get some Zzz before class. Happy new year!
Day 16: It’s January first, gyms are closed. Chartered a long tail boat to Koh Taen for some snorkeling. I have to say, water quality is tragic. Went over to Koh Mudsum. Slightly better water, but no underwater fauna to speak of, really. Some nice corrals, though.
Day 17: Changed Hotels. Spent some time at the beach. Hit the Gym for the afternoon session. Finally got to clinch. Also, got to spar with Bow (one of the trainers) and Hun (the Malaysian champion, who just won a fight via KO a couple days ago). Of course, the session was complemented with some hard conditioning. Very good and productive. A storm is coming. I’m not citing Sarah Connor here. Looks like we’re in for a rough ride
Day 18: Storm isn’t here yet, but the locals are taking some serious precautions, e.g., they’re barricading shop entrances with sand bags. Mai bpen rei. We decided to explore the island while it’s still possible and went to Chaweng beach, Bo Phut, the fisherman’s village (which basically is a big tourist market), the lying Buddha and Wat Plai Laem. The afternoon session at Lamai Muay Thai Camp was a blast. After some sparring and pads I got to clinch with Bow, the trainer who led the clinch lesson yesterday. I suspect him to be the gym’s clinch expert. Just look at these ears – that’s a dead give away.
Day 19: the storm eventually hit us. Pabuk. The worst in seventy years. Spent a good portion of the morning fortifying our hotel with sandbags and moving furniture to bungalows further away from the beach. The apex of the storm is expected to reach us between five and seven, so I’ll skip training today. I might be needed here if any heavy lifting needs to be done (rather literally speaking). My family is here – abandoning them during a disaster isn’t an option. Update – it’s evening now, the worst seems to be over. The bungalows at the beach took some damage, the beach itself is a mess. But we seem to be safe.
Day 20: didn’t sleep tonight. Good thing the morning session was rather easy going (with the exception of the pad work, that is). Still rainy, not much to do. Decided to get some sleep and go to the afternoon session as well. First time on this trip I did the „real thing“ of two daily sessions. Got to spar with Han, the Malaysian fighter again. He’s competing weekly now. Pads were super hard.
Day 21: sunday, no gym. Went to the north of Samui for sightseeing. Beautiful.
Day 22: well that didn’t go as expected. I planned on doing the morning class and then take a private lesson. Had an accident though, got cut over the eye brow. After a short odyssey, went to Bangkok Hospital in Chaweng. Got stitched. Then, went back to Bangkok.
Day 23: Sightseeing in Bangkok. Can’t really train due to the cut. Maybe I’ll find a gym where I can do pads and bag only.
Day 24: went to the Dam Noe Saduak floating market. Grab to Sai Tai Mai, Bus 78 from there. Did a boat tour through the canals. After that, took another bus to Amphawa. Although the train market was not officially on (no weekend), there was indeed a pretty busy market along the tracks. That counts. Tuk Tuk to Don Loi Hot. Very nice, virtually no tourists (well, except for us, that is)..
Day 25: Bangkok sight seeing. Went to Thewet and Dusit. The Dusit Palace Park is an interesting place. People dress up in nobility outfits to get their pictures taken in a royal setting. Seems to be a cultural thing…
Day 26: Started my last day here with a session at Thanomsak Gym. I was the only one there, so I enjoyed all benefits of a private lesson for the price of a drop in class. Not bad. The gym is fairly new and has been operating for just around four months now. The trainer, Thanomsak Sor Vorapin managed the Sor Vorapin gym near Khao San road before but had to close due to the land the gym was on being sold. I was a bit skeptical after reading a review on Sor Vorapin on fightpassport.com, but I was pleasantly surprised. The gym itself is a back alley gym if I ever saw one. That’s not meant in any derogatory sense, though. I am a firm believer that the basics suffice to build champions and that a certain amount of inconvenience is even necessary. The fact of me being the only guy in the gym meant a ton of padwork. After six rounds of thai pads, I did an additional three rounds of traditional boxing, followed by some heavy bag work. Little to no fillers such as conditioning. That was refreshing. Still, I didn’t have enough carbs before the session, so the pads were truly grueling. After that, more sightseeing. Did a walking tour around the national stadium, then went to Baan Khrua and had some fantastic stir fried basil beef in the muslim quarter. Finally, spent the evening in China Town and had roast duck for dinner.
Day 27: Long and tiresome trip back to Vienna.
Wrap up and Conclusion: Thailand is a great destination for a long trip, especially if you’re into combat sports. It’s also a country of contradiction, but elaborating on this is beyond the scope of this post. I trained in three gyms and while they were quite different, each had their unique strengths and weaknesses. Hard to compare, so I can’t really say which one I like best. I will, however, do a post on the lessons I took away from training in Thailand, so stay tuned.
So long, don’t get hurt