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Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.

Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) in Chiang Mai

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

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AsiaThailandTravel
Muay Thai introductory ritual
Muay Thai introductory ritual - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Introduction

When you think of east-asian mar­tial arts, typ­i­cal­ly your mind con­jures up im­ages of el­e­gant men and wom­en dressed sim­ply in white or black robes, fend­ing off one an­oth­er’s ad­vances with grace. How­ev­er, Muay Thai is not like that. Not at all. It is an in­tense form of mar­tial arts where both op­po­nents at­tack each oth­er vi­o­lent­ly with fists and legs. Of­ten grap­pling with each oth­er and knee­ing each oth­er in the bel­ly at point blank range. It is like Amer­i­can style box­ing, but with more le­gal limbs. Though lack­ing some grace, watch­ing it is quite a spec­ta­cle.

Tickets, Getting There and Back

Tuk Tuk to the Muay Thai Boxing Stadium
Tuk Tuk to the Muay Thai Box­ing Sta­di­um - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Be­ing in Thai­land, my in­ter­est­ed in the sport had piqued, par­tic­u­lar­ly due to how of­ten you saw fly­ers and oth­er ban­ners be­ing shown around the city. I asked my Thai Uber driv­er to rec­om­mend a sta­di­um to me, af­ter briefly call­ing his friend he sug­gest­ed Chi­ang Mai Box­ing Sta­di­um on ac­count of it be­ing the largest, so I or­gan­ised tick­ets with a lo­cal ven­dor for 1,000 bhat for that evening, a Sat­ur­day evening. Ad­mit­ted­ly you can get cheap­er tick­ers at small­er sta­di­ums, but I want­ed ring-side seats, so I bought this par­tic­u­lar pack­age. Be­ing Sat­ur­day I ex­pect­ed the sta­di­um to be buzzing, how­ev­er I think it was less than half ca­pac­i­ty. This was a bit of a shame to me, as be­ing part of a cap­ti­vat­ed and live­ly crowd is def­i­nite­ly an im­por­tant part of see­ing a sport­ing event. How­ev­er, the good part was I got a great seat - right on the ring side. In fact, I don’t be­lieve it was re­al­ly pos­si­ble to have a bad seat. Even if you bought the cheap­est grade of tick­et I think you could eas­i­ly move up to the front rows. I was con­fused for a pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­pher 😎, and was ac­cord­ing­ly giv­en seats with­in the bound­ary, right at the edge of the ring. Half the time I was lean­ing on the edge of the ring right next to the ropes, which was awe­some.

For trans­port the tick­ets came with ho­tel pick up and drop off, so I gave them my AirBnb ad­dress and they picked me up about 30 min­utes be­fore the event start­ed, at around 8:30pm. The shut­tle was a tuk tuk, which as touristy as it is, is fun to ex­pe­ri­ence; cruis­ing past the old town moat of Chi­ang Mai with 80’s dan­ish pop mu­sic blar­ing, and the whir of scoot­ers pass­ing by. On the re­turn trip I was crammed in to the tuk tuk with three grown adult men, so it was a bit of a squeeze. I was put in the front on a tiny seat over­hang­ing the road. With all that weight, the tuk tuk groaned and ground its gears each time we went up even the slight­est in­cline. The driv­er en­sured me that the tuk tuk could take up to 7 peo­ple; two peo­ple on the wing seats, four in the back, plus the driv­er. Per­haps all of them were pe­tite french ladies?

The Fighting

Male Muay Thai Fight
Male Muay Thai Fight - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

The fight­ing, as I said, was quite in­tense. Ba­si­cal­ly it seemed to be a more in­tense ver­sion of reg­u­lar box­ing, as you can use not on­ly your fists, but al­so your knees, el­bows, feet, and your shins. In ad­di­tion, the fight­ers grap­pled and kneed each oth­er for what seemed like min­utes at a time, be­fore the ref even­tu­al­ly broke them up. There is al­so a tech­nique called the “Foot Thrust”, where you kick some­one in their chest with the sole of your foot. Most­ly I read that this is used as a de­fen­sive tech­nique, but I saw one case where a fight­er kicked his op­po­nent with enor­mous strength half way across the ring and in to the ropes, be­fore launch­ing an as­sault of punch­es on him.

Female Muay Thai Ritual
Fe­male Muay Thai Rit­u­al - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Fe­male Muay Thai Rit­u­al

All of the fights start­ed with a danc­ing rit­u­al. I have read on­line that the dance is for the fight­ers to greet one an­oth­er and to pay re­spect to their teach­ers, par­ents, and their an­ces­tors. The dance is taught by the fight­er’s teach­ers, and so pro­vides clues about the fight­ers his­to­ry. Some­times the dances went for quite some time, and in fact on one oc­ca­sion, the dance last­ed longer than the fight it­self. Nor­mal­ly the fight goes for 3-5 rounds, how­ev­er this par­tic­u­lar fight was over in less than a minute. A huge Amer­i­can fight­er (he must have been 6’ 3“) com­plete­ly over­pow­ered a small­er, some­what over­weight Thai fight­er (per­haps 5’6”) with a se­ries of round­house kicks al­most at the height of the Thai fight­er’s head. With­in the first minute the Thai fight­er was ko’d, and the Amer­i­can prompt­ly de­part­ed from the ring.

Defending a kick
De­fend­ing a kick - Copy­right © Joshua Fuglsang

Over the course of the evening there were 6 fights in to­tal; 3 male fights, and 2 fe­male fights. At the end of the night there was a fight be­tween two boys who must have been on­ly around 5 or 6 years old. When they were get­ting ready to fight, it seemed like half of the west­ern peo­ple in the room left the sta­di­um. It was a sad sight to see the boys fight. If I had known that that was go­ing to hap­pen, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have at­tend­ed. One of the boys looked quite scared, and was rapid­ly beat­en by the more ag­gres­sive boy. The los­ing boy seemed like he was on the edge of cry­ing af­ter the or­deal.

Conclusion

Thanks for read­ing. It was in­ter­est­ing to watch the adult fights. How­ev­er, I prob­a­bly wouldn’t rec­om­mend at­tend­ing as I don’t agree with chil­dren at that young age par­tak­ing in what is quite an ag­gres­sive sport.

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AsiaThailandTravel

About

Here you will find articles on an ambitious plan to travel from Singapore to Morocco overland, i.e. without flying.

I will use buses and trains to travel through South East Asia, China, Mongolia, Russia, and Europe.

Read about The Plan So Far.