Tag Archives: falang

Koh Tao Fight Nights

Muay Thai Fight Nights… Is there any better entertainment possible for an evening??  While I’ve seen fight nights in Sangkhlaburi over the New Year, it wasn’t until I started training in Muay Thai Kickboxing that I really started to not only appreciate, but also notice so many more details of the action.

On the lovely island of Koh Tao, fight nights take place every 10 days at the Island Muay Thai training gym.  And every 10 days I would stay up past my normal bed time of 10pm (hey, I was trying to stay healthy and get in shape so early to bed and early to rise was my schedule then!  That was until Anna arrived… but that’s another post!) and join in the fun of the fights.

Being a solo traveler does have its perks, as does training at the same facility where the fight nights are hosted, but in truth if the owner and trainers of Island Muay Thai weren’t as nice of souls as they are, I would never have had as much of a great time as I did in each of the 7 or so fight nights I’d been to since being on the island.  Why do you ask?

Ring side seating!!  Sitting beside the owner (Patone) in his elevated judges chair literally right smack on the edge of the ring.  The scent of deep heat oil was thick and awakened the senses, you could feel the sweat from the bodies fling your way as a punch or kick hit and ice was potentially flung your way during the round breaks as the assistants iced down the fighters.  There were even a few times where the fighters pinned each other against the ring and were pressing so hard against it that it seemed they may fall into my lap if the ropes didn’t hold!  All the action could clearly be seen and it just added another level of thrill to the sport!

Of course I never expected to be able to sit ring side.  But when I showed up for the first fight night and picked a spot in the top row of the bleachers sitting on my own I think the owner felt bad for me and invited me to sit with him, even offering to buy me a beer.  And again though I figured it would only ever be a one-time thing, after about 3 times it seemed to just be the way it would be.  It was a generous gesture and one I won’t soon forget for sure!  I also wasn’t alone in being ring side as others were also invited for the up-close fun, but I was just tickled to have been one of them 🙂  Though admittedly I do wish sometimes I would forget watching the fighters spit and (sadly) shed blood over the ring surface knowing that the next day I would be sprawled on the very surface doing my cooldown stretches or sit-ups, lol!!

Speaking of blood… Yes, Muay Thai is obviously a contact sport and there is always the chance for skin to be split apart and blood spilled.  I’ve never seen fights in Bangkok, but I’ve heard that aside from featuring (no doubt)the best fighters and having to pay a pretty penny to see a show, that the fights are quite brutal in that blood is often shed due to them being “glove-off” fights and the fights aren’t near as often broken up by the ref.  Here the fighters wear gloves and the ref often intervenes if it looks like an unfair hit (striking someone when they are on the floor) or stand-off (the fighters are locked into a hold where neither can really make a move) and skin breaking injuries only occur if an elbow has made contact.  Surprisingly most of the fighters don’t even wear mouth guards!  And while most fights I’ve seen result in the usual bruises, one fight night in particular resulted in a cracked tooth, 2 split shins, and 2 split skulls!!  Ok, obviously the skulls weren’t cracked (I hope!) but at least the skin on their skulls were.

Each fight night featured 7 fights in total, each going a max of 5 rounds or 3 rounds if women were fighting.  Winners were chosen within the first 5 rounds if they knocked their opponent out (or did enough damage that the opponent tapped out) and if the fighters made it all 5 rounds then the winner was chosen by the judge based on points they’d earned from each kick, punch, elbow, etc.  I still haven’t a clue how the point system works really (i.e. how much a kick or punch is worth in points) but perhaps one day I’ll get into that nitty-gritty:)

Pictures as you can tell are quite a bit hard to take in great focus… Of course that depends on the camera AND the user… But honestly while many more could have been taken, I found that my focus was diverted from the fight while snapping away because I kept trying to get that “perfect shot” and I didn’t want to miss a potentially great knock-out!

Sometimes the final fight would feature a falang (foreigner, i.e. non-Thai) fighter who had come to the island just to visit or continue training and they would be asked to fight in the upcoming event.  Those fights honestly were not my favorite to watch because they seemed quite poorly matched.  It always seemed the falangs were either really tall and ripped or just muscled to the hilt and they were up against a Thai fighter who looked at least 50 pounds (whether in weight or muscle) lighter and a foot shorter.

Probably my favorite of the fights was one that was cleverly fought.  It was against two Thai fighters and while one was getting in lots of punches and kicks, the other would either endure the hit or miss it by avoidance.  Into the third round it looked like the one fighter was going to eventually get pummeled over but he kept avoiding hits just enough to stay active and in a single split second when the intimidating fighter let his guard down, the other fighter let out a swing kick right to his head and knocked him out.  Ding, ding game over!!  It took several minutes to wake up the knocked out fighter too!  Overall, if ever in Koh Tao and looking for a fun night out, I highly recommend going to the Muay Thai fight night!!

Back to Thailand 

Advertisements

The ‘Squirrely’ Side of Thailand

I thought it only fair since I posted ‘Things to Love about Thailand’ that I should also have a little ranting page about things I find squirrely about the country as well.  Again, they are in no particular order 🙂

#1: Whitening
Ok, now I understand that this is 100% a culture thing.  Unlike many people in the Western world and many Europeans, Asians want white skin.  White skin is a sign of wealth.  For if you are wealthy, you spend most of your time indoors and don’t have to work or labor outdoors, hence you stay out of the sun, hence you have white skin.  On the flip side, having dark skin is a sign of poverty.  So ok, I get people here want white skin, but what I’m not a fan of is the whitening products and not having a real choice outside of it.  Deodorants, body washes, lotions, basically any product for your skin has chemical whitening agents in them.  As a falang who prefers a little color to my skin, and as a person who doesn’t want unnecessary chemicals put on my skin, it’s really, REALLY hard to find any skin products without whitening chemicals in them.  They are all “whitening”, “extra whitening”, “white and firm”, etc….  What’s worse to me is so-called skin care product experts like Nivea, Oil of Olay, Dove, and so on are on the whitening bandwagon.  They are just out to give what the culture wants despite what damage it may do.  All about the $$$$… Again, I get it’s a culture thing to want white skin, I just wish there were options that didn’t have the whitening chemicals in them, that’s all 🙂
#2: Electric Lines
I don’t know why it is exactly that electrical poles have what sometimes looks like hundreds of lines coming off of them stretching along every road and side road.  It’s as if they had poles with a few lines at first, then as demand for electricity increased they just added more and more and more.  It’s sometimes scary as when you walk by many of the poles you can hear them literally buzzing with electricity!  And between some of the poles the electrical lines stretch from the top of the pole to at least half-way down allowing the lines to sag almost to the ground.  Now, I’m not an expert in electricity by any means, so I may be way out of my depth here, but I would think there would be a “neater” or more organized way to get electricity where needed without just adding more and more to already congested poles… Hmmm…

#3: Sugar
I learned very quickly that sugar is super popular here in Thailand.  They put it in EVERYTHING!!  It’s even a condiment on the table for your meal!  They have the chili pepper powder, fish sauce, a vinegar sauce with sliced chili in it and sugar.  Nope, that’s NOT salt!  I’ve heard that Thailand is way up there for diabetes and obesity, though to be honest I haven’t noticed that many obese Thai’s, so while that part came as a surprise to me, after realizing and tasting that yes, everything does have a ton of sugar in it, it’s not so shocking after all.  Bread, coffee, “all natural juices”, potato chips, the list goes on!  If shopping on the street at the various vendors, if it looks like it may be tart or not have sugar in it, you really won’t know for sure until you take that first bite.  As someone who is trying to watch sugar intake for personal health benefits, I literally have to read every ingredient on what I pick up in the store to check for sugar.  I’ve done this action so often now, I even recognize the word in Thai (since the majority of ingredient lists are 100% in Thai).  Such a bummer!

#4: Visas
If you enter Thailand via air, you automatically will receive a tourist Visa for 30 days.  If you want to have a Visa for a longer period of time, you can apply before going to Thailand to the nearest Thai embassy for a 60 or even 90 day Visa.  It is possible to get a year Visa if you are doing some sort of education while in the country such as learning to speak Thai or Muay Thai training.  If you arrive in Thailand via land (bus or train) you get a 15 day Visa!!  Seriously???  What in the world would anyone actually be able to see of Thailand in 15 days!?!?!  I understand that there are many expats and travelers that get jobs while originally just visiting Thailand and aren’t being legal about it (paying the appropriate taxes and such) so the government is trying to limit the amount of time people stay in the country to make it harder for those who get jobs and aren’t legal about it.  I get that.  It’s just unfortunate from the perspective of regular travelers who just want to explore the country without having to leave every 30, 60 or 90 days (yes, even 90 days is a pain to have to do!!) especially with some borders being closed (well, you can leave, but you can’t come back).  I’m spending my saved earned money in this country… Wouldn’t they want me to be here for a longer period of time without having to leave?  Then again, maybe that’s part of it too… Paying for transport in and out of the country to be right by the Visa is also stimulating the economy… Hmmmm….  The rules do change quite often apparently and many expats who have been here legally for many years simply say that “that’s what happens when the government is ruled by the military”.  (Sigh)

#5: Thai’s Don’t Sweat!
Ok, this one is obviously just meant to be humorous… It simply astounds me how the Thai people never seem to actually sweat!!!  Seriously, if I’m sitting indoors without a fan directly on me I start to sweat profusely!  And even then, while the skin being hit by the fan is dry and cool, my backside is not!  Walking anywhere and well forget it, I’m drenched in sweat so often just walking about that my clothes change color from being sweat soaked.  I’m constantly peeling clothes off soaking wet clothes and setting them outside to dry after my walks and when they do dry they are streaked with white marks across them (from the salt in my sweat) so into the wash they have to go.  Yet watching Thai laborers in the sun constructing a new building, carrying materials and such, not a single drop of sweat anywhere!  Their skin isn’t glistening with any sign of stress!!  Ok, now of course this is a teeny bit of an exaggeration because of course they sweat, otherwise I’d think that was a major health issue, but seriously compared to how I and other falangs sweat, it’s night and day!  What is their secret???  I’m off for my third shower of the day now to rinse off the sweat from simply writing this post. 😉

Back to Thailand

Debating ‘Falang’

One of the first things I learned when I arrived in Thailand was the word ‘falang’.  It is the word that Thai’s use to describe a foreigner.  Now, whether this word is meant to be an insult or not, I still haven’t figured out for sure.  According to some fellow travelers however, it is meant to be an insult, an impolite expression to describe people basically with white skin.

While I’m not entirely sure the exact connotation this word is supposed to carry, here is my take on it.  Perhaps at one point this word was supposed to be an insult.  Perhaps even today, depending on how the word is spoken (whether spat out with spite or generally inserted to refer to specific people present) it may or may not have a derogatory meaning attached.  But what my opinion is overall on the issue: it just doesn’t matter.

There are a lot of words out there in the World that people of one race or origin use to describe other people who either don’t look alike or are from somewhere entirely different.  And though I know that even today many of those hateful words are still used to inflict pain or rile up others, to me, allowing a word to change my attitude or way of thinking or feeling is just ridiculous.

I’ve been called a falang countless times while here.  And while sometimes I could say that the way in which they said the word was rude or hateful and meant to be an insult, why bother letting it bother me?  To give a negative reaction back to someone who may be trying to be hateful is to allow them to win.  For me to be upset at being called a falang means that I’ve given my power over to another.  I’ve allowed them to change my behavior for the negative.

This is why personally, I find no offense in the word or being called a falang.  Falang simply means foreigner in my book, no matter the tone in which it’s spoken.  Because let’s face it, that’s what I am!  There’s no debating that.  I can’t tell you the number of times traveling with others that I’ve had a discussion on ‘falang’ and what it means.  And it’s even more surprising to me how many find it insulting.  Again, perhaps once upon a time it had a bad meaning attached to it, but today I don’t see why people are still carrying around the idea that it does.

We are all products of our reactions.  If we allow our reactions to be negative or hateful, that’s what we will continue to be and to spread.  If we choose not to let words or allow ourselves to feel other people’s negativity, yet simply move forward in a positive light, then light and positivity will be all that’s spread.  Simple choice to me.

Back to Thailand

Arriving in Hua Hin

The bus ride to Hua Hin was mainly uneventful.  I say that because I had gotten a wee bit tipsy before meeting Jo at the bus station and therefore don’t recall most of the trip.  However, at one point between little naps, the inevitable sensation that always creeps up when one drinks started to kick in… Yes, I REALLY needed a bathroom!!  I had heard that the trip was only a couple of hours, so I figured I would be ok…  But just like all mini-bus journeys in Thailand: whatever time you are given for the trip, double it!  However, given that, what’s also nice about the mini-buses is that they inevitably always take a bathroom break about halfway or just an hour shy of reaching the destination.  Thank goodness for this!!

I seriously was starting to worry whether my poor bladder would hold up!  I kept asking the driver “hong nam??” (room water literally) in hopes he would hear the absolute desperation in my voice and make a potential emergency stop just for me.  “Ha nittie” (5 minutes) is all he kept saying as I kept praying that THIS time it really would be ‘ha nittie’…  Sure enough we did (eventually) make a stop at a gas station for food, drinks and bathrooms (hooray!!!).  Fully content (and about a quarter less body weight in water) we continued on the last little bit to the coast.

It’s amazing how much you miss something and don’t ever recall that you do until you are faced with it again… I speak of the ocean.  We pulled up at a random junction near the clock tower (which is really a HUGE poster of the King with a teeny clock at the top) where the driver said to us “falangs” (foreigners) and pointed for us to get out.  True to my style (and thankfully Jo’s too) we didn’t have any place planned to stay just yet.  Jo used her phone to track down a potential place to stay and we headed off in the direction It showed, which was also in the direction of the water.

About 10 minutes later we hit Naret Damri Alley, a bustling tourist street full of every possible worldwide cuisine restaurants that you could possibly imagine.  I mean they had German, French, Spanish Tapas, Italian, Norwegian, Swiss (seriously!!), Greek, American, Indian, Finnish, and more!!  Having come from and lived in the small town of Sangkhlaburi where the most exciting thing was pad thai or fried rice, we just about fainted when we saw all these delicious food options!!  Keeping ourselves in check (wiping the drool from our chins as we walked by each place) we first found a place to stay.  Memory Guesthouse just down the street from Dechanuchit Alley on Naret Damri Alley was where we decided to settle for 400 baht a night.  We paid for 2 nights, settled in and then headed out for some FOOD!!  We opted for an Indian restaurant just across the street and dined as if we had never had food before!

At this point the sun had already set so going to the beach wasn’t an option as far as tanning was concerned.  So instead we got a couple of beers and headed out just to scout where the beach actually was from us.  First we went the wrong way down N.D. Alley to basically a dead-end, along the way checking out and continuously being shocked even more so by the array of differing cuisines available.  We turned around and went the other way down N.D. Alley, past our guesthouse toward the Hilton.  We reached what looked like another dead-end (a parking lot near what looked like a Chinese Temple of sorts) but continued on as I was determined that there HAD to be a beach nearby!

 

Luckily, just around the corner from the Chinese Temple, the land opened up and a vast beach lay ahead of us.  The water was severely choppy and there was absolutely no way to swim in it, so we just dipped our toes in for a bit (gloriously warm water!!) then sat on the beach drinking and talking.  We watched the moon rise, a fabulous red-orange glow coming over the horizon through bits of hazy clouds and eventually headed back for some rest.

On to Hua Hin Days

Back to Thailand