Monday, May 24, 1999

Bangkok, Day 2

I woke up around 6 am. It looks like it rained last night. I started walking
north around 7 am. All the stores are closed, no tuk tuk drivers are talking
to me. Lots of languid dogs laying around.

 I'm at the Royal Palace and gardens around 8, entered the nearby zoo minutes later. More animals just laying around in small cages. Meerkats, elephants w/leg chain, stump-tailed macaques, hippo,
Siamese crocs, lions, tigers, and bears. Oh my.




After a walk around the Royal palace walls, I'm in a cab bound for the Weekend Market. Haggling and cheap wares. I had a green fruit drink that probably wouldn't have cut it if I wasn't
sweating profusely. This place really reminds me of Miami in the summer-hot,
humid, crowded, pollution, signs in a foreign language.
 A cross-town cab cost me 100 baht, about $US 3. Started walking again on the south side of town at
Silom Street. Lunch is Thai beef and lychee frosty around noon at Silom Village. Thai traditional music, wicker chairs, the whole lot. Craft shops all around. I'm the only one sweating.
The walk from Silom through Chinatown found me with only two head injuries from low hanging signs. I was actually stopped by someone not trying to sell me anything, we chatted for a while, mostly I think for him to practice his English. I saw a monk writing in Wat Somethingorother. The Chinatown area really shows how poor some of these people are. Walked around the Indian Market and then caught a cab back to the hotel. After a little nap, I hopped in a Tuk Tuk, bought my mom a dress, had it shipped to her. I think I have three blisters on my feet.

For 200 Baht, I've got a Second class ticket to Muay Thai boxing. About 5 o'clock, people start arriving at Rajadamnern Stadium-"the best stadium in Thailand". They wanted 1000 Baht for ring side. Yeah, right. I'm gonna sit right next to two guys pummeling each other. As is, I'm level with the middle rope of the ring. I'm also 30 minutes early, since it's 4:30, no one's around. The rain cooled everything down, and I'm only wearing one shirt now. So much nicer. The Arena is circular around the square ring. Boxers wear either red or blue shorts.

Here's something to think about: 95% of Thai men are monks at some point in
their lives. So the military and Thai boxers are basically fightin' monks.
At 5 o'clock we stand for the Thai national anthem, no more than 60 people in
the stadium.

  • That number doubles before the first match, who look to be about 12 years old. 
  • The second match looks younger still, but also more likely to kick. An energetic song is being played as they fight. Before each match, the fighters walk perform a ceremony of walking around the ring with some ritual headgear.
  • Match 3 is the oldest one yet. 
  • Match 4 look to be more young'uns. One of them is turning red from the hits. 
  • Match 5 are oldish boys, with more good hits. Every so often, you hear the slap of skin on skin, leg to chest. 
  • Match 6: a tall, thin guy vs. an average guy. Tall guy fell ill and the match was over. 
  • Match 7: these people have no body fat. Both are smiling in the pre-match face-off. One leaves on a stretcher. 
  • Match 8: they're glistening with sweat before the fight. More people are coming in during the round. The loser got dropped to the ground but walked away. 
  • Match 9: more fighting. The crowd is really into it-"AY! Ah!" during the clinched knee-throws.
I think there are 24 matches tonight. Half done by 8pm. But I'm really tired (walking, sun, & dehydration)...I'm falling asleep and the crowd's going nuts. Round eleven was really intense, the crowd cheered when one guy was dropped by a kick to the gut. I am quite drowsy by this point, so
I'm going back to Khaosan and my room, via cab. Out like that. But at 3 am, the music of the surrounding nightlife was still going on-a Thai techno version of Madonna's "Like a prayer".

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