My fellow boxers and I had been invited by our boxing family to go and watch one of the boxers fight, so we stayed at the boxing camp after our afternoon session. We had dinner and a very early night – 7.30 pm as I recall – and a very early start at 3.00 am to head to Bangkok.
When we arrived, there were already a few people at Songchai Boxing Stadium. Lunglit (the boxer) weighed in and he was over by a few kilograms, so he spent the next hour running around the building in a sweat suit. Another weigh-in, he was still over, so he went into the sauna. Eventually, his weight was ok and we got back in the truck and made our way north again to Suphanburi which is where he was going to fight.
Our boxing family were well known in the Muay Thai world, so we were allowed into the cordoned off area where the boxers where getting massaged head to toe in deep heat. We watched the first 2 fights and then it was Lunglit’s turn, but he lost, despite our goodwill prayers at a local temple a couple of hours previously. He seemed to be fine about losing though, he still got paid around 60,000 baht.
We left Suphanburi and went back to the training camp for some food and then we were off again to watch another fight. It was the turn of the younger boxers – Chewey, Mauw and Ap.
Whenever you get invited to go on these random little jaunts with Thais, do it! Although you never quite know what it going on, we didn’t even know we were watching more fights, these types of experiences are what makes travelling all the more memorable.
It took about an hour to get to the fight location which was in the middle of nowhere and the fight arena was basically a boxing ring with a makeshift wall of tarpaulin surrounding it. The reason we were in such a deserted location is that gambling in Thailand is illegal, but there was plenty of bets being placed among the boxing camps.
We were the minority in that arena and we heard people saying “farang, farang” (“foreigner, foreigner”) and staring at us. In places which are not on the so-called tourist trail, Thais don’t get to see a lot of foreigners, so what they do is stare and sometimes it is a little disconcerting. However, they are simply interested in who you are and where you are from, so it’s best just to take it in your stride and smile at them. 99% of the time you get a wonderfully huge smile back which is typically Thai.
At first, we felt a little nervous because most of these people were drunk on cheap Thai whiskey and kept glaring and saying stuff to us which we mostly didn’t understand. But we knew that our boxing family would look after us, so we started to relax a bit and enjoy watching the fights.
By the time that Chewey and Mauw fought, we had been standing for 3 hours and if you include the early start and long day we’d already had, our ankles became swollen. But we thought it best not to complain for two reasons – the first, we were experiencing something not many tourists would and, the second – we weren’t the ones who were getting the crap beaten out of us.
All 3 kids won their fights and the prize money was shared out among the family, so, all in all, it was a profitable day for them.
We had spent the last 24 hours with the boxers and it turned out to be the best day that I’d spent in Thailand so far.