Grip And Grapple in Thailand

The day starts around 6am, this is when we get up and warm up for our run. Normally it is the Thais and the bravest (read:sobre) of us foreigners (known as farang in Thailand).

The camp is off a main road tucked in lane that leads to the jungle. We start out with a slow pace, it is early and everyone is going to take it easy on the body. Slowly we start out towards the main road, at this time there isn't much traffic, we aren't choked by exhaust fumes and the temperature is bearable, very shortly it will stop being so and the temperature will soar into the mid-forties. The jog road leads up to Doi Suthep Mountain, as we start to warm up pick up the pace, about ten of us in total running in line, half asleep wearing our boxing shorts and t-shirts sweating just enough to be uncomfortable. The street vendors setting up shop that know us wave at us as we pass by.

The ice cream on a bun vendor is particularly popular with the younger guys at the camp. As we pass the Chiang Mai University campus the road begins its slow incline, at this point we ran about 4 km's and my calves are beginning to feel it, the incline doesn't help. The sun has now risen and the heat is becoming noticeable. The road turns from a major road into a small two lane road very soon the city is left behind and jungle surrounds us. As we run up the mountain road we start to pass the young novice monks who are going into town to receive alms, and food from the believers who line the road to feed them. They are about the same age as us but different in every way, they are barefoot and wear the orange robe of a novice who are not yet a full monk. Both their heads and eyebrows are shaved and they are thin and gaunt looking, the antitheses of the young strong bodies of the boxers. Some of the boxer's wai (a sign of respect) as we pass them, everyone is careful not to touch them or get in their way.

Soon we start to see crowds of people, we have reached the halfway point of our run. In the jungle a Buddhist temple stands, shining brilliantly in the morning sun, covered in gold and illustrated with ancient depictions of the life of The Buddha. The people are laying flowers at a statue of King Rama IV, one of Thailand's most beloved monarchs. Others put garlands on the statues of the elephants that guard the temple gates. Even at this hour old women are kneeling before the altar outside, burning incense and laying lotus flowers praying for dead relatives and good fortune. We turn around at this point and start to head down the mountain road our calves thankful for the break.

Taking a turn of the main road we go down a small soi (side street) which after 500 meters or so leads us into the jungle. We run along the dirt path. Every now and then passing a now abandoned Thai jungle hut, or seeing some families who still live in the traditional house on stilts. Roosters crowing and the occasional stray dog coming out to bark at us. The dog upon seeing ten boxers running in formation, changes it's mind and retreats back into the thick jungle.

Eventually we make it back to the camp. Now is the time for us to stretch out and do a little work on the pads. One of the farang a woman from Denmark has a fight back home so she is working with one of the coaches in the special women's ring. Women are not allowed into the main ring as a tradition. The rest of us do rounds on the bags or mill about.

Later, the young boxers go and fetch rattan mats and lay them out on the concrete. We all gather about, the young ones have the responsibility of bringing us the food. Today it is mounds of Northern Thai sticky rice and curries as well as a special delicacy, laarb. Laarb is freshly killed deer served raw and covered a most unbelievable amount of spices and chili's. If it wasn't for the bile poured on top, I probably would have joined in.

I make myself content on the chicken curry and dried fish dipped in nahm prik (chili water). After the breakfast is over we roll up the mats and the eleven or so cats that live at the camp come out to clean up the scraps, noticeably the cats don't eat the laarb.

It is time to sleep, for me more than likely there is a small hangover to sleep off.

Waking up again at about 1pm I set off with Duncan a half Maori Canadian oil rig worker, one of those natural tough guys you just have to respect and Sak one of the coaches from the camp, to the 'American'. I am not sure if that is the real name of the restaurant but that is what we call it. It is not a restaurant as we think of it. Imagine an outdoor patio with old plastic chairs and creaky tables that of the kind normally reserved for PTA meetings. The area is surrounded with a metal fence and when they want to close up they just close the gate. There are two women who run the restaurant; on any other day one of them is the best cook in Thailand. We eat there often enough that everyone knows us, we are neighborhood locals and spend a good portion of life away from Training there. For me it is the usual Tom Kao Gai (chicken rice soup with enough chilies to cause hallucinations). Sak --notoriously cheap, con's me into buying him a Thai omelet, and drink. Duncan and I sit and shoot the shit while our friends slowly filter into the restaurant. In the end there are about ten of us.

Today's conversation centers on whether you are gay if you sleep with a girl who used to be a man. Nicco, a Dane whose wife used to be a man, argues strongly that he is as straight as they come (we are not so sure of that). Sean (brother of a famous US TV star) and I disagree. Rass another Dane who accidentally slept with a former man the week before is deadly quiet trying to be invisible with his hooded sweatshirt up and trying to concentrate on his chicken salad. TBC...

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