Sometimes you get a moment when you’re traveling when you think–this is it. This is why I got on a plane, a bus, a boat and went somewhere unfamiliar. This is why you travel. You’re a stranger in a new place, but that place feels familiar. Everything is new to you, but it also feels like a page from your childhood. You get a connection from the place. It’s almost like magic.
When my sister and I went on our Bangkok trip last June, we both knew we wanted to see a muay Thai match. It wasn’t because we were big fans of kick boxing. We liked boxing in general. We grew up watching my dad watch boxing. Sugar Ray Leonard, Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya type of boxing . They were the names we got to know on Sundays whenever there was a big boxing match in Las Vegas. You couldn’t talk to my dad during those Sundays. He would be parked in front of the television, his eyes never leaving the screen. He watched intently, though never quietly. He would shout, groan, whoop, and curse at the TV. All the while, my siblings and I would sit beside him, watching the match and watching him. Enamored of both.
When we booked our tickets to Thailand, I knew I wanted to watch a muay Thai match. Seeing a kick boxing match live was going to be be a different way of experiencing a part of Thailand’s culture and it was my chance to watching a boxing match ringside. Kick boxing but still boxing, I thought. Of course, we didn’t know ringside seats for tourists would cost 2,000 Baht (65USD), an amount, which after spending a couple of days in the budget paradise of Bangkok, was relatively pricey.
But all thoughts of “I can spend that in shopping” vanished the minute one of the ticket ladies of Ratchadamnoen Stadium opened the door and led us down to boxing ring “just to take a look.” My sister was right. We were goners the minute we saw it. That ring, harshly lit and all, that stadium, which has obviously seen better days, was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. My sister said it best when she wrote that it felt “both church and home.” I felt like I was back in the living room of our old place in Manila, beside my dad, just watching.
We got settled behind the judges. Most of the audience (not surprisingly) were men, locals and groups of Americans, Japanese, Australians, etc. My sister and I pretty much kept to ourselves, watching intently, every strike and kick, being our father’s daughters.
If you’re thinking of seeing a muay Thai match live, here are a few things to take note of to help you appreciate the match (below is an excerpt from the muay Thai story I ended up writing for Smile magazine): Continue reading