Thailand 2016: Bangkok and Phuket

Thailand was so exiting! Awesome! Amazing!

To learn about it quickly in under 4 minutes watch my two videos. First one is from sightseeing, second from training 😀

I really understand that my excitement can match a little childs’ exploring the world, because that’s what it was for me in Thailand – exploring a whole new universe!
The funny thing is though that I felt perfectly “at home” – I wasn’t too shocked when I got to eat my first meal – with a spoon and fork, and no knife. I just accepted it and moved on.
Actually I even forgot to mention it to friends, because I was so okay with it. I did eat the wrong way – with my fork instead of the spoon, but I also didn’t ponder about it.

I LOVE Thailand.
Maybe it’s just my tourist-optimism, but I felt so good there. In comparison to what I have to deal back at home it was an oasis of no-problem mentality.

The first 2,5 days in Bangkok were kind of in a rush and I didn’t sightsee much.
I managed to see the China Town and the everyday life of the city, coz my hostel was in the Silom area, where a lot of business centres are located.

After two days and one of them spent mostly on the BTS Skytrain I felt pretty used to the rush and crowds, even though on arrival I was so angry at that 😀

In Bangkok I basically had two things planned: go shop at ActionZone for Muay Thai gear and meet Emma (Under the Ropes) and Kelly (It’s Pandamonium). I wanted to use this opportunity that I’m in Bangkok to meet both of them in real life, because I was reading their blogs for a year and was really interested in what their everyday life in Bangkok looks like.
Emma invited me over to Master Toddy’s gym for a training. Even though she’s a lot smaller than me, we managed to train together and spar. Bear with me, it was my second day in Bangkok and I wasn’t used to the heat at all! Back home I had 3 degrees C! I was not used to 33 C at all and was gassing out on the pads. I didn’t do bagwork that day, I was too tired, but also wasn’t beating myself up about it.
So this was my first experience in a Muay Thai gym with Thai-styled pad holding, which was different (including the weirdness of the language barrier).

I booked myself a return bus ticket in advance from Bangkok to Phuket and… on the day that I arrived in Phuket, I canceled my back ticket and booked a flight with Thai Airways. So, it was a nice adventure, going 12 hrs in a standard bus, but I wouldn’t do it again. Unless I were on a budget.
There were some nice sights though, which made it all worth it: a roadside late-night festival, an incredibly starry sky, the sunrise… and that was it. Here’s a video from the sunrise.

Sunrise over Phuket

In Phuket I spent 2 weeks training Muay Thai at Rawai Supa Muay Thai gym.
I lived at the camp next to the gym, which was really convinient if you had training at 7.30am. I had AC in my room and after a few days I worked out a comfortable temperature setting in my room, so that I won’t catch a cold every time I walk into my room ;D

My first impression of my room (especially looking at the door and the bathroom) was: SHOCK! Bear in mind, I was after 12hrs in a bus and had barely slept for the last 24hrs or so. I was extremely on edge. I was all alone, I didn’t see any Westerner at camp (it was a Sunday, so no training) and I felt incredibly lonely. It was also the middle of the night back home, so I couldn’t talk with anyone to cheer me up.
It might sound pathetic, but to me it was a huge thing. I realised that even though I always want to be left alone and be on my own, it actually happening didn’t feel so good. So I realised how much I value my friends and my connections – even though I can be on my own, I’m not lonely if I can talk to my friends.

So you’re never truely alone if you have friends close by – over the internet or next door.

After I slept the tiredness off I pulled myself together and started to walk around the camp and went to the Rawai Pier to see the sea. It was raining a bit, so I got mud and sand on my legs and clothes, which was pretty funny and pathetic at the same time and I made a mental note NOT to go out on the street in my flip-flops when it rains 🙂

There are a lot of shops and restaurants on the main road, I didn’t explore much of them, because I’m not a natural-born-type explorer, I’d rather go with a suggestion. I was saved the moment I met some people there, so I could just go with the flow of the group! 😀

The training

Group trainings were held at 7.30 am and 4 pm.

In the morning training you had from 7.30-8:00 am to warm up: you could go for a run or either skip rope and jump on tires.

On the other hand, the afternoon training actually STARTED at 4pm, so you were expected to show up earlier and warm up.

After warm up there was group stretching and two rounds of shadowboxing with pushups and situps in between. During shadowboxing we were split in two groups: bagwork and padwork. So those who had to do padwork first were assigned to different rings (there were 4 rings with 2 to 3 trainers in each ring).  5 rounds, 4 minute each, 1 minute break. During the break you were expected to to 10 situps and 10 pushups – honestly I rarely did both, I was too exhausted. After the first 5 rounds you switched with the other group (so if you were in the ring first, you went to the bags) and did another 5 rounds.
I actually liked padwork first, then bag, but in both scenarios you can get something good out of it. There were usually around 15-20 people in class and 10 trainers in the rings, so sometimes when there were less people a lot of the trainers would go around the people on the bags and show them some techniques or combinations, so that’s why I liked having bags last.

What is totally different from what I know from my gym is the total playfullness of the trainers. They fool around literally ALL the time. Ok, maybe they have some serious SECONDS.
I think this kind of enviroment helps to loosen up tension that you get with training in a foreign place, with foreign rules. And I had a lot of fun, even though I wasn’t doing everything perfectly. It was a new experience for me. Back home I also make fun sparing with some of the people I train with, but it’s on a totally different level than in Thailand. All the time they will make you laugh – I’m not sure if they do it intentionally, but I think it’s connected with the entertaining aspect of Muay Thai.

Honestly, when I look at some of my videos I recorded from my padwork or sparing, I must say I SUCK SO BAD! It was worse than back home, totally. It comes from not having enough time to get used to the trainers’ padholding style. So you need at least a few rounds to get used to his callings, distance, strength. Everyone wants something a little bit different from you, it’s hard for a first-timer in Thailand to grasp it quickly. Or maybe it was just hard for me, I don’t know.

During the first week I had padwork with 6 different trainers. There was only one which I totally disliked. This was still too early for me to really distinguish who I can learn something from and not. But I still did my best to learn even one little thing during every session and apply it.

The last part of the training was different every day: some days we had kicks on the bag, some days clinching with each other, or boxing with the trainer, or some techinque.
After that was group stretching as a cool down and greating all the trainers.

The afternoon trainings were thougher for me – I felt the air was thicker, heavier and it was hotter. For the first three days I was so tired I only ate and slept between sessions and nothing more than that.

On my third day I managed to stay up after supper and learn to ride a bike  – which means I was starting to slightly get used to the heat.
From then on, I slowly started progressing and was doing a bit better in training and with the heat.

In my first week there I did mostly padwork – as I said, with different trainers. Sometimes I got the same trainer 2 times, but I didn’t figure out how they assigned people to the trainers.

There was one or two times during the first week that I had “sparing” – but it’s different to the western-styled sparing I know. It was light, playful and technical. And did I say playful? 😉 The trainers are joking all the time! I couldn’t really catch on all the jokes, because obviously I don’t know Thai, so I tried not to get into it too much, but the laughing is contagious! 😀

Well, at the end of week one I realised that even though I’m laughing and learning a tiny little bit in training every day, I’m not learning enough! Apart from one day when I clinched with the figher-girl Tiia from Finland, I didn’t clinch at all – and even during clinching with her, I didn’t learn anything, apart from the fact that I suck. Of course, there were some small adjustments I made in every training, but after the first week was over, I was feeling a little bit dissapointed and looking for a way to change it.

Week 2

On Sunday two of my friends who previously were with me in Bangkok were planning to come join me in Phuket for 3 days, so I was sure I would go sightsee a bit with them in the afternoons. Which translated into: I will only do morning group training. Honestly it was a huge relief to me, because the group trainings were not as much fun as I wanted them to be. At this point, feeling the dissapointment and really having no answer for how to change it, it felt really easy to give up and just enjoy the tropic vacation. Looking at the friends I made at the camp wasn’t really helping: every one of them had their own personal condition and plan – and it did not involve training Muay Thai twice a day. So it was hard to stay motivated. Fortunately, they weren’t going out drinking every day – only on the weekend 😀

Yeah but my plan was different. Coming to Thailand and training only once a day? I couldn’t wuss out! 😀 So I started thinking about taking private classes with some of the trainers. I asked the more experienced Western fighters who they’d recommend for a private and that gave me an idea. The bad part was, they recommended trainers who I didn’t train with until now.

Luckily, I got to train with one of the trainers at my Monday morning group training and we were sparring lightly. And I already learned more than in the whole previous week! It was incredible. So I arranged a private class for the next afternoon and since then, Big was my trainer! 😀
I had 5 private classes during my second week there and I worked on what I wanted to learn in Thailand: clinch game! He showed me so many tricks and techiques, I’ll probably spend the next year learning to apply them in a fight, but I’m happy I could learn so much.

So for me, this was the perfect combination: doing morning group training and the private class in the afternoon. Since I started taking classes with Big, I also got to train with him during morning group training in the ring and we were sparing every day. He made me use in the sparing some of the things I learned in privates with him, which was really thoughtful of him and great for me – I could learn to apply the techniques in sparing.

That way my second week was HUGE when it comes to enjoying the work out AND learning a LOT. This is actually what I miss the most now, I really enjoyed this type of schedule.

The gym – Rawai Supa Muay Thai

The gym has around 12 trainers, some of them are teaching beginners who show up to group classes and there are 10 trainers in the rings who hold pads or spar with the participants. This gym is totally tourist-oriented, but also has good fighters. I met Tiia, a girl from Finland who as far as I know is the only female fighter at the gym and also a few guys who were from the USA, Australia, Russia – who fight for the gym. Some of the trainers are also active fighters for the gym.

The girls at the office are really nice and helpful and speak great English, so you can really go to them with anything regarding the training and camp life.

The camp is located around the gym and consist of 10 single bungalows (with AC) and one shared fan bungalow, and one shared AC bungalow. There were some more buildings around the camp where the trainers and office staff lived at.

The bungalows were okay, but were only cleaned up around once a week. You could request additional cleaning if something got messed up badly in your room. The bedroom part of the bunglow had a king-sized bed (mine was REALLY hard), a big flat TV with Thai channels (I watched Rajadamnern fights one day), a shelf and electric kettle. There were enough electric slots to charge your devices all at once (I think there were 4 or 6 slots). There was also a small old-looking wardrobe with a few hangers in them, but I didn’t really use the wardrobe (I was scared spiders would get into my clothes ;D). I also had a refrigerator with a freezing- shelf and two bottles of cooled down water ready on arrival, which was really nice. And then, the bathroom. Well. You see it’s not new and as far as I know wasn’t really renovated in the 15 yrs the camp operates. I got used to it though, so it was okay. Everything was functioning, I had warm water and I could take as many showers as I wanted 😀

Now, insects: I learned that if you keep your AC going the insects don’t come into your room. I had one encounter with a relatively-big spider (the size of my palm) and it was running away so fast, so it was kind of scary. I managed to kill it though. I also had one encounter with a big-ass bug, like 5cm big, but I also managed to get rid of it. I also got two visits of a gecko, but those are fine, I wasn’t scared of them. I was freaking out a bit after the bug incitent, so every time I walked into my room I carefully examined all the walls and corners, and behind the bed and refrigerator. Then, I carefully looked into the bathroom, where all the insects were usually gathering. But fortunately these were the only two frightening encouters that I had. I was bitten by a lot of mosquitos even though I was using repellant. The flies were also bugging me a bit on the beach. Other than that – no problem with insects.

DSCN0283

People

I met some incredible people there and we had our “group” of five going to breakfast and dinner together, but managing to give ourselves some free space, too. This was great. I finally didn’t feel lonely anymore, coz I could just walk out of my bungalow and someone would be sitting on their porch and we could chat. I learned so much about their different life experiences and adventures – this was so fascinating! So a HUGE thanks and shout out to Liz, Chris, James and Silke for making this trip awsome! It was also great that we had people joining us along the way, which meant even more fascinating stories! I think if it wouldn’t be for them, my time at the camp wouldn’t be as fun as it was! 🙂

What now?

Well, I really want to go there again. The first few weeks were really hard to endure, my mind was still in Thailand. It wasn’t helping that I got messages from my friend who was still at the camp and sightseeing around Thailand and Malaysia! 😀

I have already made and started a plan to work part-time in addition to my 9-5 job, so I can save enough to come again next year, but I think I will make the decision around August if I do come again. The prices are sky-rocketing now because the Euro is so much stronger in comparison to my sad Polish Zloty and the plane tickets also got more expensive!

I also looked into options to move to Thailand, but the longer I’m back home the less motivation I have to pull it off.

Training-wise it’s not perfect, I went to a few trainings and it was great to meet everyone there, I missed the guys so much! But I caught a bad cold and and am now on antibiotics for a week. And I crancked my back two weeks ago and it STILL feels uncomfortable. Good luck it all happened after my vacation ;D

Well, if you’re wondering if anything alse can go wrong, it CAN! Guess what, my badass trainer is leaving Poland in a month, for and unspecified amount of time! 😦 😦 😦

So I need to re-think my training schedule. Maybe I’ll put in some more strenth training? I’m not sure yet. I made a list of gyms I want to try out on this occasion, so I will probably do that starting in April, but none of the gyms on my list are 100% what I’m looking for.

There are a few nice gyms I already know, but it’s either not open all day long or is far away or doesn’t have Muay Thai training OR I have to pay for a full membership. Or the training hours doesn’t really suit me. Or there’s not training everyday. Aaargh. Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high?!

Well, first assignment after going back: getting over my cold and be healthy again AND loose the 4kg I gained after coming back from Thailand! The good thing was I lost 3kg in Thailand 😀 😀 it’s enough to make me love this place! 😀

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