Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Knock Outs in Lamai Beach

Paradise is beginning to take shape, but then it's never quite what you expect. This is a scene from the south end of Lamai Beach on Ko Samui in the Gulf of Thailand. The other day (the days are starting to blur together and I'm losing track) I took off my sandals and hiked down the beach to a group of rocks that the Thais think resemble a man and a woman's private parts. They call them grandmother and grandfather and there is much giggling as people take pictures.

Last night was the big muay Thai boxing match at an arena in the center of town. They were advertising it heavily, with posters all over and from loudspeakers on a truck traveling around the main street of Lamai. After a good dinner of pad Thai at the Bauhaus, I found the arena and joined mostly young farangs (foreigners) on the seats above a boxing ring. There were three sections of seats: VIP, which included big stuffed chairs; ringside, or seats at tables next to the ring, and the cheap seats to one side, but still with a good view. I bought a Chang beer and settled in a cheap seat for the mayhem. The fight began with the screeching horn music that sounds to me like disonant Scottish bagpipes.

To say that the four fights I saw all ended in knock-outs is an understatement. With a combination of gloved fists and whip-fast feet, the winners devastated their opponents. One held his eye as if it had been knocked loose. Two others practically had to be carried from the ring. They looked totally disoriented. The punches and feet kicks were so swift that I barely saw them coming. Clearing the losers didn't either.

I found all the ritual surrounding the fights fascinating. The boxers came into the ring wearing coloful robes. garlands of flowers around their necks, and a kind of headwear that looked like a tennis racket without strings. There was much bowing and kneeling at all corners in in the middle of the sides as well while the horn screeched and the announcer shouted to all in an indecipherable Thai rap about the opponents. Most of the fighters were small, while the referee was quite tall and easily separated them in a clinch.

After the match, I walked back to the Bauhaus bar where I'd seen an advertisement for a "foam party," with photos from past events showing participants up to their neck in suds. But when I got there, the suds were foaming, but no one was jumping in. I guess it doesn't happen until later when the beer is flowing faster than the foam.

Today I got a large Thai-English dictionary and I'm going to take the time now to learn how to talk my way around. Wish me luck (and lots of sun screen).

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