Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.
Anyone who has spent a few hours in Patong must be familiar with the open bed trucks driving around playing high pitched ear-shattering music, loudly proclaiming various days of the week for vague reasons. ‘Monday night, Monday night, Sunday night, Sunday night!’ They become a consistent element of the chaotic background noise.
On the back of said trucks are a few muscled Thai, waving to people and sparring a bit. Flyers are handed out. Come to Muay Thai boxing, it’s a national sport. Monday night, Monday night, Thursday night, Thursday night.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Thai boxing, but I knew that the trucks and posters were overselling it a bit. The picture that I got was of regular boxing with a few less rules and kicking involved.
I was wrong.
The Patong Boxing Stadium on Sai Namyen Road looks like a strange theme park ride from the outside. The exterior has fake cave moulding with savage looking animals, but inside it’s fairly modest and rundown. It seats around 350 people on benches, and the locals tended to sit in the cheap seats at the back. Of the dozen or so fights displayed that night, half of them involved little kids.
I say little kids, but I don’t think I’d like to step in the ring with them. They attacked each other with cool determination, and took a beating like it was nothing. I couldn’t really follow the rules – as best I can tell you don’t win if you knock the other person down or dominate them, but rather if you follow style guidelines and improve To say that it’s a ‘contact sport’ doesn’t do it justice.
Taking complete advantage of this confusion were a bunch of Thai bookies – completely illegally – running amongst the confused tourists taking bets. After a few rounds of a rabid bunch of tourists screaming for two little kids to beat each other up, the adults took to the ring. There was only a few rounds of this, but it was pretty clear who the favourite was.
An Australian stepped into the ring, six foot five tall and three feet across. He had a shaved head, no neck, and his muscles glistened. He looked like he was made out of brick. As he strode over to his opponent, half his size, I knew this wouldn’t last long. It didn’t. Less than a minute later, he stepped out of the ring.
There’s only so much beating up you can watch, so as the night crawled on I left before the final bout reached the ring. I stepped out onto the busy street, and Patong was really just starting to wake up.
As I stepped onto the street I walked past the Australian boxer. He was speaking to a thin Thai girl who barely came up to his belly button. Up close he was rough and worn. He had the unnatural look of someone who had hit the muscle juice one too many times, which is all too easy to get your hands on in Phuket. He gave me a nod, and I shook his hand.
It was like shaking a rock.