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December: Christmas in Phukett, Thailand

I love islands, beaches, warm moist air and sunny days, but we have gone from one extreme to another. The mountains have thickened our blood to where Thailand feels quite hot, especially since we have no air conditioning. We will get use to it! I have to say the ocean is perfect here. I can swim for hours and not get cold….fantastic! Plus everywhere is good for snorkeling.

We have been settling in over this month. We are staying at the Promthep Muay Thai Boxing Academy (http://www.thailandmuaythai.com/), in Rawai Beach, where I am teaching yoga (Kailin is assisting) in exchange for our room and board. It is a wonderful arrangement that is allowing us to see a bit more of Asia and travel cheap, while continuing to get fit. Plus Kailin is gaining experience in teaching. We have 2 flat mates: Lindsey from Manchester, UK: she is the office girl here and Marcella from Costa Rica, she is one of the fighters. Her boyfriend, Mao also fights and will arrive in Jan. They ran a boxing school in Costa Rica, but have closed it to train here for a year.

Danny, who runs the boxing side of things is working to have this place not only cater to fighters, but also to the general public as a place for improving overall fitness, hence the yoga. It has only been open since 2009, so is a work in progress. This means I am teach yoga and giving advice on future development. Gong, who owns the place and runs the cottage/restaurant end of things is sweet and doing her best to take on western ideas of how to operate a health spa/boxing academy. Still this is Thailand and everything gets done on “thai time”; thus the yoga room that was supposed to be done is still in process and I am teaching yoga in the boxing gym.  It is a bit too noisy, but I am making do. We are having a good turnout for a new yoga class (8-10/class) and for the first time every I have more guys than girls in my class.

Anyway you may be wondering what a day is like at a boxing school. The day kicks off with a morning run at 6am. There are length options: 2K, 5K, 10K, 20K. Then boxing training goes from 7-9am and 4-6pm. During this time you stretch, shadow box, hit bags, pad train in the ring, do technique training and then slow sparing. Everything happens in 3 minute rounds and between rounds you do sit-ups, squats, and push-ups. Yoga is from 11-12:30. Several days a week people go to swim Nai Harn Bay (2-4K) in the afternoon. Plus there are bikes available all the time for the tri-athletes here to do their rides. It is really different from training on the mountain and really good. It is going to strengthen us in very different ways. You can do all or part of the above routine. We have been working our way into it. Our knees are still healing from Wudang and our shoulders have been “a all new kind” of sore from boxing. Plus Kailin has been sick with a fever 2x (there has been a virus going round camp) and I had a bad cramp in my calf muscle one day that kept from boxing for 3 days. None the less we are hanging in there and loving it. There is something really cathartic about punching and kicking the heck out a bag.

At least once a week some of our fighters (pros and amateurs) have real fights. Usually at Bangla Arena in Patong Beach. I am not much on watching boxing, but Marcella is my flat mate and she is really nice, so we go when she fights to support her. It is way more fun watching anything when you know the person performing. It is a bit scary watching her, because you want her to win, but not get hurt. As is turns out in her first fight she knocked her opponent out in the 3rd round. Also, Jom, one of our top professional fought that night, and he won too. I like this fighting because they get to it and the referees tend to call fights before anyone is really hurt. That said neither, Kailin or I, will be entering a ring….we are only pretend boxers!

Perhaps I should say a bit about the rules: you get points for knees, kicks and take downs, but not for punches, however if you knock someone out (no matter how it happens and no matter what the score was) you win. If no one is knocked out then high score wins. Also fights are 5 rounds of 3 minutes and you get progressively more points for contacts as the rounds go by. This means that later rounds are worth more than early rounds. Fight nights have 8-12 fights and start with kids, then girls, then amateurs, then pros. It is quite a big deal here and it is a way out of poverty for many a Thai. Also Mauy Thai boxing has now spread worldwide, so it brings pride and money to Thailand. It is one of the ways they have trained there warriors for thousands of years. Enough about boxing! Let’s talk about Christmas.

Christmas Day I surprised Kailin with a Santa Hat filled with fun stuff: a book, an external hard drive to load more movies on, a keep cool turtle buddy, bracelet, sweets, etc. Plus I decorated around her bed. Marcella helped me shop…we had a good fun at the mall, and KK had no idea there was going to be anything for Christmas. Also my Mom sent us our favorite candy and a fold-out Xmas tree snow globe. Kailin loved this. It is now and forever our travel Xmas tree. Later in the day Promthep had a BBQ for everyone with live music and fireworks. I made custard for everyone. We had helped Gong with the shopping earlier in the week, which was a whole adventure in itself. The wholesale restaurant supply place here makes Costco look like a tiny corner store!

We had a wonderful Christmas surprise, when Gary decided to come visit us for week. He arrived on Boxing Day with wonderful gifts from Jackie and the UK gang. He stayed through the first of the year. It was really good for Kailin to spend some time with him. They took off one day island hopping through Phang Nga.  You will have to read about that on her blog! They had a great time. Plus we rented a scooter (the main form of transport here) for the week which allowed us to go see a bit more of the island.

We went to see the elephants. The babies were so cute and friendly. We also went to see the Big Budda (rented a car for this…or rather a 4WD truck with no power steering, that we prayed over before we headed up). The Big Budda over looks all of Phukett. It is made of white marble tiles and is quite beautiful. Kailin will be forever remembered there, as she did her own name tile that will become part of the base covering. It is still in the process of being completed.

While we were there, Kailin got to work with a local artist. He taught her how to create the pictures he was making. They were very beautiful and we will definitely do this when we get home. It will be wonderful for her art GCSE. We also took Gary to the night market. It happens on Saturday. Here they sell everything you can imagine and many things you can’t, both food and goods. For example you can buy a French crepe and the next stand over you can buy fried crickets! They sell clothes, puppies, and knock offs of everything. Kailin and I came here with very little in the way of summer clothes so we have had to build our wardrobes a bit. You don’t need much though…a few sarongs, some fisherman pants, light tank tops and you are good to go. Fisherman pants might be the best item of clothing ever! Gary and I also went to the fights one night so he could get a feel for what we were learning. It turned out well for him. He bet on our guy who won!!! Apart from this, we all spent a lot of time at the beach soaking up sun and resting. The Gym was closed much of the time from Xmas to New Years so it was great timing for Gary’s visit.

New Years found us all tired, so we went out for a great Italian meal then to bed early…only I was woken up by fireworks at midnight. I walk out to the front of our place in time to see the wishing lanterns floating by. I love the idea of these beautiful lanterns. You make them ahead and writing your wishes for the new year on them. Then at midnight you light a candle and place it inside. The heat makes them rise and carry your wishes to the Gods. They are like mini air balloons. They rise up by the hundreds and look like glowing flowers traveling to the heavens. We are living in a tropical oasis, surrounded by orchids, ginger, and many other beautiful flowers. By day we exercise and absorb sunshine, then each night we are serenaded by frogs and bugs. All in all we are really enjoying Thailand.

I will blog at the end of each month while in Thailand, as we are here for rest. We love all of you….have a Great New Year!