Saturday, 26 January 2013

A Tentative Trip To Tiger Muay Thai

The morning after our mega-journey we were a tad worse for wear.

Going through a-day-and-a-half’s worth of time zones had left Andy looking crumply-faced, and me under a pile of tissues.

Suffice to say, neither of us felt up to having our mugs smashed in.

So we did the next best training thing, and headed down to Tiger Muay Thai to enrol.

For those that aren’t up to speed with the area, it’s based around one road.

Tiger is up one end (about a third in) and Dragon is up the other (about a third from that end). Somewhere round the corner is Phuket Top Team.

The rest of the area is comprised of restaurants, hotels and hostels, scooter hire places (sometimes these three services are all housed under the same roof), pharmacies, tattoo parlours and a reassuring (under the circumstances) ambulance station.

Anyhow, Tiger is by far the biggest gym in the vicinity, looking roughly 5-10 times the size of Dragon down the street.

It’s also, if we’re honest about things, probably the most well-known gym in terms of tourist trade. Your Muay Thai aficionado may well nod approvingly if you’ve trained at Dragon, but pretty much every bloke in the bar will know what you’re on about when you mention Tiger. But more on those differences later.

So why bring it up?

Well, because it sorta explains what happened when we hit up the registration office.

Whether it’s down to the guaranteed rate at which folk rock up begging to enrol, book privates and buy the Tiger-branded t-shirt, or whether the ladies housed within had just had their fill of farangs, the service was pretty much non-existent.

In the land of smiles, we were hoping to be walked through the signup, hocked a bit of training gear, and then guided in the direction of the classes (it’s a big place).

Instead someone begrudgingly took our passports and money (approx. £217 each for the month once credit card fees kicked in), handed us a schedule and we were out on our proverbial arses.

So far, so perfunctory. But, somewhat ironically given the speed in which we’d been pushed out of the office-cum-shop, we actually needed to buy quite a bit of stuff before we could start training.

According to the Tiger site, 16oz gloves are compulsory for sparring, so both of us had budgeted enough to buy them on the ground.

Andy needed shinpads to protect his delicate pins, and we were both up for some wraps and Thai shorts to look the part.

The YouTube vid for Tiger showed a well-stocked selection, whilst UFC veteran Brian Ebersole assures us they have "everything you need for your trip to Thailand".

Heck, shopping is my second favourite sport, so I figured perusing the range of Thai Boxing gear in Thailand, in a shop that could even order stuff in on request, would be an almost orgasmic experience.

As it happened, the only 16oz gloves on the shelf that day were Tiger-branded ones, and the salesman’s chair was empty.

So we headed over the road to Fightlab, where the functional (if not in any sense extensive) selection awarded us two pairs of Fairtex gloves (2100THB/£45 each, Fairtex is a premium brand with a higher price point), two pairs of shorts (Fairtex ones 1200THB/£25, non-Fairtex ones 700THB/£15) and a couple of pairs of own-brand handwraps (250THB/£5 each).

Here we are modelling our his-and-hers haul.

Andy snuck back to the Tiger shop and picked up his Fairtex shinpads the next day for 1700THB/£36.

As I skimmed over before, the Asiana baggage allowance was stringent, and my gloves in the UK are a measly 14oz, so I’m not going to bang on too much about the end cost of our protective swag.

It is worth factoring into your budget though if you’re planning – in a country where dinner costs a couple of quid, laying out nearly £300 each in an afternoon smarts a bit.

Anyway, we were finally set for our Muay Thai date with destiny, or at least with a room full of trainers and some other sweaty folks. Hands up...

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The 12(ish) Days Of Christmas

Ok, because (a) it’s now mid-January and Xmas is well in the past and (b) people’s families are largely less interesting if you’re not actually in them, I am going to speed through the Christmas break.

The point here is we had an 11 day period between taking off in San Diego to come home to the UK, and taking off in London to get to Thailand, in which to cram all the various relatives, friends and festivities we could handle.

And then a few more than we could handle, for good measure.

So, here’s the whistlestop tour, and after that we’ll get back to the training and travelling stuff.

21st December 2012

Kicking off with an early start (the car had to be back by 2pm), we hurtled down the freeway from Costa Mesa to San Diego, scooping up a fish taco or four on the way.

All racing behind us, we then had an eight and a half hour wait in San Diego airport, which is in the process of renovations.

All I’m gonna say here is that they will be welcome and that the absolute highlight of the afternoon/evening was some chicken in a basket.

After a 10 hour flight through the night, and some exemplarily rude BA flight attendants (watching a six foot something chap refuse to help a woman load luggage into the overhead locker was awkward) we landed in the UK.

22nd December 2012

Where it was already nighttime, the next day.

Another hire car, and a chance to switch my brain into left hand drive, manual control mode.

Andy’s official job was navigator, but unofficially he was in charge of feeding me various combos of chocolate, cheesy biscuits and dried tuna jerky so I could keep my eyes open for the two hour drive to his mum’s in Wiltshire.

23rd December

Family Part One, the boys vs girls edition. Trip to the pub for the former group, silly cocktails and tapas for the latter.

24th December 2012

PJ mode.

25th December 2012

Up at 6am for the Present Opening Ceremony.

Fuelled largely by coffee and excitement, Andy finally got his hands on the Shoyoroll Gold Star (ordered in America and trapped in customs for a couple of weeks).

It didn’t disappoint.

After the heady Shoyoroll rush, plus a full-on Christmas lunch (that he cooked), Andy needed a power nap.

I will point out, for the benefit of his mum's exemplary housekeeping reputation, that the piles of stuff all over the bed are because we hadn't managed to properly unpack by this point, and were existing in a weird holiday-clothes-with-a-woolly-scarf mode.

Well holiday clothes, scarves and an obligatory festive jumper.

Ten minutes later, it was time to head over to his Dad’s for a second helping of Xmas dinner, topped off with way too much chocolate.

26th December 2012

More Extreme Chocolate Eating (my Atos endurance training was not wasted).

27th December 2012

We drive down to my mum’s in Kent for Xmas part, well, I’m not sure even I can keep track at this point.

My mother is not naturally a fan of the season, but had pulled out all of the stops to decorate our bedroom with reindeer, snowmen and twinkly stuff.

Aside from one terrifying moment where I mistook the rustling of the helium balloons for an intruder in the middle of the night, it was much appreciated.

28th, 29th December 2012

More family of various flavours and combinations.

30th December 2012

A round-trip to London – girly lunch for me, burger and martial arts chat for Andy.

After eleven weeks away, three different cities and numerous houses, the notion of ‘home’ is actually wavering slightly. Having vehemently defended living in London for the last 20 years, we’re starting to contemplate other options (living by the sea for example).

Sadly, despite the likelihood of this turning out to be a seminal 'life realisation,' I forgot to take any photos to demonstrate the point. So you'll have to make do with a slightly awkward Christmas-deco-inspired self portrait. Still, it was jolly fun.

31st December 2012

New Year’s Eve. A time for celebrations, champagne, parties, bars and kissing strangers at midnight (actually I’ve never managed that last bit, even in singler times).

Or you could do what we did and stay in, have a nice bit of dinner, half a glass of wine, put on an impromptu BJJ demonstration/gi catwalk and attempt to keep our eyes open till midnight.

The final minutes were headily spent folding laundry, ready to stuff in our cases (the Asiana website had threatened a total of one 20kg bag, which is challenging when you’ve got two gis on board) the next day, and by 12.20am we were both in bed.

1st January 2013

New Year, new destinations, and another round of goodbyes before we set off to the airport.

Destination Phuket in Thailand, by way of Seoul.

Highpoints of the trip included some exceptionally friendly Asiana staff, an extra 10kg of luggage allowance (little bit late but handy for the return leg) and a Korean dinner that I got to build myself (well, I added the chilli paste and the sesame oil to it).

Low points included the journey taking about 36 hours end to end, and being accompanied by a streaming cold that I had picked up in the UK.

It’s tough to pull off that glam air travel look at the best of times, but I apologise to anyone in the vicinity (especially Andy) as I flopped through Icheon airport with an air of pleurisy.

3rd January 2013

At around 1am (Thailand is seven hours ahead) we landed, and by 3ish we finally made it to Fern House, our home for the next month. Body clocks be damned, it was time to settle in and get ready for training again.