Chiang Mai Muay Thai in the middle of nowhere.
Watching Muay Thai boxing in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
We kept getting lost on the way, wherever the way was, to watch some Chiang Mai Muay Thai in, seemingly, the middle of nowhere Thailand.
Jenny and I were piled in the back of a pick up truck with about 10 other people. We were following two motorbikes and had to keep pulling over to ask for directions. After a few too many wrong turns we found the right road, passing a giant golden Buddah that reminded me of passing roadside attractions when I road tripped back home. Except this was religious. Though, I suppose, the Effingham cross is too.
When we arrived at the venue, the parking lot of a random temple in a random area outside of Chiang Mai, everyone piled out of the truck to stretch their legs and prepare for the fight. To prepare for the Muay Thai boxing matches that were about to begin.
Jenny and I got some too-sweet sodas with jellies at the bottom that added a fun texture when I sucked them through my straw. She explained to me that, often, there was more fanfare at these sporting events: carnival rides, dancing girls. This one was more simple. There were a few street vendors but, other than that, there was just the ring.
The whole atmosphere smelled like Wint-O-Green Lifesavers: the kind that you bite into in the dark to watch sparks between your teeth. It was probably the menthol stench of Tiger Balm being rubbed on aching, fight-fueled joints and muscles.
As the Muay Thai fights started, more and more Thais gathered around. Men, women, children, monks. Jenny and I were the only farangs in sight and were ushered into places on the side of the ring so close to the action that I got beads of flung sweat in my eye. Bout after bout occurred, some ending sooner, quicker, and others lasting all five rounds until a winner was chosen.
It wasn’t just boxing. It was ritual, praying, dancing, prancing, moving, hitting, kicking, holding, sweating.
It was Muay Thai.
At the end of the night, after all the fights were fought, we all packed back into the back of the truck, chilled from the crisp night air, and rode back home to the center of Chiang Mai.
Rides always go quicker when you’re not getting lost.