Muay Thai gym 1

On a recent photowalk, I came across a Muay Thai training gym tucked behind a small Chinese temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Using my limited Thai, I was able to find out when they practiced, and I went back later that week to photograph the practice. The week after that, I returned with a translator so I could get a better idea of what I was seeing.

The gym is called Sit Chaansing. It is named for the master, as coaches are referred to in Muay Thai, who trained the current Muay Thai master, Chanamet Tongsalay. Chanamet is known, in traditional Thai fashion, by his nickname, Oat. Oat has trained in Muay Thai since he was a youngster, and although he never competed himself, he now trains ten boys aged 11-20. The students have come to learn to be professional Muay Thai fighters, and some of them already have won local championships. The younger ones attend school during the day, but the older ones train full-time for competitions in Thailand and Asia. Oat has given each one a boxing name based on his fighting style.

The students train together with Oat six days a week, from 4:00-6:00 pm. The school is free for the students; Oat works as a cloth trader during the day to support himself, and he runs the school through the funds that the fighters make from competing. (By law, Muay Thai students are allowed to keep half of the earnings they receive from participating in competitions, and they turn over the other half to their school.) The gym itself sits on donated land, so there are few operating costs. Oat also economizes; the defensive pads that he wears, for example cost 3,000 baht (about $90), so he tapes them up to extend their life.

Bikbot practices the crocodile swings tail (jorakhae fat hang), a spinning heel kick. Sutgawon practices tae tat, the common roundhouse kick. Bikbot and Sutgawon practice the shin block (kan duai khaeng), used to block leg kicks. Krung Siam practices tae tat. At 11, he is the youngest member of the school, but Oat thinks he has the makings of a champion.
Students practice their punches while bouncing on tires. Pet Baan Rai practices the basic knee strike (tee thon). Oat is helping him practice keeping his balance. Faa Sangpractices Hak Kho Erawan (break the great elephant Erawan’s neck) on Oat. Lek Laay practices tee thon with Pet Baan Rai. Oat thinks he is the best fighter at the school.
Bikbot rests after sparring. The students work out with the punching bags. Krung Siam checks out details of Sutgawon’s back tattoo.  The students practice while Oat repairs the defensive pads.

Let’s learn Thai! (part 2)

I had an eye-opening (or ear-opening) language lesson today with one of the teachers whom I normally don’t have. She explained that Thai has a spoken rhythm that is pretty much unvarying across speakers (as well as the rules about tones), unlike in English where rhythm and intonation are more idiosyncratic to the speaker. English speakers aren’t used to these rhythms, so it is hard for us to pick out the important words in a sentence. We also have difficulties understanding spoken Thai because we/learn/to/say/each/Thai/word/in·di·vid·u·al·ly/and/pre·cise·ly insteaddalearningthemthuhwaytheyrackshallypronounstinnasentence.


It is very difficult to escape video advertising in Bangkok, on the sides of buildings and especially on public transportation. I hear the warrior from Clash of Clans scream every morning and afternoon at least once, see the very pretty male model sniff the wonderful fragrance of his freshly-laundered shirt as four beautiful women surround him, and watch a bunch of attractive people buy up everything in sight using the “Shopee” app. I’d say everyone else on the train does, too, but half of them have their eyes glued to their own personal screens.

Tourism 101: Wat Pathum Wanaram

Central Bangkok is densely populated with shopping malls, hotels and office buildings, and during the day the sound of traffic is everywhere. Nevertheless, in the middle of the Siam Paragon, Siam Square and CentralWorld malls, you can find the relative quiet of the Wat Pathum Wanaram temple. Built in 1857 and shielded (somewhat) by high walls, the temple complex includes a main prayer hall; a stupa; an ordination hall, where the holiest of prayers ceremonies are conducted; a memorial hall; and a library and monks’ quarters.

The main prayer hall, standing between the stupa and (across the street) CentralWorld mall; building detail; the interior of the prayer hall; detail of the glass, gold leaf and enamel decoration.
The ordination hall, the stupa and the main hall, with SiamParagon mall as a backdrop; the interior of the ordination hall; the stupa spire; a multi headed snake stands guard outside the main prayer hall.

Surprisingly, the internet doesn’t have much else to say about the temple, but given how many amazing temples there are in Bangkok, this may be par for the course.

One more about massages

This is a thing, apparently. Draw your own conclusions.

Despite all of the reflexology charts used to advertise foot massages, the massage places here don’t actually do reflexology; they just do foot massages. Having tried three different spas, I’ve learned that not all foot massages are created equal. Since there are seven different massage spas in the immediate neighborhood – at least six of which seem legit, I’m not so sure about the seventh – I have plenty of opportunities to find one that I like.

Speaking of feet, today I wandered into the backstreets off Sukhumvit (one of the major streets in Bangkok, and the closest to our apartment), and found myself on the grounds of the Thailand Tobacco Monopoly Company. The Thailand Tobacco Monopoly is a state-owned enterprise that, until the conclusion of the ASEAN free trade agreement, had the monopoly on the manufacture and sale of tobacco products in Thailand. Thailand now imports foreign cigarettes as well, but the company is still in business and the air is heavy with the smell of tobacco. That said, the place seemed deserted and there was little to see that wasn’t fenced off or closed up tight, until I came across this bunch of workers playing a feet-and-heads-only version of volleyball.

Tattoos are a big deal here. Zoom in for a better look.

Next: something that isn’t about massages.


Thai has words that are similar to collective nouns in English, but they involve more precise rules of usage, they exist for more commonplace words, and they apply to singular as well as plural nouns. You might never need to refer to a pride of lions, but – depending on the context – you do have to refer to a lăŋ of bâan (one house or two-plus houses), and I couldn’t tell you what a “lăŋ” actually is, except in reference to “house,” just as I couldn’t define a pride without referring to “lions.”

Phaasăa Thai yâak kwàa (Thai language is more difficult) every day,” I said to my teacher and her colleague as I was leaving, using the word for “more” (kwàa) that I’d just learned. They smiled politely and paused before my teacher said, “Almost correct. We use kwàa only when we compare two things at the same time. If we’re comparing the same thing at two different times, we use a different word. Have a nice weekend!”