Greetings From Bangkok Thailand ! (3 – 8 Oct 2017)
I left the gorgeous island of Koh Tao in another long day of traveling. I loved the island life but was also really excited to finally see Bangkok, meet Vara and visit the gyms. It was a windy day on the waters so I took some Gravol to make sure the waves didn’t bother me too much but I must have taken them too late as they didn’t kick in until after the ferry ride was over. As it happens that wasn’t much of a problem since the ferry ride wasn’t too rocky and actually quite comfortable, for this ex sailor anyways. Of course with the Gravol taking affect after the sail meant that I was now drowsy for the rest of the trip. I had to keep wandering around and not sit down for too long, scared I would fall asleep and miss the bus. It was a long bus ride to Bangkok, about 8 or 9 hours, but I was so drowsy from the Gravol I slept most of it, this time without a seat that falls apart every time I lay back.
I was refreshed and awake once we pulled into the station in Bangkok, ready to find my hostel in the busy city. The bus dropped us off in a busy area, with many Tuk-Tuk and Taxi drivers begging for your fare. I ignored them and continued walking, having looked up the city transit options and knowing my route without overpriced taxis. It was a bit of a walk to the bus stop and then I would transfer to the subway system, or BTS as it’s called, and just a few stops later I’d be at my hostel. As per Vara’s instructions I found an affordable hostel that was both close to the BTS and not too far from the gyms as Bangkok is a big and very busy city. The thing about catching the buses in Bangkok is that they are not very reliable and the traffic in the city is horrible. The alternative was walking for almost an hour to make it to the closest BTS station and I wasn’t up for that with my backpack and the sweltering humid heat of Bangkok, even in the evening. In the end it all worked out but it was an interesting experience.
I made it to the bus stop, or rather around the area for it, there were several bus stops down the street and it was hard to make out which one was for the bus I was looking to catch. I saw a few people waiting around a stop so I showed them my directions I had on my phone, pointing to the bus number, they pointed to another stop just down from them. At the proper stop I confirmed I was at the right stop by again showing the locals the directions and pointing to the bus number, they nodded. So lucky to have tun into friendly and helpful people in Thailand. Also lucky I read up on the practices of catching a bus in Bangkok while looking up the transit system routes. Having been traveling for almost a year now I was getting used to different countries and how they worked their transit. For Bangkok you can get in either through the front or back door but first have to wave the bus down, run out and jump on as they just slow down rather than actually stop for people. When the bus I was waiting for was coming down the street a few locals motioned for me to go catch it. I walked out into the street, put my hand up to motion to the bus and jumped in the back door as the bus slowed down and stopped for just long enough for me to get my big back pack through the narrow doors. The same locals who motioned for me to catch the bus used the time to run in through the front door. I felt like I they used me to catch the bus they might have missed.
While on the bus and watching it slowly creep through the busy streets as we got more into the downtown areas I was checking my route on my phone. Just then a local who spoke English asked me if I needed help getting to my destination, he also helped a few other travelers on the bus, proud to show off his English skills and happy to help. It always cool to run into nice people looking to help those around them whatever the cause but I do wonder how many visitors to North America would be helped as much or as willful as I have been on this trip. I would be OK on my own, but not everyone is as independent a traveler as me and for some people different cultures and the city life they’re visiting can be overwhelming. It was just a few stops on the BTS and a quick walk down the street and then I was finally done. I checked into the hostel, which was an icebox with the AC cranked so high (seriously it’s a big problem with visitors in Bangkok, 40C outside, 16C inside and everyone ends up with a cold by the end of the week, always) and then walked around the area to find my bearings. There was a 7-Eleven down the street and a Starbucks nearby, with all kinds of restaurants around. As it happens, I was also nearby the red light district and there were all kinds of street walkers at the corners. The amount of old white tourists walking down the street with Lady-Boys hanging off their arms was comical. Only in Bangkok.
During my stay in Koh Tao I ended up with a staph infection, not from training but rather from my hike up Viewpoint Hill. If you read my last article you’ll remember my trip up the hill for the awesome pictures. During that trek I got bitten by bugs and ended up in the torrential downpour on the way back, with the dirty street water splashing all over my legs. That’s how I figure I got it anyways. It all happened at the end of my stay and it wasn’t until the morning of my travel to Bangkok that I knew it was a serious problem that required some antibiotics. It was too early for a pharmacy in Koh Tao and it was too late when I got to Bangkok, there was nothing I could until next morning. During the whole day traveling to Bangkok, for the time I was awake anyways, my leg throbbed and was hot like I had a giant muscle cramp in my calve and a sunburn at the same time. First thing the next morning I headed to the pharmacy around the corner from the hostel and showed them my leg. “I think I may have a Staph infection” I told them “Probably, here take this” the pharmacist said nonchalantly while handing me some cream. I couldn’t believe how everyday circumstance he seemed, like Staph is the common cold in Thailand.
Throughout the Odyssey and my Jiu-Jiu life I’ve been very fortunate to make many good friends that are also educated in medicine, either from their own experiences or that work in the medical field. Only getting an antibiotic cream didn’t sit well with me so I took a picture of what it was and posted it on Facebook with the full story. It wasn’t long before my inbox was full with comments from friends telling me to go back and ask for the pills just to be safe. I finished my Starbucks Matcha latte and croissant (don’t judge me!) and went back to the pharmacy, where now a young woman and an older one were behind the desk. I assumed they were the previous Pharmacist’s family. I told the younger woman my story of coming in earlier and asked for antibiotic pills to be safe and she didn’t hesitate to pull a couple boxes out saying “The cream should be good enough but sure, do you one 1 weeks worth or 2?” And like that I was set to fend off this infection easy and cheap, I even went back again and picked up an extra box of pills for later as a just in case. It’s easier to get antibiotics in Thailand than it is to get cheeseburgers in America.
Remembering the King
The King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, had passed away a year ago, almost to the day of me visiting Bangkok. As the custom in Thailand for remembering royalty, a year later the month of his passing is a commemorative time. Lot of forms of entertainment were put on hold for the month (Actually, it’s gambling that was banned for the month but it’s easier to stop events than hold them and stop gambling) as well as the major temples like the Grand Palace itself, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho, were closed to foreigners, like myself. Because of this my plans for checking out the temples and going out to watch a kickboxing event were cut short. I headed out one night to walk around the temple area to see the crowds of locals dressed in black to pay their respects. I tried to dress appropriately and put on my black pants even though it was way too hot for it but didn’t have a decent black shirt so wore the closest thing, which was my gray BJJ Globetrotters shirt. No one seemed too concerned with my clothes and I wasn’t stopped but I didn’t press my luck or try to get into the temples, instead I just walked around the area to watch the masses pay respect. I’ve never seen any leader in North America shown so much respect by so many of their people, it was like the entire country had made it way to Bangkok to pay their respects. I had been told as much from locals that many families from the far rural areas closed their farms to make the trek. That is a lot of respect. Many of the locals didn’t show up to pray, or rather that wasn’t the only reason, most were there to take pictures of themselves in black with portraits of the late King. My feed on Facebook was full of these pictures by the local newsfeed and friends in the area. The cities throughout Thailand also had big decorated portraits of the late King posted all over like the picture below.
I did manage to get out a little bit and see some places, mostly just the market areas That I found or that Vara brought me too. There were some smaller temples that tourists were allowed to enter, that I took pictures of but arrived too late to see inside. Here’s a collection of random tings I saw and took pictures of while wandering around Bangkok.
As I was around the Grand Palace area I was thinking of heading over to see Wat Arun, a famous temple and popular tourist spot, since it’s near by but timing never worked out. I did find the precarious little wharf to carry the small ferry boat over to the other side of the river where Wat Arun is though.
While in Bangkok I finally met Vara, the one behind all the helpful information you see when people post on the BJJ Globetrotters Facebook group asking about Thailand and the one making sure all of the Globetrotter’s business is running smoothly as Christian’s only full time employee. She’s basically a magical being of organization and information. Vara helped me greatly with planning out my trip to Thailand for both Phuket and Bangkok and I can’t thank her enough for that. The first night we met Vara took me to the night market which is a big area of many tiny booths of all sort of things, food in one area, clothes in another, even some electronics, pretty much everything. Not only did I get to see this cool market but Vara also brought me to the place where the famous picture of the place was taken. The place where all the pro’s go that Vara found is in a multi-level parking lot a few levels up where you can look over the whole market. It’s a cool spot just to lookout and watch the nightlife.
I also took my first Tuk-Tuk ride with Vara and friend who meet with us. It was beneficial having someone who spoke the local language to barter and good price for us as I would have paid a price several times over what Vara managed. They brought me to a great restaurant that was also really cheap that I have no idea where it was but it was an great time. Way better then the various bugs and things on sticks that was at the night market. That’s not my thing to eat. Anyways, we had some great conversations about traveling and training at different places while eating some great food that we all shared. Thanks again Vara for the fun night showing me some of Bangkok I would have otherwise missed.
Bangkok Fight Lab
With the Staph infection there was no possible way I was training in Bangkok. I was sadly left on the sidelines for the week with my leg bandaged up, but I did come out to meet the gym Vara trains at, Bangkok Fight Lab. I looked up the gym on Facebook and sent a message about coming to visit and saved the address on Google Maps, along with Vara’s directions I found the place no problem. As Vara was running late and I showed up early I was alone in my introduction. I walked through the front doors to the front counter area and watched everyone training Muay Thai on the mat space. I was greeted by people quite quickly, some students, the kickboxing coach and then Morgan the head coach. Everyone was very friendly and happy to have me come visit, and of course saddened to hear I was out of commission and unable to train. It sucked to sit on the sidelines and just watch the whole time but at the same time it was fun to watch a gym I’m not familiar with and see what they were working on and the different details Morgan focused on in his teaching.
Meeting and talking with Morgan was a big surprise and another example of how small the world and the Jiu-Jitsu community really is. During class I noticed that the Bangkok Fight Club banner said they were a Pedro Sauer Associate so I asked Morgan if he got his black belt from Master Pedro himself or one of his students. Morgan confirmed that he indeed received his black belt Master Sauer and inquired why I had asked so I told him of my lineage. His eyes just about popped out of his head when I told Morgan I came from a Pedro Sauer line as well with Kieth Owen as our head black belt. “You train with Kieth?! I know him well, we trained together ever since our blue belts!” Proving that even across the world I will run into close members to my Jiu-Jitsu family, no matter where I am. Probably also why I noticed all his details were very similar to Mr. Keith’s since they’re both students of Master Sauer.
I wish I could have trained with everyone instead of sitting on the sidelines with my leg bandaged up but as I had learned by now you can’t always get want you want, and sometimes just being a spectator for the show is good enough. Morgan was teaching some great techniques that reminded me of some smaller points I had been skipping over as of late, watching him was like going over study notes, getting stronger before a test. The rolls were really energetic, not stiff or rough but also not slow or lazy. I don’t know haw they had the energy for it in the the heat, especially while wearing gis the entire time. I’m sure I would have been dead had I trained with these guys. Despite the set backs for training and sight seeing I had a great time in Bangkok and because of the set backs I now have a good reason to come back and do it all over again. The visiting for sight seeing and training part, not the Staph infection part. Thanks for all the help and good times showing around Vara and thanks for such a warm welcome to your gym Morgan, until we meet again!
After resting and healing for a week I was ready to take off to my next stop, flying half way around the world to meet the Free Rollers and my Australian brother from another mother Luke for a week long training session in San Diego, the Disney World of Jiu-Jitsu! I wrote about my Adventures in San Diego and the 100th Gym Milestone (training with Kurt Osiander) already so my next stop in this blog is the home of those crazy Australians from Free Rollers, Perth Australia!
Until next time,
see you on the mats!
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