First Month in HuaHin

Written by Travel

Posted from: Hua Hin, Thailand

Thailand has taken me, as I felt that it would, as it has so many others.

Nights here are far superior to days, I think; residential streets are swampy and dully silent, wet silent. When the air seems so close to your skin temperature and the wind is dead, you may as well be walking on the bottom of an aquarium.

I’ve recently discovered the night markets – a hundred vendors or so all crammed together selling their wares under strings of mustardy lightbulbs that attract so many bugs out of the humid air that you have to keep your mouth closed and your eyes squinty.

The experience is worth the travails, though: plantains, silver jewelry, ready-made pad Thai noodles at 10 baht a serving, Thai silks and fabrics, sweet sticky rice with custard, clothes, trinkets and various portraits of the royal family, curries, randomly selected and mostly boring novels and textbooks written in English, and thanks to the West, french fries and CDs.

During the days I mostly train, though two days a week I volunteer at the local dog shelter. There are 34 dogs currently at the shelter – I love them all – they’re my surrogates. The shelter is small enough that it can only take in dogs that would not otherwise survive. They are returned to health and then put up for adoption. The center runs solely on donations, and is operated mainly by two fantastic and dedicated women: Dawn and her mother, Maureen. There are one or two other volunteers, not nearly enough.

The dogs are all quite intelligent, they scamper around in their pens and start fights with each other every half-hour or so. Missy, a beautiful shade of smokey grey with light eyes, folds almost in half and curls up in the water bowls for a soak. Wormie had cancer on his face, and after a surgery that took off a significant portion of skin, he’s been left with a lopsided mouth that doesn’t hold his tongue properly. Bruin has no front teeth due to malnutrition. Theo is an incurable brown-noser who starts all sorts of trouble when your back is turned. He gets along well with Hok (Thai for the number six), my favorite, who’s a rogue and a thief, but an affectionate one. They all deserve the best homes. I certainly hope they get them.

The other days I train. Mornings I go to a fitness club at a local hotel, and in the afternoon I go five or six rounds on the pads with my trainer, Chet Luurn, who corrects my technique and amuses himself at my expense.

I am a bit angry, though not altogether surprised, at the sexism that pervades Muay Thai. It has been argued that it is simply part of the culture and must be accepted as such until the people “come around”, and that may be so. But when did any people “come around” without a bit of prodding? Do human rights take a moral backseat to customs and culture? What about the genital mutilation of adolescent girls in Africa? That’s their culture, should we look the other way? Though the two issues aren’t really comparable, the reasoning behind them is the same: woman are inferior and unclean.

The who biggest stadiums in Bangkok do not allow women to box there. One of the second-tier stadiums has built a separate arena for women. When and if a woman is allowed into the ring at all, she must crawl in under the ropes, not over them, as the men do. A woman is not permitted to touch a man’s traditional Muay Thai head ornament. All this undoubtedly has to do with the fact that women were only allowed into muay thai officially 10 years ago – so times and progress will hopefully bring change.

That’s enough for now, I’m sure.