What a blur. I was in Bangkok for 2 hours before I was at my first Muay Thai class. I was sitting in my hostel bar for 10 minutes before a San Franciscan named Seth floated the idea of Muay Thai my way. And in line with the art of saying yes to everything, I was on my way.
The martial art of Muay Thai feels like a combination of boxing, grappling and perfecting the art of kneeing the other guy in the nuts… Without actually kneeing them in the nuts. I’d spent some time boxing in London, which had prepared me for much of the basics, but a month without any serious exercise had taken its toll. The open-air gym was situated on top of a hotel, hanging over some busy streets below. I was about to discover April is Thailand’s hottest month – even during the night it can approach 30 degrees. Then adding in the high humidity on top, it was sweltering. After 90 minutes of furious training, I was well and truly done. The beers that evening were, for once, definitely earned.
Its hard to describe Bangkok. As a port of entry to South-East Asia for most of the Western world, its a bustling modern city, brimming with international influence alongside the traditional Thai cultures. The Metropolitan centre is filled with high-rise apartments, malls and hotels, with plenty of McDonalds and Starbucks invading the streets. Closer to the river, there’s plenty of grand monuments and temples plastered with gold and colour to fill your sightseeing boots.
With the exception of the backpacker havens (such as Khao San Road), the seedy red light districts and various club streets dotted around the city, Bangkok can be a quiet city. There’s plenty of relaxed areas and well-kept parks where you can wander around aimlessly for hours.
At the other end of the spectrum on the busy streets, every block of pavement will be filled with stalls; selling street food, alcohol and clothes. Each night, we headed to a different area of the city and got a completely different experience each time.
On Khao San road and the surrounding streets, live music can be found pouring out of almost every venue. Our first taste was with an amazing cover band, who blasted out great versions from ACDC, Guns ‘n’ Roses, System of a Down etc. Then we ended up at a club nearby, where a local rock band was playing to a packed Thai crowd. Locals freely offered us some of their drinks, and even the friendly bouncers were continually handing us peanuts from their stash.
When the sun was out the city baked at nearly 40 degrees each day. Resting at the hostel bar in front of a fan was pretty much all you could do for much of the day and Air Conditioning was the God we all openly praised. Despite the heat, we ventured out to local markets and food stalls to collect supplies, and wondered around the touristy spots to see the sights.
5 nights here definitely wasn’t enough. There’s so much more of this city I want to explore. Bangkok, I’ll be back.
Hostel: Bodega Bangkok (10 / 10!)