Entry 3

Entry 3

Entry 3
A weeklong electronic journal.
July 31 2002 1:51 PM

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The action at Lumphini Stadium
The action at Lumphini Stadium
The old kick to the groin
The old kick to the groin
Finish him!
Finish him!
Cockfighting!
Cockfighting!

It's time for ass kicking. Tonight, we head to Lumphini Stadium for Thai kickboxing fights. The stadium is at the edge of Lumphini Park, which is like Central Park except instead of a sheep meadow there's a feral dog meadow. The stadium itself is wooden and rickety, and a well-placed match would conjure a fiery death bowl within about 4 seconds. It's filled with tough looking Thai dudes who are either shouting or gambling or both at all times. I love this place. It's like Bloodsport come to life (a Jean-Claude Van Damme classic, which coincidentally aired on HBO Asia the other night). The first several fights tonight are all between little kids looking as young as 11. They can't do much damage to each other (meaning: no blood), so the crowd isn't totally into it. There's a culture here of poor kids joining kickboxing schools (not unlike regular boxing in the States), and Lumphini is their show grounds. But everyone's waiting for the real fights to begin. A small band plays throughout the evening—a couple of congas, a bell, and some kind of reedy wind instrument. They only play during the three-minute rounds and pause during the breaks. They seem to improvise along with the mood of the crowd—calmer when things are quieter, pushing the tempo when things heat up. We've bought 800-baht tickets ($20), which put us maybe 40 feet from the ring, with a perfect view. But they stick all the farangs in one section, which makes our area completely dead compared to the chaos around us. The locals are a frenzy of wagers, with finger signs flashing in the air like the Board of Trade. The kids in the ring are getting a little bigger now, maybe 16 or 17. They're definitely hurting each other at this point. My observation: Should you ever find yourself in a Thai kickboxing match, try to elbow the other guy in the face. Yes, this is perfectly legal— everything save for head butts is fine. Your opponent will be kicking at the sides of your skull with horrifying force, but if you can just stay conscious long enough to gash his cheekbone you'll draw plenty of blood, and that's a victory in itself. Things to avoid: Try not to let him jam your face down into his rapidly ascending knee. This looks particularly ungood. At last the main event arrives. It's everything we'd hoped for. We can hear the thwapping of flesh. We can see streams of blood spilling from eye sockets (a special blood mop comes out between rounds). The crowd is picking up steam until by the final round it is sheer pandemonium. The band can't play fast enough, feeding on the emotion. I am sorely tempted to shout, "Sweep the leg! Sweep the leg! Finish him!" As the fight finally ends (no knockout, incredibly, despite about 70 separate death blows, each of which would have rendered me instantly … dead), money starts changing hands with gusto. In all, a fantastic evening. By the way, this is not the first brutal, wagered-upon fighting I have witnessed in Bangkok. A few days ago, at the sprawling weekend market, I happened upon a small, tucked-away room in which men were gambling over fighting fish. I couldn't get close enough to see the action, but then a few aisles over I spotted a cockfight. Even better! My first cockfight! I watched for about 10 minutes, at which point I realized 1) cockfights last a good long while, and 2) they get real ugly. I tried to snap some action pics, but the guys around the ring (who were not friendly looking guys; no, not at all) were giving me looks, and I grew terrified that they would think my flash was bothering the cocks and affecting the outcome and would smash the camera over my head and throw me in with the roosters. So I left. My observation: Should you ever find yourself in a cockfight, try to bite the other bird on the back of the neck. Once you get a good grip, flap your feathers to achieve some upward tug on his spine. Your opponent will be trying to peck out your eyes, but if you can just saw through his spinal cord with your beak, you should be good to go.

Seth Stevenson, often found shopping for Slate, is currently following his girlfriend around Southeast Asia.