A Travellerspoint blog

Bangla Stadium Recap

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Tuesday night's 8-person elimination format was a first for Bangla Stadium. Hyped as a marathon of muay thai, it started with the usual youth matches. Then they called 8 fighters to the ring and proceeded to hand out free t-shirts and cooling fans. Quite a treat for them I'm sure. Chok drew the 4th fight and won his first match by decision after 3 rounds. In his second match of the night, however, he lost to a much larger opponent from a rival gym. No judgements here, but the other fighter was clearly doing some steroids and should have been two weight classes above the 7 others in the pool. While Chok showed superior technique and speed, the weight advantage of his opponent proved too much. Still a great night, interrupted only briefly by a sloppy match between two overweight and ill-conditioned American and Australian visitors. I want my money back!

Post-fight festivities were spent in the rain in Patong, where there are bars within bars. Go figure. I have no appetite for that town, but it was Rachel's last night so a bunch of us tried to party it up. The highlights of the evening consisted of Boyan and Gareth beating the bartender at connect-four and some shameful dancing at FBI Thailand (Finest Bar In. . .). =P

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Posted by AGN22 9.29.07 07:13 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Rain and Recovery

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Rain has been coming down in Phuket since the beginning of the week. Today it’s been non-stop, making it difficult to travel far by motorbike. It also make going to the beach kind of pointless. On the bright side, I’m living 40 ft from the gym and tonight we’re all going to Bangla Stadium in Phuket to watch one of our trainers fight. SuperChok (a.k.a. Lucky) will be fighting in an 8-person K-1 style elimination tournament in the 60kg class. Basically, this means the champion will have won 3 fights in a single night, giving an incentive to end each bout as quickly as possible. Regardless of the outcome, I’ve arranged to do private training sessions with Chok all next week. This also assumes that my eyes are healthy enough for training. This past week, I’ve been missing training because of mild conjunctivitis. If all else fails, I’ll just do it blind without my contacts. That should be interesting . . .

A host of other injuries have also halted training for a number of guests at the camp. At least 3 other guys have similar eye infections as myself. Rachel's ankle is jacked up from kicking improperly (she'll be touring through SE Asia while until it heals). A Swedish guy just punctured the sole of his foot from a sharp rock that speared through his flip flop yesterday. He can barely walk now. And I just saw Martin, who I've learned has been MIA for 5 days because of a rib injury. The sad part is when you get hurt from something completely unrelated to training.

Posted by AGN22 9.25.07 02:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

First week at Rawai

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The first week at Rawai Muay Thai has been fantastic. The day after I arrived, I visited Bangla stadium in Patong with Wat. Three guys from our gym (two foreigners and one trainer) competed and won their matches.

We’ve had pretty nice weather most of the week with only a few showers in the last few days. I’ve met a ton of great people from Dubai, UK, Canada, Sweden, and Singapore to name a few countries. Some of the guys showed me how to get to Nai Harn Beach, which is about 10 minutes away from camp by motorbike. You can rent a lounge chair and umbrella for 100 baht. Not many tourists and one of the cleanest from what I’ve been told.

And as expected, I’ve gotten pretty banged up. Mostly huge blisters on my feet from training on concrete and carpet (no nice mats like in the US). And of course the shin conditioning - bruises on top of bruises sprinkled with a few mosquito bites to make them itch. I’ll spare all of you the photos. I’m basically trying to work through the bruises while taping up my feet until they heal. Going to Bangkok this weekend to run some errands and hang out with my cousin. The break should give me some time rest – probably get a couple massages in as well.

Posted by AGN22 9.14.07 01:41 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Back in Haidian

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Just got into Beijing from Korea. I'm staying with some Penn Law friends, Derek and Lance, until the end of the week. We're at the WenJin Hotel, Tsing Hua East Gate, just down the street from BLCU, the language school I went to back in 2003. Most of Beijing seems the same, except that all of the old 1.20 and 1.60 cabs have been retired and traffic is slightly more orderly. I guess the government decided to replace those 25 year old Citreons with brand new Hyundai Sonatas, charging 2.00/km, in anticipation of the Olympics. I also got a glimpse of the Olympic stadium (the birds nest) from the 4th ring. It's pretty impressive in person.

Heading out to Mix tonight with the other Penn guys - yes, it's still around apparently. Tomorrow I'm visiting Michelle and Andy after a quick massage.

Posted by AGN22 9.3.07 04:44 Archived in China Comments (0)

Excursion to Seaside Alexandria (updated w/ pics!)

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Now I know why I don’t usually blog. It takes way too long. I’ve been traveling through Hong Kong, Macau, and Thailand over the past week and haven’t had much access to affordable internet. Now I’m in Alexandria, which feels like a different century altogether. I’ll have to fill in the blanks on Asia later.

Mary Anne and I got into Cairo after a 9 hour flight which almost didn’t happen. The tour agency we used forgot to confirm our Egypt Air flights from Bangkok to Cairo so our reservation was automatically cancelled by their system. Despite getting to the airport 3 hours early, we ended up rebooking the flight on the spot with 50,000 baht cash and sprinting from immigration to the departure gate to make the plane 6 minutes before takeoff. Really makes me hate how big the new BKK airport is. After catching our breath and sleeping the entire flight we arrived in Cairo at 6am to wait around for the domestic leg to Alexandria. Turns out our return flight is cancelled, so we'll have to take a train back to Cairo. A little tip, trains are much cheaper, more flexible, and nearly as fast as flying if it's a bullet train. Probably could have done without the flight in retrospect.

A few impressions about Cairo. Their airport needs a lot of work. Despite having a new international terminal, the airport is incredibly dated and security is laughable. There’s also nothing to do there when you have a 5 hour layover. Also, apart from tourists, 95% of the people there are men. I guess women just don’t fly domestically that much??

Not sure why they bother carrying around automatic weapons. The security is really laughable. Must be the intimidation factor.
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Flying into Alexandria felt like traveling back in time and to the equivalent of whatever middle-America is over here. In contrast to Cairo, where every 5 seconds someone asks you if you want a taxi, we had to wait around the Alexandria airport for 10 minutes to get a taxi who eventually tried to charge 3 times what it should cost. Luckily we had asked one of the Egypt Air flight attendants how much it should have been ~ no more than 15 LE (Egyptian pounds). The exchange rate is something like 5.6 so that works out to somewhere around $2.50 USD. Since we had no luck bargaining with the first driver, we walked out of the airport on foot with luggage in tow. It was only a 5 minute walk to the street where we found that every other car was a yellow/black city taxi. Unfortunately, the first 4 we talked to didn’t have any idea where our hotel was. Not a great sign. The 5th guy figured it out from the street name and we finally bargained him down to 15 LE.

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So what is this picture about? We hop into the taxi and the next thing we know the guy pulls over at a road side mechanic and tells us in Arabic that we have to wait 5 minutes. The taxi was broken? Seriously? Yeah, broken enough to pick up some passengers on the way to the mechanic.

I’ve had taxi’s drive me to a gas station before in Beijing, but never to a mechanic. 5 minutes turns into 15, but there was a cool breeze and some local explained to us that Egyptian minutes are long. Haha, very funny. A couple of people tinker around under the engine and finally we head off, pop a u-turn and crank up the radio. With the background music and all the weird stuff happening it really felt like we were in a movie.

Thankfully, the hotel was a really nice surprise. Super decked out boutique with a cool antique elevator, 15 foot ceilings, classic architectural features all over, and a well-trained staff. The front desk is almost as good as Thailand. (For anyone coming to Alexandria, definitely consider Le Metropole Hotel.) So apart from the hotel, Alexandria is probably the filthiest city I’ve ever been to. China looks clean compared to this! I haven’t really been to Cairo yet, so we’ll see. Everything here is covered in dirt, people are sweeping black sewage off the sidewalk, and there’s polluted traffic everywhere. After one evening, my lungs feel worse than 5 days in Vegas.

On the bright side, we’re one block from the Ocean drive and very centrally located. The first night we played it safe and ate at the Sofitel. That was followed by a banana split at one of the sidewalk cafes where people chill in the evening and people watch in front of the Ocean drive. FYI, this is really not a tourist destination. . . yet. So far, I’ve seen only 3 Westerners outside the hotel, probably French, and no Asians at all! Every 5 minutes we get some bus full of locals shouting “hello” to us. Pretty funny actually, especially when the little kids just stare.
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After Hong Kong and Singapore, there really isn’t much shopping that looks appealing. We’ll probably pick up some souvenirs later during the tour. For now we’re keeping our luggage light and stomach happy with KFC, Pizza Hut and bottled water. There’s plenty of opportunity for breaking out the Pepto and Imodium in the days to come.

This morning we woke up early and walked over to the Library of Alexandria. Definitely the most modern building complex I’ve seen in the city. Probably more money spent on that library than any other public project here. I snapped a bunch of shots from the outside but they wouldn’t let us in until 11. So instead of waiting we took a cab to the National Museum, which was basically the size of a two story 4,000 sq ft house. Interesting display system but just not very large of a collection. Tackled the entire thing in about an hour. Around noon time we caught another cab to a semi-private beach that’s located just under and behind a 6-lane bridge. I don’t think I’ve ever run across 6 lanes of traffic before. There are no cross-walks here so everyone just walks between cars. It looks like human Frogger but with cars barreling full speed. Quite crazy when you think about it. The beach was really filthy – you could see a foamy string of trash floating on the surface right up to the sand – but it was interesting to see how the locals chilled at the beach under their umbrellas.

Mosque on the way to the Library
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Outside the "Modern" Library of Alexandria
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Suicide Bridge + Beach
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Staying at the Metropole one more night and then catching a bullet train back to Cairo to meet up with Jennifer Yu and the rest of our tour group at the King Hotel. I suspect that we’ll pretty much be on the move non-stop for about 10 days.

Posted by AGN22 8.15.07 06:41 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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