Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’
November 20, 2009 | Sports
One of us has started training Muay Thai— unfortunately not the one who resides in Bangkok, the sport’s epicenter. That being said, with the explosion of MMA in North America, it’s easier to train Muay Thai on these shores than if, say, the other Shark Guy were to introduce the finer points of Slap Shot and the game of hockey to the Thais.
Speaking of emergency dental-work, the one time we were both in Siam, we took in a fight card in Chiang Mai and were amazed by the similarities between Thai kickboxing and the traditional Marquess of Queensbury—which included organized crime, insane betting, heavy presence of prostitutes, Hawaiian shirts and rampant corruption.
Thailand’s rock ‘em sock ‘em national sport is an amazing spectacle to watch, though the tomato can representing Westerners on the day we went — the Farang Nak Muay (foreign fighter) who we took great care to ostentatiously wager against using the basic boxing principle ‘never bet on the white guy’, took a dive worthy of any Olympic-size pool.
We were seated ringside in the VIP section, which might have featured bottle service from either Siegfried or Roy if we were in Las Vegas, but in the Chiang Mai red light district featured a dilapidated sofa seat that looked like something discarded from a frat house on garbage day.
It was, we should say, impossible to turn our eyes away from the action, and not only to make sure at several points during the fight that the various bodily fluids splashing out from the ring didn’t land in our food — though it must be said that while Thailand offers arguably the most diversely flavorful cuisine in the world, ringside is not exactly ground zero for fine dining.
Thereafter, one of us was hooked on the sport and began training to add to an already less than ass-kicking repertoire of 2 hours of Brazilian Ju-jitsu, 4 months of Aikido, one hour of Chute Boxe and several years of sporadic, boxing mediocrity, which culminated in losing several rounds of sparring to someone better trained, and possibly mentally deranged.
In a recent class, a bit of Muay Thai lore was described. The story is no doubt apocryphal, but with our earlier blog on Maxim’ s “The Last Days of David Carradine” we figured it a good time to recount a tale of what might be even more Thailand-based fiction.
THE ART OF EIGHT LIMBS: The Muay Thai Uppercut Elbow’s Odd History
A young Muay Thai fighter of yore hoping to earn the affection of his inamorata, presented her with a flower and, like any horndog in any other country would, went in for the kiss. He was greeted by something even less pleasant than the cheek and/or recriminations of how she had told him she just wanted to be friends. As he was leaning in, she was reaching up to place the flower behind her ear and, in a maneuver more unbelievable than anything paunchy, poncho-clad Steven Seagal has brought straight to DVD in the last decade, she knocked out her suitor with the uppercut elbow.
When the fighter came to he added this technique, a combination of delicacy and force, to the Thai kickboxing arsenal. (The teller did not say what happened to the relationship or what an intergender record 0f 0-1 did to the boxer’s fight career).
Christopher Lombardo, Toronto
Christopher Lombardo has written about MMA for the Toronto Star and has interviewed famed boxing trainer Manny Steward among others.
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November 18, 2009 | Rants
Maxim magazine recently published an article in which the writer purports to relive the final days of David Carradine. We really didn’t take much notice of the mag up until now as Maxim is the type of publication that would be found in the waiting room of a dentist who’d compromise you sexually you once the anesthetic kicked in. Besides, when it comes to boobs, we prefer seeing them on a beach and not on a masthead.
In Bangkok there is no shortage of tell-all journalism with a urine sample’s distinct hue, but it is rare that even your most Gary Glitter-obsessed reporter would write a story about Thailand that beggars belief more than Yul Brynner in the role of a Siamese King.
Please read the original article linked above. For added effect, read it aloud as if you were a veteran Bangkok-based reporter shouting it down a staticky phone line to your editor during the Vietnam War era.
Writer Mark Ebner, who “has been covering crime and Hollywood for 20 years” (presumably like smog, only twice as thick), starts out recounting the circumstances of David Carradine’s death and the questions surrounding it. Was it suicide? Murder? Or did he accidentally choke to death while rubbing one out?
ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK — AT THE VERY MOST
Ebner scratches his chin, contemplatively. “Wasn’t it a little too convenient,” he asks, “that such a sordid suicide should take place in Bangkok, the sex capital of the world? I wanted to know.”
Maxim wisely made him ride coach on one of the cheapest airlines with regular flights from North America to Thailand – Ebner writes he “spent 23 hours in a cramped China Airlines 747”. Perhaps it was the mania-inducing monotony of the long flight (Suggestion: To make time pass on such a flight, bring enough sleeping pills to knock out a race horse and a novelty tie for drool) or passing over all those time zones that did it, but Ebner seemed to somehow disengage from reality as observable by other human beings during those fateful 23 hours on a long haul jet.
His flight was followed he says, “”by a teeth-rattling cab ride through the smog-choked, sweltering squalor of metro Bangkok, dodging rickshaws and limbless sidewalk cripples begging for change.”
What fun! Grand Theft Auto Bangkok! But wait, rickshaws are human powered – commonly associated with heavy colonials weighing down a seat and cursing for a dawdler some poor bugger peddling for all he’s worth, who in turn curses the heavy diet of his bosses – and would be in mortal danger on Bangkok streets. And if a sidewalk cripple were capable of interfering with traffic, he would by definition not be a cripple, or on the sidewalk.
Harrowing journey complete, teeth rattled so bad that they are probably still chattering now, Ebner arrives at the five-star Swissotel Nai Lert Park Hotel, where the late Kill Bill star died. “I’ve come here to follow in Carradine’s steps and try to reconstruct his final days,” he writes.
After seeing the so-called “penis shrine”, a Bangkok landmark filled with phalluses where people go to pray for fertility and make bawdy jokes, Ebner sizes up the country with one cutting observation: “Clearly, Thailand, like the death of its most recent famous victim, has more to it than meets the eye.”
The insights do not stop there. Bangkok, he writes, is “a teeming hodgepodge where native Thais rub elbows with Chinese and Indian immigrants, as Western sexual tourists explore the city’s seamy underbelly”. Aside from his bizarre decision to specify “native” Thais (surprisingly common in Thailand) and count the Chinese and Indians he sees as immigrants (some probably were, but both have been in strong numbers in Bangkok for generations), he turns to the lazy journalist’s favorite talking point when it comes to Bangkok – perverted Western men, who are to cities’ seamy underbellies what Jacques Cousteau was to the oceans of the world.
Ebner decides, based on his room – standard, unlike the suite that Carradine had – that hanging in the closet would be difficult if not impossible. He goes out in search of answers.
“The first stop on my quest is a lunch with Bangkok Dan, a handsome Swiss expat and wire-service journalist who’s been here 14 years.” He continues: “Much of what appears to Westerners as callousness, Bangkok Dan attributes to the Buddhist belief in reincarnation. ‘Life is worth nothing here,’ he explains.”
It seems a harsh assessment coming from Bangkok Dan, founder and writer of AbsolutelyBangkok.com, one of the better blog sites about the city, and someone who does not give the impression of a man living in constant fear of death out here in discount life land. As the fates would have it, a commenter by the name of “Brolo” on AbsolutelyBangkok sought confirmation from Bangkok Dan that he was indeed the person quoted in the article.
The following is the exchange copied from the blog’s comments section here:
“Brolo”: Dan, please tell me you were not the Bangkok Dan cited in the incredibly idiotic article about David Carradine’s death? I like your site, but it’s guilt by association when it comes to adding fiber to such a monstrous turd of an article.
Bangkok Dan: I am, Brolo, I am, but, politely said, completely taken out of context. Didn’t recognize anything. And handsome and Swiss … go figure. Heavy jet lagged author I guess.
Had a good laugh reading the piece. Seriously. A good lesson. So much about working ethics and methods of some journalists. And was also promised a bottle of something that never arrived.
A journalist might be able to forgive a botched or misrepresented quote, but welshing on promised booze? Little Mencken weeps. Shame on you Maxim.
Ebner then goes on at length about Carradine’s career, his brothers – “the Baldwins of their time” – and his sexual kinks, before going back to give Buddha’s sleazy underbelly one more rub.
“I’ll hear later that Carradine was spotted the day before his death in Bangkok’s red-light district shaking hands with the locals. It’s my next stop.” (What was whispered in Ebner’s ear – that Carradine was out glad-handing the punters at go-go bars the day before he died – has not to our knowledge been reported anywhere else).
IT’s ALL GONE PATPONG
And here Ebner sprovides a description of Patpong that anyone from a seasoned go-go bar veteran to a person capable of operating Google Maps can see is almost entirely wrong. Ebner breaks from journalistic tradition here. Rather than fudging on facts so he can spend more time enjoying his per diem in the way nature intended — in a bar — he instead gets his bar facts wrong.
The quotes that follow here are all from one breathtaking paragraph that is best savored in bite-sized morsels:
“A vast open-air sex market, the Patpong is a 20-minute walk from the hotel, past the U.S. and British embassies; an X-rated bazaar that looks like a psychedelic Bourbon Street.”
“Open air sex market”? “X-rated bazaar? I’m picturing goats with stories to tell in their eyes. Fornication at the bus stops. Dildos and Betsy Beaver brand synthetic vaginas piled high like so much fresh produce.
Patpong market is located on and around Soi Patpong, which along with the parallel Patpong 2, is a road with go-go bars and prostitutes as well as transvestites (a group Ebner more than amply covers in his article based on the barstool rumor that Carradine met his end at the hands of one) .
Patpong market is one of the city’s most popular outdoor night markets and it sells overpriced (for Thailand) T-shirts, trinkets, and pirate DVDs, including – as any pirate DVD business worth its name would – porn. But X-rated bazaar? Not really. If Ebner did somehow find himself in a vast open air sex market, one hopes he thought carefully before ordering food.
“This is where they filmed The Deer Hunter to simulate wartime Saigon.”
Suspicions are raised when one of the lone verifiable facts in a lengthy descriptive paragraph is probably the most common piece of trivia about a given place.
“The Patpong is divided into Soi 4, which is predominantly gay; Soi Cowboy, a note-perfect re-creation of pre-Disney Times Square, designed to cater to the Western tourist; and Nana Plaza, which is where they keep the kink.”
This version of “The Patpong”, as the map below illustrates, is a fiction. Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza are located in another part of the city. Moreover, it’s unlikely that the go-go bar owners and and the local business improvement association on Soi Cowboy gathered prior to opening up their watering holes to ensure that theirs was a “note perfect” re-creation of pre-Disney Times Square.
It is good to know, however, that the kink is kept at Nana Plaza.
Ebner ends up “looking for answers at the dodgy Nana Hotel” which he says is “in the Patpong” (actually located, not surprisingly, near Nana Plaza and, again, in a completely different part of town). It is there that he meets “a striking-looking child bride who calls herself ‘A’. She pours herself into my lap. Like everyone I talk to in the Patpong, she doesn’t know anything about Carradine, but for 10,000 baht (roughly $300 U.S.) she will come back to my hotel, tie me up, choke me, and stay the night. I take a rain check.” Some hotels offer valet parking, others, according to Ebner at least, the services of child brides who will choke you out and keep you company till morning for a few Benjamins. It’s the subtle differences that make international travel worthwhile.
He later interviews famous Thai forensic investigator Khunying Pornthip (more on that interesting lady here) who, he writes, “also announced that Carradine’s room came equipped with its own penis shrine.” Earlier Ebner noted the presence of a penis shrine next to his hotel remarkably accurately given his coverage of the rest of Bangkok, but he nonetheless failed to realize that Pornthip was referring to it, and not a phallic shrine in Carradine’s room. Swissotel room service draws the line at the artful presentation of plates of sausage.
Some who commented on Ebner’s Maxim piece wondered if Ebner’s Bangkok portrayal was the result of his watching the Nicolas Cage version of Bangkok Dangerous, standing up too fast and then writing this article before the blood that rushed to his brain had a chance to settle. He does, however, close with an authentic touch: interviewing a bar-stool conspiracy theorist — and Bangkok must also be the world capital of these along with sexy time — at the city’s Foreign Correspondents’ Club. He then quotes this unnamed font of wisdom’s unsubstantiated and worthless gossip.
Having traveled thousands of miles, past limbless cripple prostitute beggar rickshaw drivers and glided over the seamy underbelly of the imaginary land of Patpong with its Ferris Wheel of fornication and deadly child brides in search of answers to David Carradine’s death, Ebner closes with the following: “In death, as in life, Carradine’s complex persona offered more questions than answers. However he died—and we may never know—it wasn’t so different from how he lived.” Err, right. Well done.
Noel Boivin, Bangkok
Photos and edited by Christopher Lombardo