The Karen People

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Yesterday we went for an adventure. We got fed up just lying around in Mae Moei resting, and we had finished all the unfinished work that we needed to do. So we hopped on our little monster truck and decided to do some off-roading.

Everyone says the roads in Myanmar are really bad, and the new super snazzy highway that connects Yangon to Mandalay, is a four laned, overpriced airstrip that has nothing. It goes through nowhere, has no traffic, and apparently is completely useless. We’re better off breaking down on the old road, because at least there, we might run into someone that can help.

So as a warmup we took on the mud and the holes, and our baby bird flew like an angel. She tackled everything that was thrown in her way, except Pyry’s muscles. Sometimes he can be a bit rough while screwing around.

After the breaking in, our angel had started whining a little, so we decided to tighten her up before getting wet again after Songkran. We gave a good yank on every nut and bolt we could find, and the last one, one of the four bolts that keep the front wheel connected, snapped under Pyry’s humungous strength…

Luckily we had decided to do this in front of a shop that just happened to have nice people, with the right tools. In a jiffy they took out the old bolt and gave us a new one, slightly shorter, but seemed a bit harder, so I really hope size doesn’t matter. I think that as long as it’s hard and doesn’t break, it should work fine.

After tightening our nuts, we headed off into the mystery roads that even google maps have never heard of. In the end we found what didn’t know we were looking for, a beautiful valley between two luscious mounds. Every mans dream.

We asked if we could stay the night, and like usually, we were very welcomed. Suddenly there were dozens of kids running around, some throwing our knives around and others playing karate kid with our juggling clubs. Everyone was having a blast.

Once finished, we were so hungry that we bought some of the local eggs and made a Khai Jiao, Thai style omelette on our heavenly kitchen. I think the eggs came from the chicken that was continuously watching me cook, or then from one of the other hundreds that were freely running around. These village people let all life join in the fun, and by doing that, they stay healthy, with nutritious, natural, fresh, free food at all times.

Then we went to wash up in the mountain stream and were greeted by the only man who spoke english. He asked what we were doing, and instead of camping, he asked us to his home. This is when we found out that we had stumbled into a village that has been inhabited by the Karen Tribe for over a millennium.

He showed us to his home, and we chatted for hours. We asked about the Karen people, and they asked us about Finnish people. We laughed a lot and shared very similar views of many things, including the fact that they pride themselves on helping each other, without accepting money.

In the end Juho and Santin found their deepest connection, a true love they share together, Football. It goes to show, that we’re all basically the same.

Then we had dinner. I don’t know what it was, but it was kind of like a crab and fish stew with rice. They were amazed that in Finland we have to pay for our crabs, while they just pick them up from the river. Even the water tasted like proper water, because it came straight from the mountain stream with only a little filtering, though in Finland, the ground water doesn’t even need to be filtered.

Then we found out that the Karen food, compared to Thai food, uses no fish sauce, no sugar, and unlike in Finland, the small crabs are meant to be eaten with the shell on. That way they are much more nutritious, and taste really nice. It was like eating chips.

After our tummies looked like they were about to burst, we jumped on the pick up and went to look for the Songkran after party. This time we got so lost that even the locals didn’t know where we were.

We ended up coming back to the village, where they had pitched up a tivoli at the temple grounds, and enjoyed the old school film projector, and Pyry shot some stuffed rabbits for his godson.

Then it was time to sleep.

We woke up at the third call of the roosters, i.e. 5 am, the natural wake up time. It’s amazing how one rooster starts, then the next one joins in, then the next, then a dog, and soon the whole valley is echoing with life. It is simply the most natural wake up call, and it feels good.

We packed up, checked the oil, checked the water, and rolled off towards the sunrise. It was a wonderful experience.

Ta blu dòh mä, my brothers! You shall always be in our hearts.

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Songkran

Snakes keep popping up everywhere. Not a single day has passed for the last week or two where someone hasn’t mentioned them, or a picture hasn’t popped up somewhere, or someone hasn’t given us a Naga Buddha amulet.

Nagaland is calling hard, but alas, we must not hurry ourselves.

In the modern day with Facebook and Twitter, everything seems to go faster and faster. But life doesn’t. Life goes at it’s own speed and it does not bend to anyones will. We so want to leave Thailand already, and everybody else wants us to also, but life has different plans it seems. We must respect it.

Here are todays gifts from people we met and talked to.

Buddha protected by 7 Nagas. We were given 2, one each
Photo: Pyry Kääriä

 

Buddha with a protection prayer on the back given to Juho
Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Enlightened Buddha given to Pyry
Photo: Pyry Kääriä

As well as all the niceness from the Mae Moei people, one really good thing has happened. Our tuk tuk man, Mr. Pong, may have redeemed himself and made himself one of our best assets. He managed to help get the audience with the Myanmar Embassy, and he is trying his hardest to use all of his contacts to speed up the process so we can leave.

But alas, he is only human, like all of us. We can only do our best and nothing more, though I must say, that so far what I know of the Myanmar people, they really do their best. Especially when it comes to Songkran. Most of them seem to have eyes that penetrate the soul, and they party like there’s no tomorrow, for two weeks.

We crossed the border yesterday, again, and I have to say that the old saying, ‘third time is the charm’, should be changed to, ‘first time is the charm’, so that we wouldn’t have to do everything three times. We got through no problem, but our tugboat on wheels didn’t.

The letter from the Embassy had not made it to the central government of Myanmar before Songkran, and there, the party is just too good for anyone to answer phones, so we must wait ’till the party ends.

We used our chance while in Myanmar and spent some time partying with the Myawaddyans. After getting soaked within the first ten steps we went to find some food by the river. The locals were summersaulting into the river so we decided to join them. Very nice people with very potent self made drinks.

 

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

 

 

Then we came back towards immigration only to be stopped by a big group of ecstatic youngsters dancing like hell and squirting water every which way. By this time the alcohol had hit, and jumping around looked like fun, so we joined in and had a blast.

 

 

Video Screenshot, Tuk Tuk Travellers

Video Screenshot, Tuk Tuk Travellers

 

Not knowing if it was 5 o’clock already we went back to immigration just incase. The border closes at 5 and we were told to return before that. We found Myanmar Immigration partying also, so we spent our last hour dancing and drinking in no-mans land with them.

 

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

Myanmar has taken our hearts already.

We left with huge smiles on our faces and this time, we got a phone number for one of the Immigration guys so we can call him, and make sure, that next time we will definitely get through.

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I think we might have a problem.

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We felt that we were

on top of the world

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Now we feel that we are

six feet under

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Last week we begun our journey and headed north so we’d be ready to cross the border as soon as we get the permit from the Myanmar authorities. We already had the permits twice, but couldn’t cross the border because we missed the registration. Now we have the registration and applied for a new permit. Myanmar authorities had been really helpful, and there shouldn’t be any problems.

Yesterday we finally got the answer, and it wasn’t what we were hoping for. The Buddhist new year is closing in and they asked us if we could postpone till after the Songkran. The sad part about it is that they celebrate the Water Festival for 2 weeks, starting April 12th.

It felt like a blow to the abdominals.

For the first time I lost my courage. We are almost three months late of schedule, our Myanmar visas run out by the 10th of april, we don’t have enough money to wait for three more weeks, and even worse, if we wait for three more weeks, monsoon season might catch us, and there’s no way we can cross the muddy Myanmar roads with a tuk tuk.

I felt disappointed and paralysed, I felt that I disappointed all of you who are following our journey, I felt that I disappointed my family at home, and I felt that I disappointed myself. All of our plans vanished into thin air.

I lost courage, but Pyry didn’t. He answered for the concerning authorities and contacted all our contacts in Myanmar. After that we went to have a walk, we ended up in the old city walls of Chiang Mai, clasped our hands and took a symbolic fools leap over a crumbled gap in the wall.

It made me feel better.

Today has been all about self reflection. After all, it’s not the first time we face obstacles. The only difference is that this time we had an expectation of how things would go. And as we all know, things never go the way you expect.

For me disappointment is that things are not going the way I want them to go. But life is not my playground, I never made a deal that life is fair. No matter how hard I work, I still might fuck up. Life has it’s own flow, and it can’t be harnessed. As humans we must adapt to life, not vice versa.

Now it’s time to adapt again. I have no reason to feel disappointed, not as long as I’m doing all I can to make this happen. I want to get home.

I got my courage back. There was no reason to lose it in the first place. It was just a misunderstanding in my head. A simple misunderstanding, where I thought I was in control of life.

I’m in control of my life, and there’s a big difference. I’m in charge on what I do with the circumstances. It’s still possible that we get the permission to cross the border before holidays, but if not, there’s more than just one way to hurdle obstacles. The possibility of failure is real, but it has been real all the time. The possibility of failure doesn’t mean that we are giving up. It means that we will do all we can to find a way.

Tomorrow we will go to perform in a local orphanage. We are feeling blue, but we know that nothing delights more than seeing children smile.

We have no idea of how things will turn out, but stay tuned. Somethings is definitely going to happen.

Breaking it in

1038 Km done,

and it still feels good.

Everyday it seems that I fall in love with our Tuk Tuk more and more. It is simply the best motorised road vehicle that has ever been designed, and it’s also the first motorised vehicle that I own.

We wrote in one of the first blogs a quote that came from someplace that I cannot remember anymore, but it went more or less like this.

The Tuk Tuk is the worst vehicle ever made, because it has all the bad sides of everything. It gives no shelter or protection like a car, and it cannot weave through traffic like a motorbike. Oh yeah, and it tips over really easily.

They were wrong, and so wrong they were. Based on this paragraph, I think the author has never driven a Tuk Tuk before because they only dwell on theory, not practice.

After a few days of driving around Thailand, I can give you a more detailed, practical approach to what the tuk tuk is. So let me rephrase the earlier paragraph into what I think is more suitable for the King’s Wagon.

The Tuk Tuk is the best vehicle ever made, because it has the best sides of all other vehicles, and even more.

With the Tuk Tuk the legs do not need to be placed on the ground when stopping, unlike a motorbike, and it is way more agile than any car on the market today, because there is only one front wheel.

Then I would continue,

The tuk tuk is more like a boat with wheels, rather than a car or a motorcycle, because it allows passengers to move about, to stretch the legs, or if needed, even to climb about on the outside. Click here to see it in action.

The Tuk Tuk is designed so that things can be hung from the roof, and they are easily accessible when needed. This cannot be done in a car, and the motorbike doesn’t even have a roof.

The Tuk Tuk is the only vehicle that a Hammock can be tied to, on the inside as well as the outside.

Unlike any other road vehicle, the Tuk Tuk allows the driver to change position while driving, perhaps into a lotus position, or even into a squatting position, because the throttle is operated by the right hand (or sometimes the left if you like to change).

The Tuk Tuk gives you the same feeling of freedom as the motorcycle, because there are no barriers between onboard people and mother nature.

Unlike modern cars, the Tuk Tuk has no computer chips, so the driver has full control of the vehicle at all times. Because of this, if a problem arises, it can be fixed at any local moped shop, or even by the driver themselves. No authorised, specialised, monopolised, money-vacuum garages are needed. Only a mind that has the capability of thinking on its own, and has a little logic in it.

The Tuk Tuk also makes everyone that drives past raise their thumb and cheeks towards the sky, and this makes all the people within the Tuk Tuk smile and happy.

I understand that they couldn’t write all of this into the article, because it’s a little bit longer, but at least they could have been truthful about what the Tuk Tuk really is. I believe the tuk tuk is the most versatile of all vehicles because of all of the above, and last but not least,

The Tuk Tuk is the only vehicle that can easily be modified into a transportable gastro-machine, and drive halfway across the globe to fulfil a crazy dream of making the world a better place.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

The end of Chapter 1: Part 3

We got our tuk tuk to test drive long distance, so we decided to take it for a spin to Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya is built in the cross of three rivers and it has stayed there long. In the time of it’s splendour, late 18th century, Ayutthaya was one of the biggest and richest cities in the world with over a million inhabitants. But in 1765 the Burmese came for a picnic, stormed the walls and razed the city. Everything was stolen and what they couldn’t carry they burned and smashed. Fall of Ayutthaya was probably the biggest havoc since the sack of Constantinople in the hands of crusaders in 1204.

The drive was some 200 Km all together and the tuk tuk handled it great. Well the things that worked. Fuel gauge was broken and the manual checking hose was sprayed golden, speed-o-meter was busted, the throttle was too tight and the revs were too high. But thats why we had the test drive, to see what needs to be fixed.

Upon entering Ayutthaya we searched for the market place since we wanted to film our first recipe there. So we asked a hotel reception since no one else seemed to understand. There was a local girl with a beautiful smile working there, and she kindly gave us directions.

After the war the Siamese founded a new capital 90 km downriver in a place called:

Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit,

or better known as Bangkok.

Looking for the marketplace the local tuk tuk gang stopped us to ask questions. They asked how much and where, and wanted to try how it feels. They even drove it a little bit. Then the tuk tuk drivers fixed the revs, showed how they’ve fitted things, and gave us pointers on what we should do. Bonding through tuk tuks. Feels good.

Talking to the tuk tuk drivers I noticed the same girl that was in the hotel standing and smiling at us. She had come to see if she can see us again before taking a tuk tuk home. So the gentlemen that we are we offered to give her a ride for helping us with the directions.

Ayutthaya never regained it’s old splendour. Nowadays there are only 60 000 inhabitants. That is probably the reason for it’s charm. Ayutthaya is marvellously beautiful. There seems to be more ruins than houses, it has the same outdoor museum feeling as Rome but the ruins and temples are clearly accessible and visible since it’s not packed with people.

In the end the girl became our guide and she showed us a beautiful Chedi, where we decided to film our recipe, Yam Talay.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

She helped us with the filming and confessed that she rarely talks to foreigners, but somehow we looked cool. In the end we took her home like we promised and everyone had an exciting day and barriers were broken.

Then we drove back. At night. With potholes.

The tuk tuk went for a last checkup after the test drive, and all of the final modifications and tweaks were made. We were supposed to get it back on Monday, and we were supposed to hoist anchor at 4 am like all good pirates do, to slip away in the darkness unnoticed while everyone else sleeps, but I guess we’re not in a fairytale.

Once again our trusted tuk tuk man couldn’t deliver, so we got it on tuesday at 10 am. It took us 4 hours to get out of Bangkok, but oh the joy when the metropolis finally disappeared. The road was empty, Pyry was Accelerating and Juho Cried out in joy.

Now we have spent two nights sleeping in hammocks in the beautiful Ayutthaya. It’s time to move on. Next stop unknown.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

The End of Chapter 1

It’s Hot in Here

35° celsius.

Just eating, makes me sweat as if i’ve been training for 3 hours. It’s the hottest time of the day, but the nights are not that much easier. For the last few nights we’ve been sleeping the spartan way. Glazed tiles are cooler than a mattress and it doubles up as an all night massage with a side order of ant-acupuncture (Even that can be turned to the positive :D).

In Thailand there are only three seasons. The hot season, the very hot season and the rainy season. By now it’s the middle of the very hot season. Come Songkran, the Thai new year, we reach the pinnacle of the scorching sun and dryness. It is the hottest time of year and how do the Thais celebrate? With an all out water war. They get ready for monsoon time.

Actually we prefer the very hot season instead to the rainy season for the moment. After all we have to drive our Tuk Tuk through Thailand, Myanmar and India and during heavy rain the roads get so muddy and flooded that a canoe would be more suitable for the journey.

The very hot season brings it’s own rhythm. During the day it’s just too hot to do anything. Even sleeping and laying down in the shadows with the fan on full is too much. In the north we are used to work to survive. Here the key to survive this season is to do nothing in vain. When it’s time to work, it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest, it’s time to rest. All with a good conscience.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

This certainly doesn’t mean laziness. I’ve seen so many people working in such different ways to make their living that it makes my imagination seem useless. I’ve seen people selling brushes from a cart, fishermen making their own nets and wade them in to one of the dirtiest rivers I’ve ever seen. I’ve even seen people collecting garbage from the byways and patch clothes with old pedal singers on the alleyways. Without money, these people must use their creativity.

In Thailand this is all possible because one part of Buddhism is that everyone is responsible for their own life and happiness. The government can’t and doesn’t want to control everything and some sort of grass root anarchy-capitalism is living strongly.

In contrary to western capitalism it’s not about the money, it’s about the buddhist way of life. Families work together and help each other survive from day to day. They don’t need to be richer tomorrow because they are content today.

Close by there’s a lady who owns a copy machine. She asks 2 baht per copy and probably makes 100 baht a day. Thats about 2,2 €. But it’s ok because with that money she eats 3 times a day and she’s always smiling.

For the last 2 weeks we tried to live off the same amount. We were given a place to sleep for free and in exchange we painted one room. We have been given food because we have become part of the family and we help around as much as we can. Our daily budget for the necessities has been less than that of the copy woman, and we are still smiling and still going strong.

Different climates create different cultures and thats certainly something where we can learn from. I will definitely take the idea of lazying with good conscience with me 😀

Welcome to Thailand!

Linkki

It just gets weirder and weirder here. On thursday we were training in the park and a couple of Thai girls asked if we could pose for them with a “Welcome to Thailand” sign. Naturally we said yes, and Pyry hopped on my shoulders and we posed for them. They liked us and asked if they could show us nice places in BKK and film some material with us. We’ve been a bit bored lately so we were delighted for something new.

photo: War Room

photo: War Room

Friday came and we met them at the park to find out what it’s all about. War Rooms is a production company filming a pilot episode for their new TV-series where they show a different side of Thailand for tourists, and they wanted us to be their mannequins for it. We asked if we could also film, so both of us filmed a filming crew filming us 🙂

They took us to see a Chinese Opera and we got to visit the backstage. It wasn’t that much different from the ones we’re used to in Europe, except there were no walls or any of the fancy stuff like lights around mirrors. But the atmosphere was the same with all the make upping, sound checks and concentration. It felt cosy. Just opposite the stage was a big temple, and you could actually see the temple prayer room straight from the stage.

The show started at 6 p.m. and lasted for 1,5 hours, going through the same 15 min pattern over and over again. At a certain time of the pattern loads of fireworks, which almost deafened us, were set off inside the temple. But to help with thinking you’re going to be blown up every 15 minutes they had a nice habit of throwing betel nuts and leaves into the audience during some point of this pattern. The nuts and leaves made us feel relaxed and happy and the more we chewed the better the show. Ingenious, drug the audience before the show and it’s a sure hit!

In the middle of the performance we were taken to the temple to pray. This temple was specifically for people to pray for the success for their projects, so naturally we went to do just that. No cameras are allowed, but luckily the local filming crew managed an exception and filmed us with our own camera.

The atmosphere was amazing. Tens, if not hundreds of candles burning, ranging from small to humungous, lit up the hall with fireworks exploding and the thick smoke of incense embracing us. There were dragons swarming the altars and ‘incense’-smoking lions guarding the entrance. We could not have found a better place to pray for the success of our journey. The force was definitely strong with that one.

We were supposed to perform after the opera finished, but it wasn’t that easy. After the 1,5 hour show stopped we were getting ready to do our show. Luckily the atmosphere felt a little weird so we decided to wait for a bit. Soon the film crew came to us and said, ‘ok, now the prayer for the gods is over and the story is about to begin, it’s usually about 30 minutes’.

No wonder we didn’t quite understand what was going on. So from the end we jumped back to the beginning. After 1 hour and 30 minutes of this new performance the film crew asked if we were hungry. They said because there was an exceptional amount of audience that night, the show will last until 10 p.m. So we took a taxi and went to eat and came back for the finish.

Just after 10 o’clock the announcer apparently announced that this was the final scene. They stayed strong with their Peter Jackson mentality and made something that’s normally 30 minutes, into an over stretched spectacle that cannot be finished before the 3 hour mark. To our luck when a Chinaman does something, they do it well.

Photo: Juho Sarno

Photo: Juho Sarno

During the last scene at some point our performance was announced on a loud speaker so that nobody could hear the opera singing, but it didn’t seem to matter. The time was 10:53 p.m. when the final scene came to an end, and finally we got our chance.

By this time we had already had quite a few betel nuts and space wise we were very restricted. It was still great to perform for the performers and Juho even grabbed a brave boy from the audience and took him for a spin.

Then we continued for the after party and enjoyed our time with the filming crew. It was good to see that we share the same attitude towards creation and filming and it’s very relieving to notice that a long time professional is basically thinking and filming the exact same way we are.

It wasn’t until later that we realised how this Chinese Opera works. The Opera is hundreds of years old and everybody knows the plot because they see the same thing over and over again, with slight variation each time. This enables the audience to follow the play and eat and chat and go for walks in between, always returning to watch the rest of the opera. It is more of a communal meeting, with opera being the reason to bring people together, than something to go to without connecting with people around you.

It’s not easy, but the performers were amazing. They did their part full throttle and let the audience be at ease. No one was bothered about the kids playing and running around during the show. It was a lively occasion and maybe this idea of socialising during a performance might be an idea worth diving into.

Timelessness

There are very few places these days where a void can form into space-time. When someone asks the question, ‘what day is tomorrow?’, and you have absolutely no idea. Possibly when marooned on a deserted island with no boat, in the middle of the desert with a broken tuk tuk, or staying here in a small part of Bangkok called ‘the best soi in Bangkok’.

We have waited for the registration for so long that my beard has taken over my face and delusions are erasing the past and future from the mind. Everything seems to be happening on a day to day basis and it’s difficult to even ask something about the future. Going away party? Later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Nothing is ever planned ahead of time and it’s as if there are no words..

And there isn’t. The Thai language has no past or future tense. They only have the present, it’s the buddhist way. And usually we completely agree, but today we feel quite down and we don’t know what to think.

We’ve been told that the registration papers are all in order and on Friday (Tomorrow), the Tuk Tuk will get tested and we should finally get the registration plate. By wednesday next week we should be on our way. This is a sentence we’ve heard a few too many times.

We so really truly magically hope that THIS time it will be…

Kuva: Juho Sarno

Kuva: Juho Sarno

 

Muay Thai Madness

-Hijaaa!!-             *SMACK*                                -Elbow-                *BANG*       -Knee-                *THUMP*            -Jab-                *TUF*           -One-Two-       *DSHH DSHH*           *PAFF*          -Strong-             *DSH whoops*        -Slowlie-

Top notch training @ local ring with a thai champion. Nice thirty five degree heat, small Muay Thai pants and sweat dripping off every crevice making the muscles glisten in the sunlight. Focus and determination in the eyes. The fist, just as ready as the leg, ready to fly as hard as it can into the unknown.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

We had seen the small outdoor Muay Thai ring at the end of our soi many times when we passed it going to listen to the music at the pier next to the Rama VIII protest festival site. It always had kids 7-12 training hard and it looked like fun. So we asked for a training session.

First hour and a half we balled around like a couple of idiots trying to act cool and tough kickin ‘n’ punchin our knuckles dry. We looked like idiots and we have proof. Then the kids went into the ring to do this hug and kick sorta warm up so we thought we’d do the same since no one told us otherwise.

After stepping into the ring the adrenaline hit. It was do or die and neither of us was going to take it. The youngsters were taking it easy and every once in a while showing strength, but with us it was like a scene from the expendables with muscle against muscle action trying to pin the other one down. In the 36 degree heat it took about 30 seconds until we were out of breath and had to take a break. ‘Let’s take it easy ok. This is warm up’

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

40 seconds we lasted second round. It was a good try taking it easy but its not always so easy. We continued our feat of strength battle until we were so out of breath we had to stop.

After the warmup it was back to the punch bags. We still didn’t know what we were doing so we kept kickin ‘n’ punchin until finally, two hours into the training someone says, ‘go close. Kick, go close. Look’, and pointed to the 12 year old boy who could have kicked me in half. Then we tried kicking a little closer. Better? Hard to say.

It wasn’t until the end 20 minutes when we went into the ring with a former Muay Thai champion that we were told what to do. He didn’t speak much english but we learned a lot from him. He fixed our kicks an punches and finally it felt like there was some real power. Then it was time to go home an lick the wounds.

It’s not easy being a kid that grows up in the Muay Thai ring. Hundreds of pushups, kicks, punches, knees, elbows and throws to the ground, every single day, twice a day. It’s physically demanding and bruising is normal. But behind the bruising, the Muay Thai community is humble, respectful and caring.

They live together, feast together and help each other through life from the beginning to the end. They don’t need much to enjoy life, just a rusty old roof that covers the training area and each other.

For food they have a little refreshment shop so they have money for the market and some of them fish for food from the Chao Phraya. They are all happy and healthy having nothing else, and they don’t seem to be in hurry to change things.

They are not there because someone wants them to be there or that they have no other choice. They are there because they choose to be there. They learn so much about life and how to survive through this type of lifestyle, that they would be stupid not to want to be there. They are always free to fulfil whatever dream they want, and they have the will to do it. It all about what they choose to do, a life without boundaries.

Behind all the bruises, you can feel the love they share. In the ring they give all they got, but win or lose, they will always have a loving family around them. This is the life they grow into with Grandma, Grandpa, uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, children, babies, cats, dogs, chickens, puppies, kittens and bunnies.

Photo: Leo James

Photo: Leo James

Are the vegetables greener in Cambodia?

You know the old saying, ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’? Well I was thinking about this a while ago and with the logic minded brain that I have, I came up with a theory.

If the grass is greener on the otherside, that means that wherever you look, the grass is greener than the patch of land under your feet, right? Doesn’t this then mean that whenever you move anywhere, the grass just keeps getting greener and greener? Doesn’t this then mean that everything is just going to get better and better?

So are the greens greener in Cambodia? We don’t know. We never got there. Instead we got to a piece of land that was not Thailand, and I’m not sure if it was Cambodia either because we could see passport checks to both countries about 300m apart. We were standing in the middle with two huge casinos on both sides.

We missed the bus and wouldn’t have made it on monday night so we decided to pay a few hundred extra baht and take the easy way. First buses left at 5am and we were asked to wait because 1 had come unreserved and they asked for one more van. This was quite a good chance space wise and sleeping would have been excellent if the driver hadn’t gone like crazy over every bump. I found myself hovering over the last 3 seats and then pounding into them time after time.

The door was opened and we were greeted by a blindingly shiny light from the outside. Half a sleep we packed our bag and found that the minivan had gone, so had the guide and the third man. Everyone was shouting something about visas and we had no idea where to go. We started walking and got a bit lost trying to steer away from the crowd and were greeted with a beautiful view of Cambodia.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Next to this back alleyway on the right was the actual Aranyaprathet bordercrossing, or other words the gate to gambling country. I think both can be used to cross from Thailand to Cambodia, but the other costs money and gets you a stamp which saves you from paying fines from overstay. We were 2 days late for this visa run so it cost 1000baht each.

After paying the fine we got a receipt and it was off to the casino for the all included breakfast buffet. The omelette was good and the thai food, but the chorizo-type sausage things were horrible and so was the thing that was next to it on my plate. And whats with buffet orange juice? Aloe vera and dragon fruit seeds were tasteless but the pineapple is always a good choice. And they had proper Thai coffee! After breakfast we waited a moment outside and looked at whats for sale at the small duty free stalls.

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Photo: Pyry Kääriä

Then walked back to the Thai side and were stamped back in. It was back into the airplane minivan ride and we were half an hour early in Bangkok @ 13.30.

Cambodia is yet to be discovered by us. Maybe next time.