Thailand is far, far, far away for most of us. For some of us its on an entirely continent. Where there is physical separation there is often a cultural divide as well. Thailand is different from the western world. The way that people see the world and navigate within is entirely different. Its important therefore, as a young, dashing, adventurer such as yourself to have tools to be able to sail the seas of the South Eastern nation with ease. So here it is a list of 10 dos and 10 don’ts (in no particular order) when going /training in Thailand.
1. Don’t bring alcohol and drugs into your camp. The life of a Muay Thai fighter is hard, and its even harder to do when you’re fucked up on drugs and alcohol. Its not healthy for your body and its not healthy for your environment. If you do choose to engage in drugs and alcohol do so off site, and don’t come back to the camp under the influence.
2.Don’t bring sex workers into the camp. Like alcohol it creates more drama than its worth due to unfortunate social taboos. If you do choose to hang out with a sex worker do so at a separate location.
3.Don’t cross cultural taboos. These include but aren’t limited to: touching people on the head, pointing at things with your feet, talk shit about the royal family, wear skimpy clothing, touch monks (if you are a woman) etc. While I personally don’t agree with all of the cultural taboos, (obviously coming from the west touching someone on the head isn’t a big deal), respecting cultural norms will help you glide along more smoothly.
4.Don’t have unreasonable expectations. Going to Thailand will not make you the best fighter in the world, its not going to make you a ninja, nor will it miraculous better at anything. Having assumptions of how great it will be and how Thailand will solve your problems will make the eventual disillusionment more painful.
5.Don’t have or get an ego. Just because you trained in Thailand doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, tons of people have trained in Thailand and turned out to be mediocre fighters, ask any cab driver in Bangkok if they’ve ever fought before. Furthermore just because you’re a westerner doesn’t mean that you’re somehow superior to Thais, and vice versa.
6.Don’t spar hard. The world of Muay Thai is different in Thailand. The fighters fight regularly and because of that can’t get injuries, so don’t try to injure them. The good thing about light sparring is that you learn important things like; timing, control, rhythm, combinations etc.
7.Don’t make/propagate drama. Muay Thai camps are great places for exercise and learning how to fight, they are not great for resolving your inner demons. Everyone has a couple goblins inside of them and that’s fine but try not to shit where you eat.
8.Don’t be lazy. Thailand is a great place for a vacation. In fact a majority of the nation’s income is based on tourism, but being at a Muay Thai camp isn’t a good spot to be on a lazy vacation. You’re really just wasting your money and your time. There are plenty of nice, cheap resorts where you can be as lazy as you want all within motorbike distance of a Muay Thai gym where you can go at your leisure.
9. Don’t flash money. There is a fair amount of poverty and income disparity in Thailand and flashing your money around is not a good idea it will make the majority of Thais around you, who make much lower wages jealous, greedy, and or resentful.
10.Don’t exoticize Thais. Just because they are Thai doesn’t mean that they are mystical warriors, inherently sexy or better (or worse) at anything than anyone else. Being Thai means that you came from Thai culture, that’s it. Its just a different culture.
1.Do spend time with others. One of the great things about Thailand is that you get to meet all sorts of interesting, albeit occasionally crazy, people from around the world. Spend some time getting to know them, it makes you more interesting and your weltanschung border.
2.Do ask questions. If you don’t know something go ahead ask, there are no cultural taboos about being curious in Thailand and Thai people are generally helpful. If you don’t know about a technique ask, if you have a language question ask, if you don’t know what that hose by the toilet is for go ahead and ask.
3.Do learn the language. The amount of time you stay in the country should be proportional to how well you speak, but sadly this is not true for the majority of Farang in Thailand. If you can say more than “Sawatdee kap,” and “khob khun kap” Thais will not only comment on your amazing ability to speak Thai but they’ll also like you a whole lot more and thus will make life easier for you.
4.Do have patience. Thailand in general has a slower, more lackadaisical approach to most things. Take this into consideration when you do anything, also take into consideration that you are in a foreign country where everything is different. Even going to get groceries is now a big ordeal and will take a fair amount of time.
5.Do budget (but expect things to cost more). While Thailand is inexpensive there are things that are the same cost as in the Western world. Additionally there may be hidden costs in your trip such as; medical expenses, bribes (yes I am being serious), transportation etc. While its easy to live cheap in Thailand its also easy to spend a lot of money as well.
6.Do be tolerant. Thai culture is probably going to be different from your own that means that people are going to operate under widely different assumptions. Try to understand that and tolerate people’s differences. This goes the same with the other travelers you meet along the way.
7.Do read/spend your time productively. Surprisingly there is a lot of down time on a vacation, when traveling, and or staying at a Muay Thai camp. Spend that time learning something, or doing something awesome like; reading, keeping a journal, learning to play the guitar, memorizing the lyrics to your favorite Carrabao song etc.
8.Do eat well. If you’re training like a professional athlete eat like you’re a professional athlete. Don’t eat junk food all the time. Treat your body well and it will be nice to you back.
9.Do keep clean. Parts of Thailand are dirty and there’s a higher risk of getting infections from minor cuts and scrapes. Keep yourself hygenic for your health and other people’s noses. Who likes a smelly farang? No one!
10. Do try. You can learn technique, you can learn a language, you can learn how to travel but you can’t learn heart. That’s up to you.