Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 8: Khao Phra Thaeo, Wat Chalong, and Muay Thai Boxing

Finally, our first sunny day in Phuket! It would turn out to be our only sunny day in Phuket, but it was a gorgeous one. We had another lazy morning swimming at the resort and relaxing in the hot tub and sauna before cleaning up and headed off for the day. First stop was Khao Phra Thaeo, a national park with hiking trails to Ton Sai and Bang Prae Waterfalls. Time didn't allow for the full hike to both waterfalls, but we did hike about 5 km through the forest and along Ton Sai Waterfall. The waterfalls in Phuket are small, not like the tall falls you might see in Hawaii, but feed into long, flowing streams.

After sweating in the forest for a couple of hours, we headed down to the southern part of Phuket to visit Wat Chalong, the largest of the 29 Buddhist monasteries/temples in Phuket. This is an active Buddhist temple and, surprisingly, they invited us inside despite that we were not dressed appropriately. We had only planned to walk the grounds and take pictures from outside, but the temple was closing to visitors and before shutting the doors, the guard motioned for us to come in. Inside, the temple has granite floors and marble staircases as well as detailed and intricate painted woodwork and large colorful murals. There was also a small market on the temple grounds with various food and craft vendors.

Next stop was Phromthep Cape, the southern tip of Phuket Island, to watch the sunset. Unfortunately, our sunset was obscured by clouds despite it being a gorgeous sunny day, but we still had beautiful views of the shoreline from the Cape.

Jay does Muay Thai Boxing, and he really wanted to see some real fights in Thailand, so we headed to Suwit Boxing Stadium to pick up tickets for their weekly Friday night fights. With tickets in hand, we had some time to kill before the fights started at 8:30, so we headed off in search of dinner. Instead, we ended up at a night market selling produce and meats, much like a Farmer's market. We walked around just to look, then headed off again in search of food, not just ingredients. We ended up at a roadside "restaurant" for more stir-fried noodles and rice. A half hour and $6 US later (that's for all four of us), we were full and happy and ready to watch some fights.

Muay Thai Boxing is sort of a combination of regular boxing and kickboxing. Striking with fists, shins, knees, and elbows is all allowed during a fight. Matches are 5 rounds, 3 minutes each round. There were seven fights leading up to the main event, which was a 130-pound weight class fight. The first six fights were youth of all ages, some as young as 6 or 7, the oldest being late teens or early twenties. The fight just before the main event was one of only two adult fights, and the only one with a foreigner (Australian) fighting. It was an interesting cultural experience, particularly to see many of the rituals associated with the fights. For example, fighters pray and perform a Ram Muay ritual dance before each fight, wearing Mongkon headbands and Prajed woven armbands for blessings and protection.

We arrived back at the resort at midnight and had a late night of laundry and packing. Headed off to Hong Kong tomorrow. This week has flown by.

A gorgeous sunny day in Phuket:

Hiking through Khao Phra Thaeo to the Ton Sai Waterfall:

Wat Chalong Buddhist Temple:

Eva & Che at Phromthep Cape:

Ringside seats for Muay Thai Boxing:

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