One morning a couple of months ago I was sitting around reading Music Week bored out of my mind when a friend called me up and started talking about how we should go to Thailand and do a Muay Thai boxing course. I thought this was an amazing idea and booked it straight away. My friend changed his mind last minute (thanks again, mate), so I ended up going solo.
Two flights and two boat trips later, I was literally dumped on a beach on Koh Phangan with that ‘what the fuck have I done’ feeling eating deep into my soul. A precarious trek up a mountain later I found myself at the Horizon boxing camp, which – despite the picturesque setting – was a total dump.
I wasn’t expecting luxury but after the first night I was thinking about getting a ticket home. My hut not only had a state-of-the-art hole-in-the-floor shitter, but the scampering of animals on the roof and lizard poo in my mosquito net made insomnia my new best friend.
But I decided to man the fuck up. After a couple of days I felt more settled, having started the training – 2 hours a session, twice a day – and had got to know a few of the people who’d been mental enough like me to think this was a good idea.
The camp was busy – it was swarming with a visiting Kick Boxing team from Switzerland (ripped would be an understatement), whose leader was a gross specimen called Benny covered in tattoos who paraded about the place in a sarong thinking he was some hot Ninja or something. NOT.
The not-so-good people like me trained separately, which is where I met my new best mate Pamela, from Essex. Ex-stripper and pole dancer, boasting an impressive set of GG knockers and a mouth that would make your Grandma blush. Screeching ‘I’m not wearing any knickers’ mid-training usually resulted in some black eyes in the ring. The girls hated her, the boys wanted to shag her. I loved her as she was the one screaming at me with her Essex gob during our pre-training runs across the jungle terrain. “Get a fucking move on fatty!” seemed to do the trick.
It was hard work, but I really loved the training. The humidity was suffocating but the feeling that your body had been slung through the wringer after every session – I have never sweated so much in my life – was amazing. I was aching in parts of my body that I didn’t know could ache, and within days I felt my wobbly bits toning up which made the lizard shit and monkey’s cackling over my head in the middle of the night worthwhile.
But it was the trainers that really blew my mind. I have never seen – or expected – anything like it. Not only were they all shagging girls at the camp (sharing at times, gross), but they were a bunch of right alchies whom chain-smoked with such joi de vivre it put Pat Butcher to shame. Some mornings I would find them asleep on the beach, beer in hand, and one morning the dunce of the outfit was still drunk when he wobbled up to the ring. I downed tools for the day, and stomped off in disgust.
I wouldn’t go back there, but I am glad I went. Despite the quirky training and being stared out by lizards in the middle of the night – not to mention the moron manager with a gambling and crystal meth addiction – I now know more than I did before and I am a lot fitter. So it was worth it. But next time, I think I’ll go to that place I heard about on Koh Samui where they hit your legs with sticks. Now that might be fun… who’s game?