Let me tell you about the most uncomfortable time I had in Thailand. Jordan and I were in Bangkok for less than 24 hours on a layover. I let Jordan plan our out of the airport excursion (which you can read more about here). One of the things he planned was for us to go to the muay thai boxing match. This is a match that is held regularly in Bangkok, is open to the public and is free. Is this a top of the backpacker checklist activity or what? I’d think yes.
Jordan and I walk for a long time on busy main thoroughfare roads and along back alleys to get to the muay thai arena. When we get there, some smiling Thai people point and encourage us to go around that back of the building where there is a set of closed double doors that lead into what seemed to be a humble basketball court on the average day. We opened these doors to unfold a sea of shouting Thai people, standing neck to neck with their arms waving wildly in the air, exclamating hand symbols to get the attention of the bet taker.
Jordan and I were jostled and squeezed through this tight crowd. Jordan immediately blends right in, yelling along happily at the amazing fighting that is going on a few feet and in front of us, above the sea of yelling hands. I, however, highly dislike this chaotic foreign situation. Being that we were on a layover, I had tucked my carry on bag in between my legs while we stood. This tiny bag took up the floor space two Thai’s could have squeezed into. Every time I looked up from checking on my bag, there was without a doubt always a Thai person taking a picture of me.
When I first came to Asia, I quickly became a star. My white skin was bright enough to attract the attention of many Javanese in Indonesia. At first it was weird having my picture taken. Then it was fun! Then, it became something I grew weary of. I became always aware of how different I am from everyone else. How tall I am. The pictures being taken of me in the muay thai arena were not your average “please smile white girl!” picture that cultivates a cultural meeting. Its like my white skin is a beacon for the shutter flys of the East. This was, “I’m pretending to take a selfie and blatently take a picture of you instead.” or the “look at the white girl standing behind me, person I’m talking to via video chat on my cell phone!” The later example happened to me more times than I can count.
I should mentionthat this Muay Thai match is not something that is advertized to foreigners. If it is, it is not heavily atteneded by them. While lost in the sea of gambling Thai sports fans, Jordan and I were being slowly pushed further into the arena. between matches, the crowd would encourage Jordan and I to head over to a roped off section with folding chairs set up on bleachers. everywhere else in this place people are standing literally on top of each other. Jordan and I were not interested in paying for these seats or being scammed as white people out of a couple bucks.
It took a couple rounds for Jordan and I to give into the tide and get washed up on the bleachers shore. We sit down and I look up to see taped onto the wall above the seats a few simple words, SEATING FOR FOREIGNERS.
I do have to admit, I was much more comfortable once in these seats. I could watch the spectacle of the sea and show unfold before me. I became one pair of white eyes, with her carry on bag on her lap and her butt at the very edge of her seat ready to jump off and back into the sea.