Injury strikes early

Before coming to Thailand, my main concern was always to get injured. I remember it well from my preparations to climb Mt. Lhotse last year. Back then it was typically running related. Sadly, injury didn’t wait long here as I fractured my big toe during sparring. 3w off the doctor recommended though I still do light training here and there with focus on the upper body. Aside from that the last week was also quite eventful.

 

Monday we went to Koh Samui to extend my visa beyond the 30d initial period (pretty painless I have to say). While I didn’t get to see the beach there, it seems the island is much busier than here (probably due to the airport). Koh Phangan seems more relaxed. Good times together with Jason (also injured after he fell badly on his back during sparring) and Elisa as well as her friend (both from Finland).

 

I also went back to see the Chinese temple given  my camera didnt work the first time round and got to chat a bit to fellow boxer Mercedes from Spain whi hadn’t done much sightseeing during her stay (its easy to get stuck in a train – eat – sleep routine here).

 

Koh Phangan’s fruit shakes … tasty!

The fruit shakes on the island are outstanding and at c1USD pretty cheap. If you need some inspiration … there should be plenty on the menu of my favorite shop right on Koh Phangan’s food market.

 

And then it was fight night with Holly and two trainers representing Diamond Muay Thai gym. 2 victories and one defeat – not bad. Admittedly, its a fairly brutal sport. Out of 6 fights, three fighters had plenty of blood in their face and four fights didn’t go the full, five round distance.

The weekend showed the island a bit more from its party side as we headed out Friday to celebrate a few Danish birthdays and Saturday the beachside house of Elisa’s friend. Nice spot and some great times altogether … be it a little exhausting at times.

 

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Hello Thailand & Koh Phangan: Muay Thai training begins

Pretty eventful the time in Thailand so far. Looking forward to spending another month here and improve fitness and my Muay Thai skills. 

NYE in Bangkok: Given the late arrival from Bahrain (9pm) things had to work out should I want to make it to my NYE party. They did, with immigration and luggage picked up swiftly as well as a speedy new SIM card (still can’t believe that BT mobile is allowed to charge clients GBP5/MB roaming … thieves!). My hotel was in the area Sukhumvit, as recommended by friend & DJ of the night Tim. By 11pm and freshly showered (what a pleasure after this long journey) I made it to ‘Mango Tree on the river’ restaurant on which rooftop we would meet the new year.

It didn’t take long for me meet up with Jan & his friends. I met Jan briefly in London some years back, but we had our last night out many years ago in HK. Facebook helped to discover that we are both in BKK for NYE. Much to talk about! The party was good and the location offered some great views over Bangkok and its rivers though I understand last year there was more fireworks visible. Once we had all greeted 2018, Jan’s girlfriend left … giving us the time to go out for a walk and talk on the way. It didn’t take long until we stumbled into a Buddhist celebration, enjoyed a ride on the Tuk-Tuk and a last beer before Jan called it quits. I continued to explore the city for a while after though was surprised that just few bars (other than the infamous go-go bars) were open late on NYE. 

Not having slept in a proper bed since my last night in London meant that I didn’t see much of the daylight on new years day, but finally made it into the buzzing streets of Bangkok in the afternoon. I stayed mainly in the Sukhumvit area (expat dominated & expensive) and enjoyed some good banter with a few lads outside an Irish pub (the toilet of which boast with really funny scriptures, see below). There was Al (a 51y resident of Bangkok, originally from the US, brought mass mailings to Thailand) and there was John (working in BKK for 6mth, also US) and a bit later was a Scottish guy (professional caddy as it was). Al was the funniest of them all. He could not only do the Michael Jackson dance, but also perform the Superman (happy to show to anyone as & when we meet ;o). Over a few beers we discussed quite a range of things from running styles to (very strange) sexual preferences of Japanese girls as reported by our Scottish caddy. Proper boys round I guess. Later at night we hit the Nana area with plenty of bars and life music. Needless to say … it got pretty late again. On the way home I even managed to enjoy some Thai strreetfood with one of the many ladyboys … 

Getting to Koh Phangan: Initially I wanted to go to the island by night train to Surat Thani and then a ferry. However, tickets were sold out and hence I got myself a late flight into Surat Thani. The night in the airport hostel was lets say practicable be it not overly nice and very disorganised. Thai people can take a lot of time to do their things. Early morning back to the airport and onto a bus for 90mins after which a speed ferry takes you to Koh Samui (2h) and then Koh Phangan (30min). All in for 500THB, not bad. 

May Thai Training begins: At the pier it was pretty busy, as many partygoers returned from the monthly full moon party (for which the island is known). The Diamond Muay Thai gym and camp is only a 10-15min walk away from the pier. I skipped the taxi option and carried my stuff the short way … which under the blazing sun turned into my first training session I guess. At the camp some private training was in progress and the check in to my bungalow very straightforward. My new home for four weeks. Basic as can be without toilet, shower or A/C (and with a funky, pink moquito net ;o). Next to the camp is the kitchen with its fruit bar and laundry service.

Muay Thai sessions are held twice a day (except Sundays) at 8-10am & 4-6pm and you can opt for additional yoga and fitness classes each day (if you can manage). I joined the afternoon session and despite my preparation in Colombia it was a tough one, but so rewarding once you are done. Fitness will come through step by step over the coming weeks. Altogether I managed to squeeze in 5 sessions this week (and one yoga) before taking Saturday and Sunday off nursing some smaller injuries on both feet and my knee.

New friends & training partners: There loads of people coming and going here all the time. Many stay for a month and so time will overlap for a bit longer. So far I had some deeper conversations with Stefan (Germany) & Jason (AUS) – both conspiracy guys as well as with Frits from Holland who joined me on my Sunday temple tour. In general you find many German, Dutch, Russian, Swedish, Australian and British folks in our camp. I really enjoy the positive atmosphere – be it during training or over post training meals. 

Exploring the island: Last week I managed to see a few places. Having a scooter really helps and is good fun to take a ride around. First up Mae Haad beach with its land bridge to Ko Ma island, then a temple tour with Frits on Sunday (Chinese temple, Wat Phu Khao Noi, Wat Pho) and the Phaeng waterfall. Many places offer great views over the island. I also visited the food market several times (there are actually a few, but one is more permanent in the centre and offers great food at low prices). On Saturday Stefan had a go at the insects offered at the food market near the pier. I tried some sort of bug – not that bad, but nothing to get too excited about either. We rounded up the week with a visit to one of the sunset bars – Top Rock bar – on Sunday. Great vibes, great views, great time.

Stopover in Bahrain

On my way to Thailand I decided to stopover in Bahrain. Nothing there attracted me specifically, but I figured it could be interesting for a day. Upon arrival all things went well be it that i was a little tired after only 6h or so flight. Fast immigration and rental car pick-up and a local SIM card (so i could do my Russian skype lesson). The way onwards proved a little harder …

Tree of life: My first stop was the tree of life, some 45min drive to the south (which takes you more than half way through the whole country). Not very impressive … basically a dessert all the way populated with loads of oil pumps and hardly any vegetation. That is why the tree has become an attraction – its a tree in the middle of nowhere. Nothing special really and i was glad i filled the time with a Russian skype lesson.

Back in the capital Manama things got a little better though the feeling was still weird. The sun was hot although it is winter and at 25 degress (in the shade) rather cold for this region. There was no life of the streets. Basically all live in the car and, as i found out later, in the shopping malls. Hard to find a parking spot there.

Al Fateh Grand Mosque: I visited the grand mosque, which is a rather young building completed only in 1988. The free tour provided some interesting insights into Islam although not many turned up for the midday prayer that day (5-10 people in a mosque with a capacity of 7,000). On the way out i even got a free copy of the koran in German.

Bahrain National Museum: A good place to go to learn about the old Bahrain as you learn about pre-petroleum trade & craftsmanship, family and other traditions. Nowadays not much of this is left … amazing how a country can change so quickly.

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The pearl fishers of Bahrain

Pearling used to be one of the main industries for the country. For example, in 1905 there were some 17,500 pearl divers out of c99,000 population while in 1928/29 with 20,000 divers some 92% of tax revenues derived from pearling & related customs duties (levied on imports financed by the pearl trade). However, things changed with the global economic downturn 1930, as demand for this luxury good dropped. Add in the comprtition from Japanese cultured pearls and employment opportunities in the oil industry and come 1954 only 538 divers were left (1960 saw the end of pearling completely).

Qala’at al-Bahrain: This old Portuguese fort is one of the few historic buildings you find in Bahrain. Worth a stroll with some decent skyline views of the new Bahrain.

Once it got dark I made my way back to the airport. Refuelling was a pleasure at EUR0,35 or so a liter. The flight to Bangkok would depart at 10pm and so 7pm at the airport was plenty of time.

I met a Scottish guy in the airport pub (EUR10 a pint) who has been working in Saudi Arabia as aircraft mechanic. Every 3 month he gets 3w holiday, which he spends in Thailand. It appeared he tried to make up for 3mth dry period (alcohol wise) by downing quite a few Guinness … we ended up spending a lot longer in the bar than planned at fog led to a shutdown of the airport and a 10pm departure turned into a 10am departure. Crazy! Not comfortable! But some good times with mr Scotland and some Kuwaiti fellows.

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In the end I made it to Thailand literally just in time for the NYE party … but clearly not as relaxed as I’d hoped. Not sure Bahrain will see me back again (well, return flight aside … fingers crossed its not foggy again).

 

Weihnachten zu Hause

Christmas in Germany kicks off pretty early on the 24th in the evening (usually with the closest family), followed by two bank holidays that are usually spent with either set of grandparents (mum’s side and dad’s side).

Striezelmarkt: Before we even got to the delights of this years’ xmas, we enjoyed a day on one of Germany’s most famous xmas markets in Dresden. 8 degrees plus didn’t really give it an authentic xmas feeling, but heh. First up a long overdue catch up with Sandra, a former fellow Commerzbanker. She was part of the insane group of people to offer me a job many years ago ;o) Then straight into mulled wine, snacks and shopping with Alex, mum and sister. Good times. Even had the time to catch up with my cousin Denise and the family of her better half. Great evening!

 

Take me to church: People from Saxony are mostly not religious. Those that are tend to be protestant – a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche (Dresden) underlines that. Our family has always been protestant yet we didn’t visit Church all that often and usually only on Dec 24th. Could be a byproduct of anti-religious policies in East Germany (the central government disliked competition) or that freely available schooling made a lot of the wanna be believers i meet in London redundant (‘pay or prey’ to get your kid into a good school). Who knows. Anyway, after a brief stop in my home village Naundorf and granddad Kaiser, we made it to church in Struppen and enjoyed this year’s nativity play. Always good fun.

 

Kartoffelsalat: Most of my fellow students in Russia will remember my praises for my mum’s potato salat. A tradition in Germany in most families. Each mum has her own recipe passed on from previous generations. Add a few frankfurters and you have a basic yet tasty meal … and afterwards its time for presents. Dominated by lego sets this year. I got 5 finger shoes … as inspired by ‘Born to Run’. Lets see if it helps me reducing running related injuries.

 

Stollen in Dresden: After our family trek to the Barbarinea, we visited granddad in Dresden. Like the one in Naundorf, he lives by himself and so we usually just swing by for coffee instead of a full festive meal. Part of any coffee that time of the year has to be Stollen (Stollen is a cake-like fruit bread, see here). And there is none better than the one from Dresden! Taaaaasty!

 

Goose & green dumplings: Traditionally the 2nd bank holiday is reserved for dad’s side of the family. Originally we picked that day due to them being busy on the first bank holioday serving xmas lunches to guests in our restaurant, while they closed the 2nd. Now I guess it’s a routine even though the restaurant is just a B&B by now. A lot of the lot i hadn’t seen for a year (and some like Steve’s new girlfriend Anastasia not at all really) and so we discussed a bit the Lhotse adventures and future plans. Food is always excellent including tasty & tender goose, dumpling (Klösse) made with raw potatoes giving them a slightly green-ish colour and red cabbage. Wine is also never in short supply teaditionally kicikng off with a glass of Pinot as aperitif. Its tradition in Thuringia where my grandma is from … and tradition matters (and is super tasty).

Uttewalder Grund: Catching up with school friends (& their +1’s, +2’s … +4’s)

The tradition to meet up with former classmates from Pirna’s Rainer-Fetscher high school has been around for some time though, depending on family commitments and how the calendar around xmas comes out, it is not always possible for all to join. For me it was the second time and first time with Alex. In total we were 26, if I counted the group picture well, dominated by loads of young-guns. A productive vintage! Go Saxony!

My silent protest: To unite both of Pirna’s high schools is fine by me and was probably underpinned by ever fewer babies. HOWEVER, to rename a long standing institution like the Rainer Fetscher into ‘Schiller’ is either a very dark form of humour or plain stupidity. I strongly suspect the latter.

We met up in Stadt Wehlen and hiked along the Uttewalder Grund. Kids found to each other quickly and i guess alex got one or the other free german lesson. There is a little creek along the way, which proved tempting for most kids and got some of them a pair of wet shoes. Life! After about 1:20h we reached the inn ‘Waldidylle’ for some well deserved refreshments.
img_0902-1Geocaching
: Along the way the Schill family located a geocash. A little tube hidden in the rocks where you can record yourself in a little logbook. Theses cashes were new to me, but are a global thing that can lead you to nice places. Read here for more.

There was plenty to catch-up on. A clear trend seemed the drive for folks to move back home – be it Anja, Schmitti or Jens. I guess a global phenomenon once kids are about or the right job comes along.

On the way back we had torches and lampingnon’s for the kids as well as a few fire crackers supplied by us. It was dark already by the time we got back to the ferry in Wehlen. Mum already waiting on the other side for our bowling night – she hates being late (while i have a somewhat larger tolerance by now).

What a fun afternoon! Alex almost in tears as we concluded the event … given that we didn’t have anymore wristbands to give to his new friend Valentin. I promised to fix that via mail. Let’s see.

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More posts about my home region Saxon Switzerland

Thanks go to Heiko (aka RAUMSTATION) for putting this together & to everyone else for attending of course. His email is clear evidence that sometimes democracy ain’t the right thing, but we need dictatorship. Just like the Roman’s did in their days.

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