Temple fairs are my favourite places to fight. They’re pretty much the smallest kind of show you can fight on, which I like, but despite that, they always have such a great atmosphere. There’s always so much going on around them, with games, dancing and lots of good food. I’m not one for fanfare and I like to just get in, fight and get out again, so they suit me perfectly. This was the first time I’d fought at a temple fair since the King’s Birthday in 2014, so I very happy to be fighting on one of these events again after such a long time. This time, it was in Petchaburi, a province around 170km South of Bangkok.
I was able to know both the name of my opponent and where I was in the line up beforehand, which is very rare for me. I knew this because the promoter had put it on a poster which eventually got passed to me. One of my trainers was in Petchaburi a few days before my fight and said he saw a truck driving around with the poster on the side, promoting the festival and blaring details of the show. According to him, that included ‘Emma from England! Beautiful girl!‘ I cringed at the thought! I was the only foreigner fighting, so I guess that was there way of promoting that. I set off from the gym in a van with two of my trainers and three guys who had been training at the gym. One was from the US, one from Switzerland and the other from Germany. It took us around two hours to get there and we got a little lost on the way to the temple, Wat Nongwaa. This would usually make me a bit anxious, but I knew that I wouldn’t be fighting until late that evening because the poster said that I was the 7th fight, so didn’t need to worry for a change.
After driving down some long, dark roads for a while, we finally found the temple. As we approached, I saw that everything was lit up with the same long, colourful fluorescent lamps you always see at temple fairs, and knew we were in the right place. After parking the van, we walked past a buddhist ceremony, where everyone in attendance was connected to eachother and to the monks performing the ceremony by ‘sai sin’, a sacred white thread tied around their heads or wrists.
Opposite this ceremony was a cow, tied to a post and enclosed by a wooden fence in an area barely wider than itself. As we walked on, we plunged into a cluster of stalls where people were buying food, throwing balls at targets for prizes or catching fish with buckets from a small paddling pool. We emerged on the other side to find the ring, right at the back of the field. To the left was a big inflatable slide for children, and to the right was a stage where locals danced along to folk songs. Some small kids were already fighting, so I pulled up a chair to watch them, knowing that since the youngest ones usually fight first, that I had some time to wait. A Thai guy walked up to us, who the Swiss guy from our group, Romeo, seemed to know. It turned out that they had fought each other in Hua Hin a few weeks beforehand (a fight that Romeo was still sporting a black eye from), and on this night, I would be fighting his sister.
I was told on arrival that my fight would be only three rounds. I wasn’t sure if this was at my opponent’s request, or if the organisers had set it up that way because we were the only females fighting, but I had set in my mind that it wasn’t going to get that far anyway, so it didn’t matter. On the drive down, I’d kept telling myself that I would stop her before the fourth round, and tried to visualise doing it in various ways. It was around two hours until it was time for me to fight, most of which I spend watching fights while everyone else went off to look around and enjoy what else there was to offer. I had my hands wrapped and my massage quite early on, which doesn’t often happen. I thought I heard the commentator say that I was the next fight up, so went over to tell Kru Singh, to which he replied ‘oh, what number is your fight?‘ I then suggested someone get some gloves for me, and he asked me if I was in the blue or red corner, as if this wasn’t information that he was supposed to have already known. Red was the answer, so we got my gloves on and headed over there. It turned out that I’d heard wrong and that there was one more fight before mine, so I sat down again once I got there, and went back to visualising how I wanted to win.
This was the first fight where I wore my Luang Por Ngern amulet on my mongkol, which I’d received after a fight which, coincidentally, my last temple fair fight before this one.
Before we began the ram muay, the commentator said ‘khuu nee mai mee khaa dtua‘ meaning ‘there’s no purse for this fight’. This was the first I’d heard of me not getting paid! It wouldn’t be the first time I’d fought for free though, as I’d done so in Ayutthaya a couple of years ago. On that occasion, I didn’t find out until after the fight. It’s just as well that I have a job and I’m not into Muay Thai for money, otherwise I would have been pretty annoyed. Baifern was a little taller than me, but a little skinnier. When the fight started, she teeped me straight away, and I did nothing to defend it. Score. She came forward pretty aggressively and I went backwards, landing a couple of left kicks on the way. I felt pretty sloppy, and the round seemed to be over really quickly. When I got back to my corner, one of the trainers told me to be ‘not scared!‘ I definitely wasn’t scared, but I must have looked it, which wasn’t good. I needed to go forwards. In the second round, I tried to do that, and landed some right hands as I did so. I could feel that my arm was coming out sideways before I threw the punch for some reason, which meant that it wasn’t landing as effectively as it could have been, but it was landing. In this round, Baifern threw a spinning backfist on three separate occasions. This was strange to me because I’d never had an opponent throw one before, and it’s pretty rare to see a Thai girl throw one at all. None of them landed, as I saw them coming and moved out of the way to avoid them, not quite sure how to counter. It seemed like a new thing she was trying out and hadn’t yet perfected. I’m not sure how long through the round it got before I pushed forward again and had her up against the ropes, but we were only there for a few seconds before the referee stepped in and stopped the fight. I can’t say exactly how it went because it’s kind of a blur in my mind and unfortunately, there’s no video (the guy who was filming stood really far away with his view obscured by the corner post the entire time), but from what I can remember, I had thrown a right kick followed by a few punches which she didn’t defend. She didn’t seem hurt, but wasn’t putting up much of a fight at that point.
We met again in the middle of the ring so that officials could jump in to take photos with us, and as we were waiting for them, we chatted a little bit and I told her that I was sorry. She was really cheery and replied ‘no problem, I didn’t train!‘ with a big smile. It’s surprising how many times I’ve been told that after winning, maybe it’s a saving face thing. One of the ladies who came to take a photo with us gave us 1,000 Baht each as a tip, which I later divided between the trainers. Before we headed home, everyone else wanted to do a bit of dancing on the stage next to the ring. I sat out and took this little video:
While I was sitting there, an old Thai man next to me kept staring at me. Nothing out of the ordinary at places like this one. I looked down at my phone for a minute and when I looked up, he had reached out and put his phone right in my face to take a picture. He didn’t seem deterred at all, so I smiled out of awkwardness. He didn’t make any eye contact with me at all and continued to take photos before putting the phone back in his pocket and turning away without saying a word. When the fair was over and we were all leaving, one girl reached out to shake my hand and when I grabbed it, she screamed loudly and turned to her friend as if she couldn’t believe it, all while still holding onto me but not actually talking to me. Petchaburi isn’t a tourist area at all and we were definitely the only foreigners there. Thai people can be very, very shy to talk to foreigners and this is a barrier that I often face when teaching English, so while it was rather strange, it wasn’t new or surprising to me.
This fight broke a long losing streak for me, which was something I really needed. My next fight will be next Friday, so I’m hoping to keep this going.
Unfortunately, there are hardly any photos from this fight, see below for the few I do have: