Recently, I set out across the globe to study Muay Thai in Thailand. There were many reasons for this journey. What had initially been a quest to increase my knowledge of Muay Thai in order to improve my curriculum at my Muay Thai gym in Salt Lake City, rapidly became much more than that.
In preparation for my trek, I began obsessively studying all there was to know about Thailand. I have not traveled abroad much, so I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I learned that Thailand is 95% Buddhist. In contrast, I hail from the state of Utah, where it often tomes feels as though you are surrounded my Mormons, member of the Mormon faith make up less than 50% of the local population. This intrigued me. I’m not exactly a religious man, but religion has always fascinated me. So much of our history is filled with conflicts, wars, murders, terrorist bombings and other outright despicable acts of violence, all in the name of religion.
I began reading everything I could about Buddhism, as it seemed logical to me that familiarity with the religion that is so prominent in an area would help better prepare me for visiting their country.
In my studies, I learned about the amazing Buddhist temples that are present in Thailand. One, in particular, caught my eye. It was the Big Buddha statue that sits atop a mountainside, overlooking the city of Phuket.
I also learned that Tiger Muay Thai, the gym I was traveling to train at organizes a run up to this monument once a week. I recent Facebook post about the run, reads as follows;
The Big Buddha run in Phuket, Thailand; You either love it or hate it, it’s either your best friend or your enemy, regardless of how you feel about it it’s a workout unlike any other.
Tiger Muay Thai offers the Big Buddha run every Tuesday, as part of its daily body fit classes. Guests meet in front of Tiger’s office and are transported to the base of Big Buddha to begin the journey. Big Buddha is one of Phuket’s most important and revered landmarks. It’s a large Buddha marble statue that sits on the highest point in Phuket. It’s a steep 4KM (2.5 mile) climb from the base of the hill, where we begin our Buddha run.
Each time you do it you will see new things. Elephants, monkeys, butterflies, birds, lizards, and more.
Along the way there are also spectacular viewpoints overlooking Phuket. It’s challenging mentally and physically. Come join us for a run/walk up the Big Buddha here at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand.
I came to the conclusion that I had to traverse that mountain and see Big Buddha up close.
I found some footage on line that showed the run up that mountain. It looked treacherous!
After a great deal of internal debate, I decided I would make this climb, but I would do it on my own. I had experienced my first Muay Thai class at Tiger Muay Thai. That was on a Friday. I decided I would make this trek on my own on Saturday. So much of this trip has become more about personal discovery than what it initially set out to be. I wanted to know if I could do it, and I wanted to do that by myself. I didn’t need anyone yelling at me, or pushing me… it was time for ME to push me.
I got up early, and set out for my climb. I asked the lady at the front desk what would be the best route to walk to Big Buddha. She laughed at me and said, ‘It may look very close, because it is so big. It is actually quite far, so let me call you a taxi.
In hindsight, I am very glad I took her up on that advice. The base of the mountain was 10 miles away from my hotel. My personal challenge was to climb that mountain, not go on a 10 mile hike, then climb that mountain.
Immediately upon arrival at the base, however, I was stunned at how steep the terrain was. There were places that were near vertical climbs.
My taxi driver estimated it would take me an hour to get to the top, and said he would pick me up then. I actually made it inn 35 minutes. A time I am quite proud of, given my age and condition. I would like to make that climb again after this training camp to see how much better I would do, but my knees were swollen for weeks after this climb. My next visit, I would take the taxi all the way to the top.
As was described in the Facebook post above, there were beautiful things to see, from lush green landscape, to elephants, monkeys, and other such indigenous wildlife. It was an amazing experience indeed, but all that was overshadowed by the beauty of the shrine itself. It is an amazing spectacle. Inside, there are many smaller Buddha’s and a temple, with living quarters for the Buddhist Monks. The view from the top of the mountain, offers an opportunity to see the ocean on both sides of the island, as well as the city of Patong. This is a must see for anyone visiting Phuket.
My legs were pretty much seized up by the time the taxi returned me to my hotel. I plopped down on the couch with a bag of ice on each knee, and began to mentally prepare myself for the rigors of the week to come. Two-a-day training session, one in the morning, and one in the afternoon was on my agenda. My entire body was sore from last week’s training session, and now my legs were trashed from the hike… what have I gotten myself into?