Recently, I traveled all over the world to study Muay Thai in Thailand. There were many reasons for this trip. What had initially been a quest to increase my knowledge of Muay Thai in order to enhance my curriculum at my Muay Thai gym in Salt Lake City quickly became much more than that.
In preparation for my trip, I began obsessively studying everything there was to know about Thailand. I haven’t traveled abroad much so I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I learned that Thailand is 95% Buddhist. In contrast, I am from the state of Utah, where it often feels like you are surrounded by my Mormons, members 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. Much of our history is filled with conflicts, wars, assassinations, terrorist bombings and other absolutely despicable acts of violence, all in the name of religion.
I started reading everything I could about Buddhism, as it seemed logical to me that familiarity with the religion that is so prominent in one area would help me better prepare to visit your 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 statue of the Big Buddha that stands on top of a mountain, overlooking the city of Phuket.
I also learned that Tiger Muay Thai, the gym where I traveled to train, organizes a run to this monument once a week. I recently posted on Facebook about the race, it says the following;
The Big Buddha Race in Phuket, Thailand; Either you love it or you hate it, it is your best friend or your enemy, regardless of how you feel about it, it is an exercise like no other.
Tiger Muay Thai offers the Big Buddha run every Tuesday, as part of their daily fitness classes. Guests meet in front of Tiger’s office and are transported to the base of the Big Buddha to begin the journey. The Big Buddha is one of the most important and revered monuments in Phuket. It is a large marble statue of the Buddha that stands at the highest point in Phuket. It’s a steep 4KM (2.5 mile) climb from the base of the hill, where we started our Buddha run.
Every 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 is a mental and physical challenge. Join us for a run / walk to the Big Buddha here at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand.
I concluded that I I had to cross that mountain and see the Big Buddha up close.
I found some pictures online that showed the race up that mountain. It seemed treacherous!
After a lot of internal debate, I decided that I would do this climb, but I would do it on my own. I experienced my first Muay Thai class at Tiger Muay Thai. That was a Friday. Decided that I would do this hike on my own on Saturday. Much of this journey has become more of a personal discovery than was initially intended. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted to do it myself. I didn’t need anyone to yell at me or push me … it was time for ME to push.
I got up early and got ready to climb. I asked the lady at the reception what would be the best route to walk to the Big Buddha. She laughed at me and said: ‘It may seem very close, because it is very big. It’s actually quite a long way, so let me call you a cab.
In hindsight, I am very glad I took that advice. The base of the mountain was 10 miles from my hotel. My personal challenge was to climb that mountain, not hike 10 miles and then climb that mountain.
Immediately after reaching the base, however, I was surprised by how steep the terrain was. There were places that were close to vertical rises.
My taxi driver estimated it would take an hour to get to the top and said he would pick me up at that point. In fact, I did it in 35 minutes. An era of which I am quite proud, given my age and condition. I’d like to do 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. On my next visit, I would take the taxi to the top.
As described in the previous Facebook post, there were beautiful things to see, from lush green scenery to elephants, monkeys, and other indigenous animals. It was indeed an incredible experience, but all of that was overshadowed by the beauty of the sanctuary itself. It is an amazing sight. Inside, there are many smaller Buddhas and a temple, with dwellings for Buddhist monks. The view from the top of the mountain offers the 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 stiff when the taxi took me back to the hotel. I flopped down on the couch with an ice pack on each knee and began to mentally prepare for the rigors of the next week. On my schedule was a training session of two a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. My whole body was sore from last week’s training session, and now my legs were shattered from the walk … what have I gotten myself into?