When you hear about fists flying in a Thailand resort town you probably think about incidences like the ladyboy in Pattaya who recently clobbered a Polish tourist with the spiked end of her high-heel shoe for interfering with the katoey’s attempt at soliciting the woman’s husband. But as is usually the case when it’s Pattaya versus Phuket, the one with clean water and tropical beaches scores the knock out punch. There’s a ladyboy in Phuket who would’ve instead taken on the Polish woman’s husband, and won. And these days, at least down south, there’s a good chance that husband would’ve spent his time in Thailand learning how defend himself instead of trolling Walking Street in an alcoholic daze susceptible to landing a dick when he thought he was getting a chick.
Ever since Parinya Charoenphol, aka Nong Toom, aka the Beautiful Boxer, aka the aforementioned ladyboy who would have been victorious, opened her gym in Phuket, the tropical paradise has become a hotbed of martial arts practioners. Strikers, grapplers, and former college wrestlers looking for a bit of payback for the years spent wearing ball-hugging singlets have flocked to an ever growing number of fight camps nestled among the island’s palm trees to brush up on their Muay Thai and MMA skills. Notable world title holders such as GSP, Anderson Silva, Tito Ortiz, and Roger Huerta have all spent time in Phuket, helping to make it one of the most popular Muay Thai training destinations in the world.
Despite MMA events being banned in Thailand since 2012 because the country’s athletic ministry deemed the popular sport “too brutal” (which is Thai for too much competition for Muay Thai), many MMA fighters make the trek to Phuket to train in Muay Thai because the style teaches how to throw elbow and knee strikes with enough force to cut or even knock out their opponent while in a clinch. Which are some of the most brutal strikes thrown in the sport. World renown schools like Tiger Muay-Thai and Phuket Top Team have filled that need, offering camps where you can train outdoors in the jungle in Phuket. While hordes of tourists flock to Patong Beach to practice the ancient sport of Tourists Gone Wild, many men – and a few women – with superb bodies land in Phuket to work up a sweat honing their skills at beating another human-being bloody. And if that doesn’t make for good TV, I don’t know what does.
Phuket Dreaming, which just began its second season, is the number one rated MMA WEB-TV series in the world. Delving into the life of fighters and the culture of Thailand, the reality show features two teams from competing gyms in Phuket as they work, train, and not act like desperate housewives. So it’s not the bloodiest of reality TV shows. But the flesh is all top rank, and the show offers a rare glimpse into the world of MMA fighters.
MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world. And according to some, the gayest sport in the world too. Which alone should be enough to give you an excuse to binge watch Season 1 of Phuket Dreaming. But even if you are not a fan of male bodies with zero body fat, the series still is worth your time. In and amongst the fighters training and actually fighting occasionally, its producers are using their show to highlight many of the more typical attractions of Phuket. Or at least those a MMA junkie would find attractive.
While ladyboys probably still outnumber MMA fighters in Phuket, you won’t find any on Phuket Dreaming (yet). But cock-fighting, shooting guns that are illegal in most parts of the world, cliff diving, ping pong shows, and the Phuket Vegetarian Festival have all been featured during the show’s first season. As did a day-tip to Koh Phi Phi. And if you need a sight to work up a bitch-slap at the least, Leonardo DeCaprio’s The Beach got a nod too. All of which makes the web-based series surprisingly watchable. Well, except for that unfortunate homage to Leo.
Season 2 of Phuket Dreaming just kicked off with a segment featuring Muay Thai legends Lerdsilla and Nonsai Sor Sanyakorn, both of who use the same sinuous moves you’re probably more familiar with from watching bar boys dance on stage. But killer elbows and knees fly too and even if you don’t appreciate the fighting you’ll still be mesmerized by the fighter’s taut, brown bodies. Which for many is what Thailand is all about.
So if you are stuck thousands of miles away and looking for a touch of Thailand to help keep your dreams and memories alive, Phuket Dreaming might just be the answer. It’s almost as good as a YouTube video of the boys at work at Dreamboys. At least until someone catches a ladyboy going menstrual on an unsuspecting tourist in Pattaya.
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