"Marshall was waiting for us, prepared to access bail money if we were 30 minutes later."
“What do you mean you cross-faced her?”
“Chin to shoulder. Immediately,” Rome replied, never losing step with the beat. Laser lights were streaking, music was thumping and, apparently, cross-faces were being thrown.
Through muscle memory, Rome had inadvertently grappled with a young lady intrigued enough to explore the art of Dance Jiu-Jitsu; a technique we had been using to loosen up and, inevitably, take over dance floors throughout Thailand. This was Krabi Town, the last stop of our trip, and Rome was just relaxed enough to walk all the way through the portal and clean up his “dancing” arm drag with a tournament-caliber cross-face. The girl, and her mother, were not impressed.
These are the hazards of a grappler’s journey through continuous flow. This theme drove our trip. From the bustling streets of Bangkok to the beaches of Koh Tao, guiding us through the mountains of Koh Phangan and anti-climaxing on a dance floor in Krabi with a cross-face to the vacationer with her “cool” mom. This is GrapplerMag’s Roll Thru: Thailand.
The morning started with breakfast at Ruelle Cafe, a five-minute walk from Eric’s apartment in Taipei. There, Eric booked us a hostel for Bangkok, sticking to our budget of $8 USD/guy/night. From Ruelle we took an Uber to the MRT (Taiwan’s underground metro) and loaded onto the express train to Terminal one of the Taoyuan airport.
The three of us made our way through security, immigration, and after a discreet exchange of weight between bags behind an elevator, were able to get through the ticketing gate without any additional fees. We landed in Bangkok around 9 PM, grabbed SIM cards for our phones, and made our way to the hostel, a twenty-minute taxi ride from Arête BJJ. Marshall, a fellow expat grappler living in Taiwan, had taken a separate flight and met us at the hostel with beer and the aroma of a backpacker’s journey. We gave hugs and left Marshall to shower as we went to meet up with Bacon, a friend of a friend who agreed to entertain us for the evening.
“Ya man,” Bacon said with a glazed-over stare. “That’s how it happens.”
“Explain the full process to me,” I requested as he sent a plume of smoke my way.
So he went on: “Ya man, when you’re 21, they take like a whole, you know-” and gestured the shape of a square with his hands.
“A neighborhood,” Eric assisted;
“Ya man, they bring in all the 21 year olds in the neighborhood, you reach in this bag, and you either get a black or white ball. Black is the military and white is-” he sank back into the wooden stool, “you’re good man.”
We slowly processed his reality.
This is Thailand’s conscription service process. It is important to note, we also heard rumor of a third possible “monk” ball added to the process in some cities, requiring its recipient to shave off their hair and enlist in the monastery for a predetermined time.
Bacon spent the night enlightening us on the life of a mid-20’s university student in Thailand. We thanked him for his hospitality, and he dropped us off on the side of the highway, witty enough to get us to a taxi at 2 AM.
We laughed our way back to the room, where Marshall was waiting for us, prepared to access bail money if we were 30 minutes later. Eric thanked him for the awareness, Rome politely asked him to adorn more than underwear if they were to share a bed, and we all turned in for the night.
This was it: we had made it to Thailand and were all under the same roof. I woke up the next morning and saw Marshall reading a book, postured in the lotus position. We were ready.
Each gym would be its own experience, the down time a journey, and the travel a web of trains and ferries that crisscrossed Thailand’s scenic landscape. It’s good to be a Grappler on the road.