I've been filming a documentary on modern American heavy metal bands for about four years, and in 2010 I had the opportunity to go to Singapore with one of the bands. Filming only took three days and I didn't want to sit on a 20+ hour flight back to the U.S. after only a few days so I decided to go to Thailand, the only country in the area that doesn't require a visa to enter. A few days prior I had asked friends on Facebook about fun things to do and gotten a response from an elementary school friend, Dan Gold. He had been living in Bangkok for years training Muay Thai and volunteered to show me around. And that's how I ended up at 13 Coins Gym.
13 Coins is the type of gym that welcomes foreigners to train (some gyms are Thai-only), and it's attached to a hotel where some of the foreigners stay. The Thai fighters can't always afford the hotel so they live in small rooms in the gym. They train literally all day long. There's heavy turnaround at 13 Coins and unfortunately none of the fighters in these photographs are still training there, including Dan. Trainer Long Ubon speaks quite a bit of English and is more than happy to show anyone around.
I went to a fight at the nearby Channel 7 stadium. There were no advertisements on the wall, no beer for sale. The fans were betting on every single fight--constantly talking and exchanging money. And when each fight ended, they would all smile, laugh, and pay up (or collect). The people sitting next to me handed me fight schedules in Thai and offered me part of their seat (we were squished together on fairly sketchy bleachers; the venue was just crammed with fight fans.) No one was fighting or arguing in the stands. It was amazing. Real living.
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