I recently went around the world to study Muay Thai in Thailand. There were many reasons for this trip. What was originally a quest to increase my knowledge of Muay Thai to improve my training program at my Muay Thai gym in Salt Lake City quickly became much more than that.
As I prepared for my hike, I began obsessively studying everything I needed to know about Thailand. I didn't travel much abroad, so I didn't really know what I was looking for. I learned that Thailand is 95% Buddhist. Unlike me, I live in Utah, where often the volumes feel as though you are surrounded by my Mormons, members of the Mormon faith make up less than 50% of the local population. That intrigues me. I'm not exactly a religious person, but religion has always fascinated me. So much of our history is filled with conflict, wars, killings, terrorist bombings and other outrageous acts of violence, all in the name of religion.
I began to read everything I could about Buddhism as it seemed logical to me that knowing the religion so prominent in a given area would help me better prepare for visiting their country.
In my research, I learned about the amazing Buddhist temples that are present in Thailand. One, in particular, caught my eye. The Big Buddha statue sits atop a mountain overlooking Phuket.
I also learned that Tiger Muay Thai, the gym I traveled to to train, organizes running to this monument once a week. I recently posted on Facebook for a print run, reads the following;
Big Buddha flees to Phuket, Thailand; Either you love him or you hate him or he is your best friend or your enemy, no matter how you feel about him, this is a workout unlike any other.
Tiger Muay Thai offers the Big Buddha to be held every Tuesday as part of his daily physical fitness classes. Guests meet in front of Tiger's office and transport to the base of the Big Buddha to begin the journey. The Big Buddha is one of Phuket's most important and revered landmarks. This is a large marble Buddha statue that sits at Phuket's highest point. This is a steep ascent 4 kilometers from the base of the hill where we begin our run to Buddha.
Every time you do it, you will see new things. Elephants, monkeys, butterflies, birds, lizards and more.
Along the way there are incredible views overlooking Phuket. It is a challenge mentally and physically. Come join us for a run / walk to Big Buddha here at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand.
I came to the conclusion that I did I had go through this mountain and see the Big Buddha up close.
I found a few frames on the line that show running up this mountain. It looked insidious!
After much internal debate, I decided that I would make this climb, but I would do it myself. I had tried my first Muay Thai class at Tiger Muay Thai. That was Friday. I decided to do this hike alone on Saturday. So much of this journey has become more about personal discovery than it was originally intended. I wanted to know if I could do it and I wanted to do it myself. There was no need for anyone to yell at me or push me … it was time to push me.
I got up early and started my climb. I asked the front desk lady what would be the best route to walk to the Big Buddha. She laughed at me and said, "It may look very close because it is so big. It's actually quite far, so let me call you a taxi.
In the back, I am very pleased to have taken this advice. The base of the mountain was 10 miles from my hotel. My personal challenge was to climb this mountain and not go the 10 mile hike and then climb this mountain.
However, as soon as I arrived at the base, I was amazed at how steep the terrain was. There were places that were near vertical climbs.
My taxi driver thought it would take me an hour to get to the top, and then said he would take me. I actually made it to the khan in 35 minutes. A time that I am quite proud of, given my age and condition. I would like to do this climb again after this training camp to see how much better I can handle it, but my knees were swollen weeks after that climb. My next visit was to take the taxi to the top.
As described in the Facebook post above, there were beautiful things to see – from lush green landscapes to elephants, monkeys and other such native wildlife. It was truly an amazing experience, but it was all overshadowed by the beauty of the sanctuary itself. This is an incredible sight. There are much smaller Buddhas and a temple inside, with living quarters 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 Patong town. This is a must for anyone visiting Phuket.
My legs were quite tucked away by the time the taxi took me back to my hotel. I got down on the couch with a bag of ice on each knee and began mentally preparing myself for the rigorous weeks ahead. Day training, one morning and one afternoon was on the agenda. My whole body was sore from training last week, and now my legs were sunk by the hike … what did I get into?