While most University of Calgary students spent their reading week lounging on the couch or trying to best their friend in a spirited round of Wii Sports boxing, the Dinos' Rugby team had a different kind of vacation. They flew 19 hours to Thailand to partake in a rugby tournament, endure a 55 degree temperature change, indulge in a few drinks and experience the sights and sounds of Bangkok. Gauntlet writer and team member Nickolas Meehan was along for the ride and kept track of the team's Thai adventures.
Wed., Feb. 14
The first day of the trip was a travel day complete with speedy security checks, transfers, dehydration and a whole lot of The Departed. The day was over in no time.
Thur., Feb. 15
Sleeping quickly became a way of life on the plane, though I only adopted this new lifestyle for a short time before landing in Hong Kong. Once we finally made it to Bangkok we entered a massive customs line complete with a creepy man from Hawaii who asked us detailed questions about where we would be staying and what we would be doing in Bangkok.
Fri., Feb. 16
After checking into our rooms a large contingent decided on a 2 a.m. stroll where we found that, yes, Thailand does have 7-11s.
Thanks to a noticeable lack of back alleys, garbage is piled in front of shops and left on sidewalks in Bangkok. Naturally it was garbage day, and the sweltering heat produced a smell almost as pleasant as the constant pleas from groups of men asking us to come sit with them and drink some Sang Som, which we could never quite figure out the ingredients of. Heading back to the hotel was easy enough, although one team member thought it a good idea to grab a tuk-tuk and take it back to the hotel. He ended up paying 200 baht (about $7.20 Canadian) for a two-to-three minute ride. Tuk-tuk drivers always make tourists pay an exorbitant price for a ride because tourists never know better. A metered taxi across the city costs only about 100 baht. After free breakfast from the hotel everyone split up for the day to go explore the city and take advantage of cheap Thai prices.
Training was held in the hotel swimming pool before the tournament meet and greet at "The Office" bar, which was quite a trek to get to since traffic was horribly bad.
The night was characterized by song, merriment and an astounding number of colour-coordinated prostitutes trying to get players to bring them home. The colours of their outfits determine how much one would have to pay for their services. None were brought home.
Dinos Rugby: one, prostitutes: zero.
Sat., Feb. 17 and Sun., Feb. 18
Both days began with early mornings and absolutely no hangovers. Players were held responsible for their nights, knowing they had games to play and did not want to jeopardize our chances of winning the tournament.
The heat and humidity were a deadly combination for a lot of Dinos players hailing from the cold, dry Calgary climate. Even before warm-ups commenced many were dripping with sweat just from getting changed under the tent in the shade. By the end of warm-ups we were swimming and after games we were drowning.
Besides the heat, the actual competition in the tournament was fierce. Our opponents' playing-style was characterized by quick pinches of the ball after a tackle. For rugby virgins out there, a pinch occurs after a tackle is made. The tackler then gets up and grabs the ball from the person who was tackled and takes off the other way. Many Thai university teams also instituted a tackling technique resembling a swarm, where one tackler attacks each limb to bring down larger Dinos.
At the end of the tournament we had a little celebration as the Dinos captured second in the men's competition and third in the women's.
Dinos Rugby: one, most other teams: zero.
Mon., Feb. 19
The plan for the day was to visit Bangkok's Grand Palace and it was an amazing experience. The sheer size and extensive craftsmanship of each building is unbelievable, as is the artwork on the walls of the interiors. One mural took over 200 years to complete.
Once through the Grand Palace we were off to the floating market, which involved a series of merchants who paddled out to our boat to sell us their goods.
In the evening we headed to a local establishment where we proceeded to sample local food and beverages--all for a reduced cost, of course. We also had a chance to sample the local lavatories, or rather, holes.
Tues., Feb. 20
The first temple we visited in Thailand commemorated a battle against the Burmese. Unfortunately, in a cruel twist of irony the Burmese came back later and stole everything from the temple. It was a massive structure and we felt like we were on top of the world after climbing the eroded stairs. The small enclosed area at the top held eight golden Buddhas placed in a circle, and was infested with bats. All we could smell was bat feces and urine. An unlucky few even got urinated on. No one stayed much longer than it took to snap a quick photo or two with a Buddha.
Dinos Rugby: zero, bats: one.
This night was our last in Bangkok so a large contingency of us stepped out for a night on the town, where there was surprisingly not much of a night life. Bars jockeyed for our business as we seemed to bring a party along with us.
Dinos Rugby: one, Bangkok nightlife: zero.
Thur., Feb. 22
We next took a ferry to Ko Samet in the morning and spent the whole day on the beach playing beach rugby, tanning and burning. At night we took a trip to Pattaya and Walking Street to watch "authentic" Thai kickboxing outside of a gentleman's club advertising "real dolls." The fights were good for a while until we all caught on to them not being so authentic.
Sat., Feb. 24
A bus ride back into Bangkok went well after an early morning packing frenzy. Once we arrived, the team headed straight to the fields to play an exhibition game against the Bangkok Bangers. Unfortunately, the game didn't start for another two and half hours so we had to wait in the sweltering heat before we could get changed and warmed up. Despite the delays, the game itself was a huge success, not only for the Dinos because we won, but also because the guys on the Bangers were stand-up fellows and didn't play particularly dirty. Dinos: one, Bangers: zero.
Sun., Feb. 25
We woke up very early in order to catch the bus by 7 a.m. Our flight left at 11 a.m., leaving us with plenty of time to realize our tour guide was trying to swindle 500 baht out of each of us before leaving. Apparently, there's a 500 baht tax for leaving the country. Our guide wanted to collect it from each of us before we got on the plane, even though the amount was included in our tickets.
Dinos Rugby: one, Tour guide: zero.
Dinos Rugby: 5, Thailand: 1.