MY TAXI WOUND through the early evening traffic, moving like a snake through tall grass. Packed buses towered over us, lurching, belching out blue-black smoke. Lithe, colourful tuk-tuks, weighted down with passengers and goods, darted in and out, taking advantage of their size and agility, blowing their hollow squeaky horns in protest at each obstruction. Pot-bellied policemen, dressed in skin-tight khaki uniforms and wearing large, menacing revolvers and smog-soiled white face masks, waved their hands frantically, desperately trying to order the Bangkok rush-hour chaos.
It was my first trip to Thailand, and I was on my way to watch an evening of Muay Thai, the Siamese art of unarmed combat. As I left the air-conditioned taxi, I choked momentarily on the wet heat. The traffic noise, which had been muted, roared. The smell of chicken, wok-fried in soy, garlic and ginger, floated above the stench of petrol fumes. A large animated crowd milled outside the stadium, waiting to buy tickets.
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