Ranjit Reminisces: Cambodian Carnival Ringside
Boxing in a general sense is deemed to be an ugly and bloody sport. That is not the case with Khmer kickboxing that combines traditional local music with the sublime bow of skills these fighters possess. Indeed the CTN Angkor stadium in Siem Reap boasts the setting for tourists to live like a local for a couple of hours. Whilst Cambodians might not have significant sums of disposable income, it is not evident in this environment. Indeed their wallet might feel lighter (or heavier) depending on the success rate of their wagers on various boxers winning their bouts.
Nicknamed the ring of champions, fighters perform their pre-match rituals to bring about a focus and serenity. The bouts take place every Monday and Wednesday in the presence of expectant locals. Indeed the demand far exceeds the supply with queues forming so far back it appears to be a train of passengers from a distance. Indeed locals see this event as a way of life. As a tourist you are directed straight to the VIP seats where you are in the company of TV cameras and presenters alike to get the goosebumps going ahead of the first bell to signal match time.
Unlike conventional boxing which can be slow and conservative, these Khmer kickboxers keep the crowd gripped to the action with their spontaneous approach and flare. Indeed there is an artistic element to the way fighters defeat one another. Enjoy a chilled Angkor beer whilst watching the festivities unfold and do not be surprised if you find yourself back again at the best seat in the house not before long.