Gaining Insight from Horror: The Killing Fields of Cambodia


Face it your going to die,

Acknowledging that all things come to an end is a Buddhist philosophy referred to as impermanence. Tibetan Monks meditate on impermanence as a tool to better utilize their time. As a result Monks feels as if their time is  more valuable. You don’t have to be a Monk to realize the importance of this, and there are other ways to invoke this feeling. One way is by observing death first hand. While most of us will experience this unexpectedly, it is also an important to voluntarily come face to face with death. Young Samurais where shown fallen soldiers to invoke a sense of mortality. This should not be thought of in a morbid sense, but as a motivational tool to live a more fulfilling life.

IMG_1495I personally have never felt a greater sense of impermanence, then day I visited Choeung Ek and SR 21. Revisiting these horrors gave me a sense of how valuable my life is, and also how fortunate I am to have my loved ones safe.  The trip provided me with a greater sense of purpose in my life, and made all my problems feel insignificant. Seeing the suffering of others, only made me want to find ways to elevate suffering of those in need.  It was a great experience, and I hope you can take something away from it.

I have provided brief information on both sites as well as a photo gallery below .

The Killing Fields (Choeung EK)


Buddisht Monument filled with thousands of human skulls

This historic landmark is the site of mass graves known as the killing fields. At the center of the site resides a 200 foot monument filled with the skulls of the Khmer Rogue victims. During the rainy season the trails around the site are littered with victims clothes that are washed up by the rain. A photo gallery is posted below. The photos are graphic, so view with discretion.


SR 21


SR 21 prison camp

SR 21 is a former high school that was utilized as a concentration camp during the Cambodian Genocide, today it is a museum. Much has been preserved at SR 21, victims photographs before and after execution are on display. The holding cells and torture rooms still looks as if the are crime scenes with decades old blood staining the walls. A photo gallery is posted below. The photos are graphic, so view with discretion.

Learn more about the Cambodian Genocide.

Cambodia is still in a state of redevelopment, many children lack education and even clean drinking water. I had the privilege of visiting local schools funded by Cambodian Childs Dream Organization, and speaking with their president. If you would like to donate to a good cause visit their website. They also except volunteers, and they do not charge for you to volunteer, unlike some other sketchy Cambodian charities.


Simply click the first photo to begin slide show: 

Where Muay Thai Champions Are Made Jitmoungnon

Tucked in a far corner of Bangkok, lyes the dominant Muay Thai gym Jitmoungnon. Most Westerners scratch their head at the name, but to Thais the name is well known. Blocks before Jitmoungnon you can hear the echoing of fists, knees, and elbows colliding with decaying punching bags. The gym is old school, but features an abundance of current and future champions.

The gyms most notable fighter, 18 year old Phanpayak Jitmoungnon is the protégé of the gyms owner. Phanpayak has held the most prestigious titles in the country, including Lumpinee and Raja belts. Like Phanpayak many children start training at Jitmoungnon at 8 years old. Parents offer their children to the gym, so they may eat, sleep, and train to become champions. The gyms dorms are crowded with dozens of beds, all housing young children. Although the kids spend a lot of time training, they also go to school. Large white vans transport the kids to and from school each day.

Training at Jitmoungnon is conducted once a day, a long evening session at times lasting four hours. A typical day starts with an hour long run followed by 20 minutes of jump rope, and 10 minutes of shadow boxing. Then bag and pad work begin lasting two hours. The last 30 seconds of each round is a burn out of either punches, kicks, or knees followed by 15 pushups during the minute rest period. On some days, 30 minutes of sparring or clinching is done after bag work.

Youngsters are not the only fighters at Jitmoungnon as there are a handful of older fighters. I being one of them spent a month at Jitmoungnon, and I must say it was some of the toughest training I have ever endured! The sessions were long, and brutal. The first week my calves were so sore I could barely walk up the stairs to my apartment. Despite my pain Jitmoungnon will go down as one of my favorite gyms, due to its pure authenticity. All too many times, Muay Thai gyms are only concerned with making money off foreigners. Jitmoungnon is the exception, and was by far the cheapest of any Muay Thai Camp I have visited. The only drawback for me was that only one trainer spoke English. My Thai being limited I missed out on a lot of instruction from the other coaches, but  all in all I loved the time I spent there.

Getting a Visa for Thailand in 3 Steps  

Wat Arun Bangkok, Thailand

Wat Arun Bangkok, Thailand

One of the most frustrating things about Thailand, is figuring out the proper visa. Thai law is constantly changing, and half the laws are not even enforced (I’ll get to that later.) One thing you will need regardless of visa type,  is a passport. I am going to be brief here assuming that most have already conquered this step, if so  proceed to step 2.

Step One: Getting a Passport.


For passport requirements check out the US Department of State.Once you have everything in order,make your way to the post office (or other approved provider) to get your documents sent off for processing.

 Step Two: Figuring Out What Visa you need.

Thai Multiple Entry Visa

Thai Multiple Entry Visa

Visa on Arrival 30 Day Stay or Less: If you are from a qualifying country such as the US, you will receive a free 30 day stay in Thailand. If you wish to stay longer, you can exit the country and re-enter. This will give you an additional 30 days. You have a maximum of 3 entries or 90 days within a six month period. Cost Free

Exiting the County: Finding services to exit the country are quite easy. You can take a day trip across the border for less than $40. I crossed the border into Cambodia for only $12! You can find border run services at any bus station, or travel agency office. Be sure to shop around as prices can vary greatly, even within shops on the same street. Many hotels and hostels can arrange this service for you as well.

Tourist Visa 60 days or less: A tourist visa will allow you to stay in Thailand for up to 60 days without exiting the country.  Cost $40

Double Entry Visa 120 days or less: The advantage of the double entry visa is you are allowed to stay 60 days at a time. Once your 60 days is up you can exit the country, and re-enter for another 60 days. Cost $80

*As of this posting the triple entry visa is no longer available

Education Visa Up to 1 Year: To get an education visa you must apply to a school approved by the Thai Ministry of Education, and receive an acceptance letter.  Once you receive your letter, you can then apply for a 90 day visa which can be extended for  a year. Master Toddys in Bangkok, is one of the only Muay Thai schools approved by the Thai Ministry of education. For $600 and a 3 month commitment to his school he can easily get you a year visa, but this is not the only option.

Your alternative is to apply outside Thailand, as regulations are often loosely enforced internationally. For example, many Thai visa officers in the US will except a printed letter from any school/gym as long as you have paid the $80 fee.  This is up to the discretion of the visa officer, so you run the chance of being denied. I have met many expats training Muay Thai who have obtained a visa in this manner. If you are willing to take a gamble you can save yourself a decent amount of cash. Your final option is to apply to a Thai Language school, many language schools only require a weekly commitment of one class.   Cost $80 to $600

 Step Three: Mailing off Your Visa

 Unless you live near a Thai Embassy, you will need to mail off your visa for processing. I sent mine off to the the Thai Consulate in LA, but you can also send it to the Embassy in Washington.

What you will need:

*If you are a US citizen you do not need to show proof of arrival or departure. You can purchase your airline ticket after your visa arrives.

Priority Mail

Since you will want your passport back, you will need to send a return envelope with proper postage along with all your documents. You should use a priority service, and be sure to obtain a tracking number.

*Not including mailing time, it takes about two weeks for processing.

For more information Visit the Thai Consulate Website.

Any Questions Feel Free To Ask! 

Discovering a Fighting Legend: Siem Reap Cambodia

Rural Siem Reap

Rural Siem Reap

I arrive in Cambodia in the heart of the rainy season, and despite the skies being clear the humidity is overwhelming. As I step off the plane my shirt immediately sticks to my body. The air is thick, making  breathing difficult. I hurry inside looking for an exchange booth, I need some Cambodian currency to pay for my visa. Unable to find a booth I spot an ATM, punch in my pin, and become confused as the machine spits out crisp US $20 bills. I did no research in coming here, and did not realize Cambodia uses US dollars. Cambodian currency is so devalued it is almost worthless.

I pay for my visa, pick up my bag, and make my way to the front of the tiny airport. I am  in Siem Reap, a place I have never been. I step outside into the muggy air, to see a chaos of people all looking as if they know where they are going.  My heart is starting to race. I take off my hat just to put it back on, and  feel the cool line of sweat that has formed around the rim. I have no Idea where to go, but that is part of the plan. I am lost on purpose.

I scan the crowd looking for someone friendly enough to ask about cheap accommodation. I spot a jolly  fat man in a Hawaiian style shirt, wearing a hat resembling the one worn by Sam Neill in Jurassic Park. “Excuse me” I say, and ask him if he knows of any hostels. He responds politely in an Australian accent,  “First time here mate?” I nod and he tells me to check out Pub Street. Then adds, “One of these guys can take you there, stop by a bar and ask the backpackers where to stay.” I thank him, and walk to the taxi pickup area he pointed at. After a short wait, I hop in a cab and make my way to Pub Street. The driver a well dressed Khmer man suggests a hotel, being too tired to find one myself I let him take me to one.

pub-street I arrive at the hotel and awkwardly take off my shoes as I notice no one in the lobby is wearing any. A young Khmer girl maybe 12 checks me in. The girl seems very polite and professional for her age, informing me of checkout time and how the A/C works. I thank her and settle in for the night. The room is stuffy with no windows, and reeks of mold and dust. Only an hour into my stay the electricity goes out, and does not return until morning. In the morning I check out, and go in search of a new room. Just across the street I find Cambodian Backpacker, a hostel with beds for only $3. Despite the dirt cheap price the rooms are surprisingly clean, and the power stays on.

Cambodian Backpacker Hostel

Cambodian Backpacker Hostel

On my first real day in Siem Reap, I take a stroll down Pub Street, as the name implies it is filled with western style bars and restaurants. It is where all the tourist come to party. As I am casually walking taking everything in I see something that catches my eye, an event flier for Khmer boxing. I have never heard of Khmer boxing, and I am intrigued. The flier is taped to the inside window of a small travel agency office.  I slide open the door to the office, and feel a cold draft of air hit my face. I ask the lady behind the desk if she sells tickets, she smiles and says yes. “The fights are held twice a week on Monday and Thursday” She adds. I buy my ticket, and anxiously await the next event.

 A few nights pass, and its finally fight night. I run out of my hostel into a down pour of rain. I find what I am looking for in a tuk tuk driver waiting across the street. I ask him to take me to Angkor arena, and he holds up 3 fingers to let me know the price. When it’s raining the drivers jack up the fairs so instead of the normal $1 its $3, but I don’t care. I arrive at the arena, and make my way through the muddy parking lot, being sure to avoid the large puddles. At the entrance stands a tall slender bald man in his fifties. He stops me and asks “Would you like to sit at a V.I.P. table?” A little surprised, I say yes. He leads me to a table full of foreigners he has randomly selected. He introduces himself as Paddy Carson the promoter of the event, and walks away.

A Typical Day in the Rainy Season

The seats were great, situated directly behind the announcers table on an elevated stage. The first fight was under way, It ended in a  devastating elbow perfectly placed between the guard of a young fighter. If I did not know any better I would think I was watching Muay Thai as the techniques and rituals are almost identical. I would later learn that Muay Thai is the younger cousin of Pradal Serey aka Khmer boxing. The night rounded out with some excellent performances and a few knock outs. After the fights concluded I knew I had to find a place to train Pradal Serey.

Khmer Boxing vs. Muay Thai

Angkor Arena

I scan the crowd for Paddy, I knew he would know of a place to train. I quickly spot him and approach him with my question. His answer disappoints me, he explains there is not anyplace nearby that caters to foreigners. He then offers to coach me himself, not knowing Paddy’s background I was a little hesitant. Paddy does not resemble a fighter in the least bit, he looks somewhat feeble with hunched shoulders and a slight limp when he walks, but with no other option I agree.

The next day I meet Paddy at a small shopping center and we both head over to a gym he use to own. We arrive at the gym to find nobody there, and the door locked. As we wait for someone to unlock the door, I have a long, very interesting talk with Paddy. Paddy as it turns out, was once a bare knuckle Karate fighter in South Africa, he then transitioned into boxing. Decades ago he moved to Thailand and helped mold Thai champions by improving their boxing skills. Paddy has trained 5 world champions. About 10 years ago he moved to Cambodia, where he now promotes Pradal Serey and trains fighters.

Legendary Paddy Carson

The Legendary Paddy Carson

When we finally got around to training I quickly realize Paddy is not the frail man I think he is. The limp in Paddys leg is due to a titanium rod that replaces the bone he lost to cancer. Despite the metal infused leg he still uses it to kick, demonstrating the proper form of a round kick on the heavy bag. After several rounds of Pads with Paddy, I can barely catch my breath. We finish up the session with 500 crunches, which Paddy does not hesitate to lead by example and knock out 500 beside me.  From then on I had a new found respect for Paddy.

Below is a video of some great pointers Paddy gave me from the day I worked pads with him.  I hope you enjoy!

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The Lost Art of Pradal Serey : Cambodian Kickboxing

Depictions of What Resembles Pradal Serey on the Ancient Ruins of Angkor Wat

Depictions of What Resembles Pradal Serey on the Ancient Ruins of Angkor Wat

When people think of kickboxing in Southeast Asia they immediately think  Muay Thai, but few will mention Pradal Serey. You are probably asking yourself, what the F@#% is Pradal Serey?! Well, Pradal Serey is Cambodian kickboxing, aka Khmer boxing. It is almost identical in ritual, and style to Muay Thai. So is it a rip off of Muay Thai? Not exactly. Actually many Cambodians believe Muay Thai is derived from Khmer boxing. This accusation which is hotly debated by Thais, is not so farfetched considering Thailand was once part of the Ancient Khmer Empire.

        So you may be thinking, well why haven’t I heard anything about this Khmer boxing stuff? That’s because many Khmer boxing champions, and trainers where executed during the communist takeover of Cambodia in the mid to late 1970’s.  The Khmer Rogue as it came to be known, viewed Khmer Boxers as threats and executed them. Not only martial artist, but anybody with the education to over throw them were massacred, including doctors, students, and former military.


Khmer Rogue

       It was not until recently that Pradal Serey has made a resurgence. In Siem Reap the Country’s second largest city, a new kickboxing stadium has been erected. Twice a week you can catch Khmer boxing at Angkor Stadium. I had the pleasure of watching dozens of Khmer boxing matches,  I even got the chance to chat with its legendary promoter a man named Paddy Carson.

Paddy made a name for himself as a boxer and full contact Karate fighter in South Africa. Decades ago he moved to Thailand and began improving the boxing of Thai fighters, then eventually made his way to Cambodia. Originally opening a school in the Countries capital of Phnom Pehn, Paddy couched Khmer boxers on how to improve their hands . I asked Paddy about the difference between Khmer Boxing and Muay Thai, and according to him they are one in the same.

Khmer Boxing vs. Muay Thai

Pradal Serey Angkor Arena

      Once a month or more there is a showdown between the Khmer Boxers and Thai boxers. During these events, I began to notice the Thais had superior clinch work, while the Khmer boxers typically fared well in long range striking.  According to Paddy, hands are what get the most knock outs, and of all the fights I witnessed it seemed to hold true.

Below is a video I threw together of a brief history of Pradal Serey along with some fight highlights. Hope you enjoy 🙂


Let me know what you think, Leave a comment!

My next article will be on the pointers Paddy passed on to me the day I worked pads with him. 

Fighting on a Budget: Dirt Cheap Apartments Thailand

Living and training in Thailand can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. MMA and Muay Thai gyms are popping up all over, with their  main clientele being tourists. And where there are tourist, there are tourist prices.
The gym membership alone is pricey unless you have a sponsorship, so saving on accommodation is a must if you are on a tight budget like me. I found you can save hundreds by finding accommodation offsite of the gym. You can easily find weekly and monthly rooms within walking distance of most places.
For example, let’s take a look at Team Quest in Chiang Mai. For a single room onsite, it is 7,000 baht a month (aprox: $215). Great deal right? Well….not exactly. Thais in that area do not pay that much for accommodation, and neither should you.
DD Apartment

DD Apartments

Just a ten minute walk up the road  you will find the DD apartments, a monthly room will run you about 2,500 baht or $80 a month.  That is less than half the cost of an onsite room! Apartments like this can be found next to most gyms in Thailand.
So how do you go about finding these apartments? I found it best just to walk the area of the gym in which you wish to train, and ask a few places. I prefer doing this over finding a room online. The reason being is doing an online search will only bring up the apartments with English websites, and the top results in google also tend to be the most expensive. Also beware of gyms advertising offsite rooms they are over priced ,and the gym typically gets a kickback for the referral.
Check out the video of the two rooms I stayed at while training at Jit Muang Nun Gym in Bangkok. One is $60 a month, and the other is $140!

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Thailand MMA and Muay Thai Training Scholarships

Thailand is the Mecca for kickboxing, but to get exceptional training expect to pay exceptionally high prices. Training is easily 10,000 baht or $300 a month on average. Larger discounts are given for longer stays, but are minimal. This seems unreasonable when considering the low cost of living in Thailand. For example, I pay roughly $80 a month for an apartment in Chaing Mai, and I eat out almost every meal for less than $6 a day. I could probably live a pretty boring, but livable life on $400 a month. After doing a bit of research and talking to some gym owners, I found a few places that offer scholarships for Muay Thai and MMA fighters. Here are the three that I found, I will update as I find more.

Team Quest Thailand

Located in Chaing Mai in the north of Thailand, TQ is the only MMA gym in town. The gym has held scholarship opportunities for the last few years in the summer months.They  are currently looking to sponsor amateur and pro fighters. The scholarship includes accommodation and training, but you are expected to pay for your flight, and all other expenses.

For more details and to apply visit:

Tiger Muay Thai

Located on the island of Phuket, Tiger Muay Thai is Thailands most famous MMA gym and  also the most expensive. An all inclusive training package at Tiger will run you almost $400 . Needless to say a scholarship would be nice. Tiger holds yearly tryouts that are documented via youtube. This year they handed out 7 scholarships, which cover a fighters accommodation and training for a year. The fighter is expected to foot the bill for all else, including the trip to the tryouts.

To find out when the next tryout is follow them on facebook:

Sumalee Boxing Gym

Sumalee is a strictly thai boxing gym located in Phuket. This scholarship is for young  fighters between the ages 18 and 22. This opportunity is for a 2 month stay and includes discounted food, free accommodation, and training. The fighter is expected to pay for airfare. They are currently taking applicantions for 2015.

For more details and to apply visit:

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