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Boats, Bikes, and Boxing Gloves: Adventure Writer in the Kingdom of Siam [Paperback]

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Item description for Boats, Bikes, and Boxing Gloves: Adventure Writer in the Kingdom of Siam by Antonio Graceffo...

Download DescriptionAdventure writer Antonio Graceffo began his eight month long odyssey by living with forest monks, studying kick boxing in Thailand's last Muay Thai Temple. He rode his bicycle to Burma, walked to the top of Chiang Mai's tallest peak, and was the first to attempt to trace the Doi Saket River to its source. A departure from his standard, self-serving brand of humorous, if narcissistic and somewhat offensive, adventure writing, he spent time with the Akha Hill Tribe and documented the plight of a marginalized people. From a canoe trip down the Maekok river, to accompanying tribal people on a hunting trip with cross bows and muzzleloaders, the book is funny, informative, and meaningful.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   228
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 0.6"
Weight:   0.65 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 30, 2005
Publisher   Gom Publishing
ISBN  1932966293  
ISBN13  9781932966299  

Availability  0 units.

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Reviews - What do customers think about Boats, Bikes, and Boxing Gloves: Adventure Writer in the Kingdom of Siam?

City Life Chiang Mai Magazine - Jack Kirwan  Oct 15, 2005
City Life Chiang Mai Magazine

Boats, Bikes, & Boxing Gloves - Adventure Writer in the Kingdom of Siam by Antonio Graceffo - Gom Press

US$13.99, 224 pages

On November 29, 2003, an American named Antonio Graceffo arrived in Chiang Mai with US$200 in his pocket and two goals - to study muay Thai and write articles about Thailand. Boats, Bikes, and Boxing Gloves is a collection of these articles, almost all of them about Chiang Mai and the Akha hill tribe
with whom he spent a considerable portion of time. Chapter One is about his life in what Graceffo calls the last muay Thai
temple in northern Thailand. If you are a fan of muay Thai, then you will really enjoy this chapter since it gives a lot of insights into the art, not just from the point of view of an Italian-American fighter-writer from Brooklyn, but from the monk Pra Kru Ba who taught Graceffo (the only foreigner at the wat) Thai boxing. If you are not an aficionado of the
Thai version of the sweet science, his account of daily life at the monastery is fascinating. Money never changed hands, but Graceffo (like the Thai students) paid for his room, board and lessons by tending horses and working long hours in the monastery's cornfields. At 37, he also did some small-time, pro-muay Thai fighting.

Dr. Samuel Johnson once made the wise (to author at least) observation that "No one but a blockhead ever wrote save for money." After leaving the monastery, Graceffo was living on street noodles and getting rejection slips. One of them said, however, "We don't want to buy this story. But if you would like to do 2,500 words on why muay Thai should be banned, we would buy it." Graceffo, who dearly loves boxing, jumped at the chance to write the piece (reprinted here) about outlawing muay Thai. (Dr Johnson probably smiled in heaven when Graceffo got his royalty cheque.)

Graceffo eventually made Chiang Mai his home base and his personal trampoline for money-making adventures in and around the city. In telling his tales, he offers some very sound advice on how to have a lot of good times for very little money - which he calls "adventures on the cheap". For
instance, one of the best parts of the book describes his walking the 20 kilometres from his hotel to the famous Wat Phra Doi Suthep northwest of Chiang Mai and back again. He notes he could have taken the bus back, but "being an adventure purist, I won't count an adventure as being successfully completed unless I go the entire way under my own steam."

The chapter `My Life in Chiang Mai' will probably seem old hat to anyone living here, except for his tips on how to get by on very few baht. There are, however, some extremely interesting insider observations about goings-on in Cambodia from an American ex-Marine. Graceffo spent a fair amount of time living with the Ahka hill tribes and his observations about their way of life and their problems make up by far the most controversial part of the book. He talks about some of the
foreigners (but with false names) who have gotten involved - for better or worse - with the Akha, including those nice Christian missionaries who tell their converts that their non-Christian animist ancestors are all burning in hell.

Graceffo writes well and has a lot of interesting material but the best thing about Boats, Bikes, & Boxing Gloves is that it is not one of those adventure books (like mountaineer Reinhold Messner's) that boast "I am a superstar who can do marvellous things which you can't!" Graceffo has written a guidebook that proves you don't have to spend big baht to have adventures in Thailand.

Jack Kirwan
Courtesy of Weekly Standard, Hong Kong  Oct 4, 2005
This book is the flip side of the old-fashioned travel writer like Somerset Maugham, who would write essays and stories for an elite audience about exotic places they would probably never visit.

The only thing Antonio Graceffo has in common with Maugham is they both write well. Graceffo lives hand to mouth and before becoming an adventure writer, Graceffo had been a soldier, Wall Street investment banker and professional boxer. His previous book The Monk From Brooklyn: An American at the Shaolin Temple was about studying kung fu at the famous martial arts academy.

As the subtitle indicates, Boats, Bike and Boxing Gloves is mostly about Thailand, with much of the material about the northern city of Chiang Mai and the Akha hill tribe which lives a precarious existence along the Thai-Myanmar border. As Graceffo points out many times, being an adventure writer is not the royal road to riches. He gets by from royalty check to royalty check and is often broke. He usually stays at the cheapest guesthouses and eats Thai street food for about US 50 cents.

The first chapter is about his learning muay Thai (Thai boxing - arguably the world's roughest martial art) at a temple where no foreigner had ever trained. As he writes, "...tuition was free. In Chiang Mai just the training would have cost 15,000 baht (roughly US$360) a week. Accommodations and food would have been extra. In addition to saving money when you go to these remote places, you will truly learn about local culture. You'll be forced to learn the language. And all of your friends will be local people." Graceffo then adds a sentence which a few expat readers will identify with 100% and many others not at all: "If I had wanted to live and study with Americans I would have stayed in Brooklyn." (Graceffo paid for his room, board and training by putting in 14-hour days laboring in the temple's corn fields.)

Graceffo (who speaks both Thai and Mandarin well) clearly loves Thailand which he says is "such an incredibly wonderful country that there are countless adventures one can have for little or no money." Then he reveals his big secret, an idea which for many readers is eye-opening: "The simplest way to do an 'Adventure on the Cheap' is open up your guidebook, find some attraction that you have a remote interest in seeing, and then go there. But the trick is to go there under your own power. This means walking, riding a bicycle, rowing a boat or riding a horse." He adds "the first two are available anyone with two strong legs." (Graceffo should have added and `who is not over six feet tall').

For many readers, the most interesting (and controversial) parts of the book are about his adventures living with the Akha people (as against going on expensive guided "treks"). Graceffo treats them as neither Rousseauian 'noble savages', hapless victims nor backward hicks, but as human beings with a unique culture and a great many problems. He also has a lot to say about the foreigners - especially the Christian missionaries and one seemingly egomaniacal do-gooder who are "helping" the Akha.

Boats, Bike and Boxing Gloves is very obviously a cut-and-paste collection of Graceffo's articles which seemingly had little or no editing. There are several misspellings (eg, "waste" for "waist" and Ernest Hemingway's name is sometimes spelled Hemmingway (he has an insightful essay on Papa at the end of the book) and he repeats a lot of information at the beginning of several chapters.

In other hands this would be annoying, but Graceffo is such an interesting storyteller it becomes unimportant. Reading Boats, Bike and Boxing Gloves is like going with a fascinating raconteur to a quiet sidestreet bar in Kowloon and listening to him talk for a few hours. After several pitchers of beer, he may repeat himself a bit, but the tales are so fascinating you don't mind the occasional reruns.

In a nutshell, Boats, Bike and Boxing Gloves is a two-for-one special - an in-depth look into an interesting man's adventures in off-the-beaten-trail Thailand and a do-it-yourself manual for having similar experiences without deep-frying your wallet.

Brooklyn Shout Out  Sep 25, 2005
Antonio Graceffo deserves nothing but kudos for the risks he took leaving his corporate job and New York to spend more time on an adventurous journey for additional perspective with his journalistic eye, the creative craftmanship of his writing, and his backpack. The verdict on his voyage based on the insights derived from his narratives and his publications should give one brief pause before the resounding yes to purchasing his books.

How many reviews did the author contribute?  Sep 9, 2005
After reading the book, I'd have to say most of the positive ones were his. What trash!
Get on Your Bike and Just Do What Comes Naturally  Sep 1, 2005
A stunning incitement of contemporary society. Pithy, cogent and to the point. A riveting display of linguistically calisthenics by an author who never fails to please! Provocative and sensitive, at once a compelling account of
life in the third world, and a touching love story. Bold and groundbreaking, Bikes, Boats and Boxing Gloves pulls no punches and reveals the truth behind the East Asian boating cartels. A peek into an unknown world, strange and obscure, revealing, enlightening, and provocative. (Oops, I said that).

Forceful and convincing, Graceffo does it again! He takes off the kid gloves and kicks into high gear -- Lance Armstrong should read this book! An earnest and poignant tale about a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who finds happiness on the right side of the tracks by beating people's brains in for Bahts -- especially little Chinese guys. Evocative, poignant, told in austere tones of lavender and auburn sere -- oh, so sere -- one cannot help but wonder why it has taken so long for such a seer to arise and adorn us in his natural habiliments. (French accent on habiliments). A must-read -- a tour-de-France
-- the Bible for anyone thinking of riding a rickshaw through Laos! Although the author borrows from pop-culture, specifically Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now (Redux?), and owes much to H. Rider Haggard, Graceffo nevertheless manages To dig up old dirt, find a few skeletons, and keep us fascinated with his foibles. I gave this book to my grandkids, heck, I couldn't read it myself.

Hilarious! Side-splitting! I couldn't stop laughing! The hardcover edition was useful because I needed something to prop up my piano. Deep, a great coffee-table keepsake. Anybody whose anybody in the Hampton this season must know somebody who's read this book. I liked the pictures -- but I still
don't understand why that girl on the front cover looks like her face got pooped on. I wanted to hear more about the airport in Hong Kong, a twelve hour layover?! That's ridiculous. Is it true that they really eat rat in Cambodia?
I didn't know there were so many Asians in Phnom Phen, I thought it was part of Peru. Frankly, Graceffo can keep Thailand, if you want to know the truth, they were better off when they called it Siam, at least then they had a King
-- and twins -- and who ever heard of a Thailandese cat? Scandalous, outrageous, this book should be banned. A tsunami effort, that washes away the refuse of past preconceptions and reveals the lost flotsam and jetsum of foolish hopes. I don't know -- I really liked the naughty bits.


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