An Entrepreneur's Adventure: CrossFit & Backstreet Biking Through Bangkok, Thailand
Jason Gervais, President of WEB ROI, recently traveled to Bangkok, Thailand to participate in the Entrepreneur's Organization Global Leadership Conference. He arrived a few days early to experience Bangkok before the conference began. Here's his story. Click on each image to view a larger version.
Welcome to the Entrepreneur's Organization.
In 2015, I had the fortune of being introduced to the Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO); a global network of entrepreneurs with small forum peer-to-peer groups which enable small to mid-size businesses like ours to learn from the experiences of others.
I finally decided to actually join in October 2015. Immediately, I immersed myself in as many learning and social events as I could in the EO Toronto Chapter.
In February 2016, for a variety of reasons, I made the decision to switch to the EO Southwestern Ontario chapter and began participating in a forum group which meets monthly in the Burlington/Oakville area.
Me? Chair the board? Well, why not? By the way, you're going to Thailand.
Despite my minimal experience as an EO'er, I was asked by incoming President, Ryan Watt to chair the Marketing and Communications position on our local board for the upcoming year which starts in July.
Reluctant at first, I decided that I would accept the challenge.
Each year, EO hosts a Global Leadership Conference (GLC) somewhere in the world and this year it was to be held in Bangkok, Thailand.
Since I knew very little about my new role and because Bangkok seemed like an interesting place to visit, I decided to go.
Is there CrossFit in Thailand?
Well, actually before deciding to go to Bangkok I searched Google Maps to make sure there was at least one CrossFit Box (that’s CrossFit geek-speak for “gym”), and lo and behold there were 2 within about 15 minutes drive from my hotel!
So with that I booked my tickets.
My, what a long trip this will be.
This was my first trip to the Far East from Canada. I had been to Australia once before but traveled from the UK. So, despite a 24 hour trip there wasn’t quite the time lag.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when traveling 24 hours and actually arriving 11 hours ahead of my local time zone.
The flight left a 1:45 AM Monday and arrived at about noon Bangkok time on Tuesday. The only good thing about losing that day on the way there was gaining it back when I returned to Toronto.
I got checked into the hotel by around 12:30PM, took a long-awaited, much-needed shower and then went out to explore the Central World Mall and find some food.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
Apparently it’s the 6th largest mall in the world and the largest in Asia. I could not possibly explore it all, but I did manage to locale a nice Thai restaurant and had a great lunch before heading back to my hotel for a 45 minute nap.
I woke up groggy but forced myself not to sleep any longer, got up and went down to the lobby to get a cab to Bangkok CrossFit Ten500.
When I walked in I was pleasantly surprised they had air conditioning. I think it was the first time I’ve ever visited a box with A/C, which was more than welcome conceding the 38˚C temperature.
As in any Box I’ve visited, I was greeted and welcomed immediately. They spoke very plain English and the coach we had for the WOD was leaving the next day for Australia to compete in the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games Pacific Regional Competition.
CrossFit is CrossFit, no matter where you are in the world.
I’ve visited plenty of boxes away from my local Milton gym, Reebok CrossFit Firepower, throughout:
- Medicine Hat
- Even The Netherlands
But for this experience I had no idea what to expect. The good thing is that there really are no surprises in CrossFit other than that it’s constantly varied and you really don’t know what movements you’ll be doing from day to day.
- First was a strength component of a clean and double jerk. I won’t describe the movements but you can YouTube it if you're curious.
- Then the WOD was a triplet involving a lift, skiing for calories and ring dips.
I think it was about 12 minutes work and then I started walking back to my hotel, figuring maybe I’d easily grab a cab when I got tired of walking.
I walked for about 10 minutes and then crossed over to the other side of the road so I could hail a cab. I guess it was about 8PM because it was getting dark and the streets - which were lined with vendors’ tables - were busy being torn down and put away.
I got in a cab and asked him to take me to the Holiday Inn and he didn’t speak or understand a word of English.
So I had to use Google Maps on my phone and tell him where to turn by pointing left or right. I returned to the hotel and thought I probably won’t go back to the gym.
Meeting another EO'er
Had dinner in the hotel at their Thai restaurant and as I’m nearly finished eating someone walks up to me and says “you must be with EO; mind if I sit with you?”
To be honest I thought it was a little odd, perhaps bold at first. But after talking for a while and having a couple drinks I started to get a glimpse of what I was in for this week. He was a real estate lawyer from New York city, a talkative fellow with a neat story and plenty of EO experience to share. It was an interesting conversation.
Had a great night’s sleep that first night; then had breakfast in the hotel and set out to spend the day shopping.
I’m not much of shopper really; I usually just walk in and grab a bunch of stuff to try on and then buy the ones I like.
Rather than head straight to Central World (which I already had been into and had some ideas of where else I would like to shop) I headed across the catwalk to the smaller mall across the road.
Before I left, Denise, who traveled extensively back in her first few years at WSI Head Office in late 90’s and early 2000’s, suggested that I buy a custom tailored suit while I was there.
The easiest custom-tailored suit I ever got.
I saw a few different tailor shops and finally went into one that seemed more appealing from the outside.
The owner greeted me in English, asked a few questions and showed me a few materials. Within about 10 minutes I was measured in every possible way and ordered a navy pinstriped suit with 2 pants and 2 shirts. I gave a 50% deposit and was told to come back the next day at 6 for the fitting on the jacket.
The next day when I went in, I was surprised to see that my shirt and pants were already made and I as I put them on I realized that I have never felt clothes that fit me so perfectly before.
They fitted the jacket material on me and then easily convinced me to get another pair of pants and 4 more shirts.
So in 24 hours, I got a custom-made:
- Italian wool suit
- 2 matching pants
- Third pair of pants styled differently
- 6 dress shirts
The cost? Around 21,880 Thai Baht (equivalent to $800 Canadian). Well worth it, I’d say.
Back to CrossFit
Had lunch at the mall and picked up a few other things, souvenirs for the office and kids, and then went over to Central World and got a few pairs of shorts and casual shirts before heading back to the hotel to grab my gear and go back to CrossFit Ten500.
When I got there, I met a couple who own a CrossFit box in Dallas that were there visiting family, and another lady from Northern California who lives and works in Bangkok - at a digital marketing agency, no less
"Small world", I thought.
This WOD was quite a bit tougher than my first day there.
It started with a 3 rep max Overhead Squat followed by a “chipper” of:
- 1 mile run
- 50 deadlifts (at 115lbs each)
- 40 Kettle Bell Swings
- 30 Box Jumps
- 20 Thrusters (at 115lbs each)
- 10 burpees
The run was basically around the block, dodging dozens of people, through the back alley and back inside.
I’m normally a faster runner than most so I finished in second place; mostly because I didn’t want to be a jerk and pass the guy who was just a few steps ahead of me.
But I have to tell you it was pretty damn hot and I had a good sweat on when I got back to the barbell. I finished the WOD, got a t-shirt and headed back to my hotel.
The trip was about the same as the previous night but I managed to get there.
Biking through Bangkok
Thursday morning I met with a group at the Convention Centre to head out for a myEO event - a bike tour through Bangkok - which was organized by a local EO member.
It was a really interesting bike tour through the backstreets of downtown Bangkok. Not the downtown where the tourists are, but the place where the locals are.
We rode bikes though the markets with hundreds of people in countless aisles of vegetables, fish, meat and more, through the alleys where people live in small 12x12 homes open in the front, with minimal furniture and probably no running water, but strangely all fitted with a television set.
We had to maneuver our bikes past their outdoor grills as they were cooking in the alleys with no refrigeration and wild dogs and cats everywhere.
It was quite an eye opening experience of how the majority of the world lives.
We rode past a few Buddhist temples but didn’t go into any. Then, we ended the day with a rooftop lunch and a beer before heading back.
We were all so hot and sweaty that I couldn’t wait to get to the shower. Then I went next door where there was an indoor humidor and enjoyed a fine Cohiba Cigar and a couple glasses of scotch. It felt nice to relax.
After that I went for my suit fitting before heading back to the Convention Center to register for the Global Leadership Conference.
Met a bunch of interesting people, several fellow Canadians and had a drink or two before heading back.
Dinner costs what?
That night I went to the steakhouse in my hotel for dinner. The menu was in Baht currency so I didn’t pay much attention to the cost of what I was ordering.
The steak options were Wagyu and Kobe. I went with the Wagyu, a glass of wine (red), a Caesar Salad, side of mushrooms and broccoli.
I passed on desert and didn’t order the full bottle of wine despite the waitress trying to impress it upon me.
You can imagine my shock when the bill came and it was over 7000B; which is about $280 CAD.
I’m pretty sure that’s the most expensive meal I’ve ever eaten. But it was an interesting experience so I guess it was worthwhile.
Some notes about the conference.
Friday was day 1 of the Conference. It started with a huge kickoff event with entertainment and a keynote address and even a virtual visit from Sir Richard Branson.
I started to experience what I had heard so many times from longstanding EO members about how awesome these Global Events are.
There were about 1500 people from 50 different countries in that room. It was remarkable.
The whole event was very well organized and timed perfectly right to the second. I learned about my new role, listened to two fantastic speakers in breakout sessions, and met lots of great people.
The first night was a formal dinner where everyone was encouraged to wear their cultural formal dress. It was so interesting to see the variety of formal wear from around the world.
Saturday lunch was a special invitation for Canadian EO Members to celebrate the 25th anniversary of EO Canada with great food and great company.
We all stood on our chairs and belted out Oh Canada for all of Bangkok to hear.
For the farewell dinner, they blocked off the entire square adjacent to the mall with dozens of food stations, unlimited drinks and a full carnival experience with games and a ferris wheel. It was incredible!
For the after hours party we headed to the infamous “Canada House”, a Canadian tradition where all Canadian EO-ers take over a local bar or pub and envious Americans try to work their way in.
Lo-and-behold, a tag along couple from a US chapter worked their way in! It was a hyper-fun evening that left me feeling like I can’t wait until next time.
Six days that will last a lifetime
It was a short, six-day adventure, full of firsts for me:
- My first trip to Asia
- My first Global EO Experience
- My first time witnessing how the majority of the world lives
And all-in-all, it was a fantastic experience that I won’t forget.