War drums, baying crowds and two human killing machines are what you get with Thai Boxing – known the world over for its ceremony, dedication and physical prowess. Witness Thailand’s number one sport in its capital Bangkok and you’ll start to think Mike Tyson is a puff.
Where: Bangkok, Thailand
Cost: ringside seats = 2,000Baht ( AUD$87 / Euro 44 / GPB 29); standard seat = 700Baht ( AUD$30 / Euro 15 / GPB 14)
The ‘gateway to SE Asia’ Bangkok has one of the busiest airports in the world, so no worries there. But the city is massive so plot where you want to go and book a hotel accordingly. Khao San Road is the main tourist hangout for bars, ping pong shows and ladies of the night. A classier part of town is Thanon Sukhumvit.
Watching the boxing
There are two main Thai Boxing stadiums in Bangkok. The Lumphini Boxing Stadium that holds bouts on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays (6pm start). The other is Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium with bouts on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays (5pm start). Always buy tickets from the ticket windows and not the touts outside.
Tickets start at 700 Baht for the outer circle where you’ll be caged with screaming locals and watched by riot police. Less threatening seats can be found ringside for 2,000 Baht, where you’ll see every kick and punch at extreme close-up. Ringside tickets also get you backstage and a drinks service.
The early fights are normally between teenagers as young as 14. Even at this age the boxers have dedicated themselves to Mauy Thai and train for hours every day. As the evening progresses, the boxers get bigger and stronger and you’ll notice the stadium slowly fill, turning into a cacophony of screams and pounding drum beats.
Was it worth it?
If you can afford it, go ringside for 2,000Baht. You’ll see every punch, kick and elbow at close quarters with the riotous crowd keeping you entertained between rounds; all with a beer in the hand. You can also go backstage and meet the boxers before and after their fight.
Try it yourself
If you want a better understanding of what these guys go through, there are many Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) schools in Bangkok, including www.thaiboxings.com that specializes in training foreign students. Really serious boxers and martial artists should enquire about their Vorapin Gym 2 for live-in courses.
Other activities in Bangkok
There aren’t many things you can’t do in Bangkok, from visiting the oldest temples to dancing the night away with a lady boy. Most backpackers can only stand the traffic jams and tourist traps for a few days, so plan in advance.
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