Talking about Thailand, Muay Thai is right up there with Tuk Tuks and Elephants when looking for a globally recognized symbol of The Kingdom. When you’re in Bangkok, do make the effort to get this spectacle into your itinerary; it truly is unforgettable.
The big stadiums.
It’s only fair to begin the brief tour of opportunities where one can sample this phenomenon with the best-known stadiums in the city. Lumphini and Radjadamnern Stadiums. Asking any driver or tour agency and they’ll be directing you to either of these and depending on where in Bangkok you are based, you’re also likely to go to the closest as roads get rather blocked during peak times.
Of these two, I’d say that Lumphini has the edge over its elder sibling. Firstly, Lumphini is well served by the BTS mass transit system and Radjadamnern is not; it is close to the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. Most evening events begin at 1830h, so travel during rush hour is necessary and anything on wheels is slow and painful. At these times of the day, turn to the skies – namely, the BTS or Sky Train.
There’s a powerfully charged, almost choking atmosphere at both venues and you’ll be paying the same price for the privilege and prestige. This usually means being taken to ringside, which is populated by other tourists. The sanitized-by-comparison feel to sitting at ringside while grace and gore unfolds before yours and the other agog guests’ eyes gives some ironic imbalance to the whole affair. The tiers of gambling guests in the rows behind encapsulate you in something that simply cannot be copied.
Being a tourist, you will pay double what the locals pay and you will be ushered to premium ringside seats. However, if you’re up for a slight battle of wills, a lot of smiles, polite exchange and you can get right in the mix with the locals. You don’t need tour guides or touts to get into these places, only the turnstiles.
Other Muay Thai venues.
To add alternative options to this, I recommend that you look at the MBK and Channel 7 Stadiums. Both are superbly positioned next to some of the city’s celebrated shopping areas: MBK Center and Chatuchak Market respectively.
Both venues are free and there’s just as much variety inside the ring as there is in the throngs of spectators. The MBK has fights every Wednesday evening; get there before 1800h to get a good vantage point as it will get very busy for the first bell at 1830h. Foreign fighters, young teenagers and women can be seen on the fight card. MBK is closed during rainy season, so expect this to start again in October but do keep an eye on their MBK Fight Night Fan Page on Facebook for updates.
Which brings us to the Channel 7 Stadium: held every Sunday from 1345h and on the third Wednesday of each month from noon behind the old Northern Bus Terminal and right opposite the world famous “JJ” or Chatuchak Market.
I’ve saved the best for last; it’s not only free and easy to get to, but it can be added to the itinerary for taking in the market experience afterwards. This will be one of the most demanding but ridiculously rewarding Sundays that you could ever wish to take part in. Are you up for something like that?
All venues here take their sport very seriously, so don’t expect parades or pulled punches, just punishment!
by Kevin Goldsmith