Muay Thai boxing is big out here. It is constantly promoted by vans driving around telling you about “poooffesssionalll fight, tonight. Leeetts get reeadddyy to wuuummblle” And you are berated with flyers on a daily basis; when eating your brekkie, walking down the street. They just see a Farang (white person) and quickly dart across the traffic on their scooter just to give you an advertisement.
Well, it worked as we went to go see a fight. There are 3 places to go and see Muay Thai. One is on Loi Kroh Road and is really just for Farangs, therefore it is fixed and you don’t really see quality fights. Another is called Thapae Gate, and funnily enough is pretty much opposite Thapae Gate and this one is well advertised but there are actual fights. Another is behind the night bazaar and again, is meant to be real fights. We went to Thapae gate and got our tickets for 300 thai baht each (6GBP). Tickets usually cost between 400 baht and 600 baht for ringside. This in comparison with Bangkok’s 2000 baht each (40GBP), which was a relief!
Let me paint the picture for you, you walk down an alley (which the night before when we checked it out was teeming with rats) and you are shown to your seat. For 300 baht we were as close as the ringside seats but facing more side on, a great view still. The ring is in the middle, and all around are different bars. We couldn’t figure out if each bar ran a section of seating or what, but I don’t think it is that well organised. So we sat down at our seats and ordered some drinks (100 baht each -2GBP- which isn’t too bad for a captive audience) Music was playing loudly, well I don’t know if I could call it music really. But it sounded like snake charmer music. We thought that it may just be on before the matches start, but turns out it is played constantly, all night, hours and hours of this repetitive mind numbing sound.
You can smell the fighters before you see them. This strong smell of tiger balm (menthol) filled the area, “where is that coming from…?” and then the first 2 fighters walked out flanked by trainers. The fighters were wearing the well known colourful shorts and this headband thing, which we found out is called a Mong Kon, and is meant to bring prosperity to the fighter and protect him from danger.
The fighters also do a ritual dancey/blessing thing once in the ring. All very interesting. Like normal boxing the fights were seperated in weight, although I do question some of their scales as we had a rather tubby bloke against a rake…but oh well. There were also some children fighters, aged around 10, which is a bit shocking to see, but then again, they choose to start training from that age and these fights are much shorter and less intense. If one is winning over the other the fight is finished and a winner declared. All experience for them I guess.
I didn’t expect to enjoy this, but actually it was far more enjoyable than watching boxing. The style is completely different and there are far fewer hits to the face but far more strategic moves to make contact with legs, knees and shins. The noise you hear when legs make contact with other legs or torsos is impressive to say the least!
To split the fights up, there is a ‘Special Round’, this is where 4 not so serious looking fighters come into the ring. Get blindfolded and start swinging. At first we both thought, “really? are you serious?” But it did get entertaining. One guy was walking around blindly digging upper cuts, managed to catch someone square under the jaw and went down. The referee tried to help him up and he went for him. The ref was having none of it and put him in his place. Another guy just spun round and round with his arms out straight to his side and took out 2 others, who quickly fell to the floor which made all the others standing trip over them and also fall to the floor. It ended up with a big pile of confused men on the mat. All were un-blindfolded, gave a big wave and smile and exited the ring. Not the highlight of the night, but definitely entertaining.