This is what we hear blaring from pickup truck mounted speakers several times a day as we wander the sois (alleys) around our guesthouse in Chiang Mai. With three stadiums spread throughout the city, and some of the only legal gambling in Thailand, Muay Thai is a big deal around here. There are bouts almost every night, running from about 9 pm to midnight. It’s a bit pricey to get in though, at $13-20, so having decided we should check it out, we made alternate plans.
Before I get to our escapades though, a bit of information on Muay Thai, the traditional boxing style of Thailand. Developed from earlier forms of kickboxing prevalent throughout Southeast Asia, Muay Thai as a distinct discipline gained great popularity in the 19th century. It is known as the “art of eight limbs”, since it combines punching, kicking, elbows, and knee strikes. Anyway, on to our attempts to view a match.
First plan: We read on wikitravel that they open up the Loi Kroh Road stadium to vendors after 11 pm, and that you could get in free for the last few matches. Well, we tried that, but no dice. Apparently we snuck in right where an official was standing. She offered us latecomer tickets for 100 baht ($3.50). Pah – time to try something else.
Plan B: We simply walked around the side of the stadium, which is just a boxing ring surrounded by bars. We entered one, and sat down at the bar with a great view of the ring. One beer later, we were watching the current match. And even though it was overpriced, 60 baht is still way better than the 200 baht we would have paid otherwise.
I happily nursed that beer for the next hour, as we watched two bouts. The first was already about half done when we arrived, so the fighters we getting tired and sloppy, which was actually much more fun to watch. More wild punches and desperate kick attempts to the head. In the end it came down to a decision, and both fighters looked exhausted.
The second bout was less interesting, as we were watching from the beginning. The fighters had their guards up and were making only probing attacks. I think it takes a few rounds to get interesting, and in the end we didn’t stay to find out how that bout ended. Still, we were both really glad that we made the journey out to see a really Muay Thai fight, and got to experience the stadium cultures, with locals making bets and shouting wildly for their favorite fighter at each opportunity. And even better that we could do it on the cheap, if not quite free. At least I got a beer out of it!