A resource guide for where to go in Thailand for a Muay Thai Vacation
Choosing your city, destination, or destinations, is probably the key factor that will make or break the enjoyment level when traveling to Thailand for Muay Thai training. Choosing the right destination based on your needs will set you on a path of your personal enjoyment, according to your personal preferences. Below are Thailands top 4 destination cities and rating for each one.
If you are attracted to the fast pace action of city metro life and have a mentality of “the city never sleeps and either do I”, Bangkok may be a good choice for you.
Bangkok is fairly westernized when compared to many other parts of Thailand. There are also a large number of tourist attractions that we will cover in Chapter 7. Bangkok is a fast pace city, lots of hustling from taxi and tuk tuk drivers who are more than willing to run you around town for right price.
Bangkok is home to the famous Rajadamnern and Lumpinee Stadiums. It is the pinnacle of world class Muay Thai bouts. Steeped in history with legendary fights from the golden era of Muay Thai to present day.
Some of the best camps are located in Bangkok. Many Thai fighters or “Nak Muay’s” leave their small villages after having some success on the local circuit, to make their dreams become a reality and the chance to fight on the big stage with the big payouts. Bangkok has some of the finest training camps in the world.
The upside of Bangkok is the tourist attractions, nightlife and entertainment, (which can also be a considered a distraction), and the high caliber of training camps.
THE DOWN SIDE TO BANGKOK
Let’s review a few of the down sides to selecting Bangkok as your primary destination.
First point I must mention is air quality. Bangkok or BKK is highly polluted. Smog creeps in at sun up, and fills the city with choking pollutants. This poor air quality makes it very difficult to train, especially if you are not accustom to highly congested city air quality. Breathing is difficult.
The heat and humidity can be another deterrent. Thailand as a whole is very hot and humid, but there are some parts of the country where you can catch some cooler breezes. Such as on an island like Phuket or Koh Samui. Pattaya is a beach town with great camps, and the mountains of Chiang Mai can offer you some relief and better air quality as well.
Another consideration is the constant hustles, cons, and scams that are so prevalent in the city. After reading Chapter 8 in this book, you will have a better perspective and be able to recognize the warning signs that you are about to be hustled. Best to nip this in the bud before you go down that path.
Bangkok – Some of the very best training camps in the world. Highest level of competition at stadiums. Nightlife is readily available. Environment is polluted, extremely humid with poor air flow, poor air quality. Several tourist attractions of historical significance. Beware of scams and hustles all around you at all times. There is not much entertainment for younger children.
Nestled in the valley of the mountainous North Eastern region of Thailand, is the historical city of Chiang Mai.
Chang Mai is a beautiful, ancient city, where the town center is surrounded by an enormous mote that is accompanied by a large wall. One of my favorite attributes are the archer slats, in the seven hundred year old wall that is built of brick, mortar, and stone. These walls were meant to keep out the Burmese (now known as “Myanmar”), during times of war which has plagued this region for nearly a millennium. The city is steeped in history and culture, and really is a must see destination in Thailand.
In Chiang Mai, you’re guaranteed to find the coolest of ancient temples, amazing art work at bargain basement prices, tasty street food, and night markets packed with everything you could imagine. There is no wonder why Chiang Mai is a haven for European backpackers and this comes to no surprise considering the mountains and jungles that surround the region.
Chiang Mai is easily accessible by plane or train, and houses one of Thailand’s largest airports. Flights run pretty much hourly out of any airport located within the country.
The Muay Thai training in Chiang Mai is moderately abundant , but I would highly recommend you stick to the few camps that I will mention in the next chapter of this book. I have personally had some undesirable training experiences in the past. Not to take away from the good ones I’ve experienced as well.
Chiang Mai has a very relaxed, and fairly slow paced atmosphere. Perhaps it’s the European “earthy people” or perhaps it’s the Chiang Mai locals who poses more traditional and proper Thai values. The wardrobes are very traditional. The people are very traditional. This is a far cry from the progressive way of life and values as you will see in Bangkok.
If you are more of an outdoors, adventure type of person, Chiang Mai may be right up your ally.
THE DOWN SIDE TO CHIANG MAI
As I mentioned before, the Muay Thai training is moderately available, but you have to be selective in your camp. It’s more difficult to stumble across a great camp that suites all your training needs, as you would have your luck in say, Bangkok.
Some other downsides may be if you happen to be a beach person. Chiang Mai is land locked and is not located anywhere near a beach.
A few annoyances you may encounter are the taxi and tuk tuk drivers. They can be extra pushy when it comes to hustling tourists for rides. The fact that there isn’t really many buses or public transportation options, only leaves you to be exploited when it comes to catching rides. But this can be avoided to some degree.
Chiang Mai has large night markets, and some bars and clubs for the party people out there. The night life entertainment as a whole is very limited when compared with the other destinations in Thailand.
Chiang Mai- A great place for outdoor adventurers. Jungle treks on elephants, zip lines, bamboo river raft rides, historical temples, amazing and cheap art work. There are limited training possibilities for really good camps. The night life is not as bustling when compared to other regions. And one last thing I forgot to mention, the mosquitos. During certain seasons, the mosquitos are brutal in Chiang Mai. The Mae Ping River runs right through the center of the city and so does all the damn mosquitos. The mosquitos seem to be a big problem during the rainy season. This would be the summer months. June, July, August. I haven’t had too much of a problem with them in the other seasons.
Thailand is world renowned for having some of the most beautiful, tropical, picturesque islands and beaches. Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phi Phi, Koh Chang, Koh Samet are some the more popular islands.
Islands tend to be the more common destinations for western tourists. There will be a great variety of local Thai cuisine, along with many western comfort food establishments that cater to constant migration of tourists on a weekly basis. There is no shortage of supply when it comes to German, Italian, English and Australian bars and restaurants.
Many island activities include scuba and snorkel, wave runner rentals, parasailing, fishing, island hopping, and basically anything having to do with water. If you are a beach person, the islands may be a great choice when choosing a destination.
So what’s the training like on the islands? Well, this is my somewhat subjective answer to this question…
Many of the camps on the islands are owned and managed by western businessmen and women. Some of the more popular camps have attractive websites and utilize a lot of online marketing to bring in hordes of foreign Muay Thai practitioners. The gym facilities are usually quite plush in comparisons to some of the other more “nitty gritty” style camps you may encounter in say, Bangkok or in the north. This is because these camps primarily cater to westerners. Many of these “Resort” type camps offer other martial arts training such as BJJ and MMA. Some will offer yoga, weight training, and personal fitness instruction.
Sleeping accommodations are generally provided on site, and some are even comparable to 4 and 5 star hotels. Juice bars and restaurants tend to be on site as well.
Depending on your situation, preferences, budget and current skill level, these western style commercialized camps may in fact be the right fit for you. Instructors are usually very high level former fighters, that the camp has recruited from other parts of the country. These instructors are generally accustom to working with English speaking students, even if their English abilities are limited. Which in most cases, is a pretty accurate assessment. Not many trainers speak English. This holds true throughout most of the country and in most camps.
THE DOWN SIDE TO STAYING ON AN ISLAND
Just like in most places in the world, real estate is more expensive on the coast and especially on touristy islands such as Phuket or Koh Samui. Therefore, goods and services tend to be a bit more pricey as well. I’ve literally spend double for simple supplies such as tooth brush, toothpaste, shaving cream, razors, toiletries, etc. You can expect to pay nearly double for simple things such as these as compared to prices at a 7-11 on the mainland.
Hotel, food, drinks, activities are all on the higher end of cost as when compared to the mainland.
Tourist attractions are limited on the islands. While there are still some amazing sights to see, the islands hold much less in historical sight seeing, then when compared to places such Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, or Bangkok.
Islands are limited too if you want to really immerse yourself in the Thai people and Thai culture. There are many streets where it is nothing but western tourists. The only locals are the people working at the resorts, or the occasional street merchant. At times, you may forget that you are in South East Asia.
My advice to anyone who’s mind is set on going on an island vacation, is to at the very least, take a few days to explore some of the mainland. Even if it’s a few days in Bangkok before your flight departs. There are too many things to miss out on if you go directly to an island and stay there the whole time. The islands seem to provide a very small and different representation of Thailand as compared to other areas where you may experience more of a Thai cultural diversity. The mainland will provide a more accurate representation of Thailand and Thai people.
The Islands – Training camps are very commercialized, good retired instructors, but keep in mind, you are just another number in these revolving door tourist camps. Stadium competition is not top tier, but decent. Nightlife is (5) for the fact that almost all nightlife is centrally located in the few town centers on the island. Shopping, dinning, markets, bars, night clubs, beach party’s are all at the same location within walking distance from one another. While BKK has most of these attractions times 10, the city is very spread out. Therefore, island nightlife exceeds the BKK score for this reason. The environment is what you dream of when you think “island”. Astonishing beauty! Historical attractions by most part on the weak side. Water activities, tours, and endless recreational things to do raises this score to a 4. Scams and hustles are not out of the question, but in general, islands are safe, well patrolled by police, and more difficult for thieves to escape. After all, they are on an island. Islands offer a ton of activities for kids.
Located two hours south east of Bangkok is the beach town of Pattaya. Pattaya provides the best of both worlds when it comes to land and sea activities.
You will find all your typical water sports such as parasailing, fishing expeditions, boat runs to Koh Lan island, wave runner rentals and more.
On land, you will find large markets, temples and historical sights, tiger sanctuaries, amazing gardens, zoo’s, water parks, shopping malls, street food, you name it. Pattaya has it all.
There are several world class training camps in Pattaya, and it is home to my favorite camp of all, the world renowned Sityodtong Muay Thai Camp. Sityodtong is located ten minutes or so from Pattaya City in the outlining Bang Lamung district.
I suggest Pattaya to just about anyone travelling to Thailand. The opportunities for entertainment are really limitless, and you can enjoy the island atmosphere at the landlocked prices.
Hotels and restaurants are plentiful, and you will find dishes from all around the world. Indian, Italian, French, Brazilian, German restaurants. As well as local Thai cuisine and street food.
Most transportation in Pattaya is provided by a “Song Tail”, which is basically a pick up truck with bench seats in the back. For 20 baht, ($.65) sixty five cents, you can travel around beach road and get to almost any destination throughout the city.
Evening entertainment is limitless, especially if you are looking for some of the most exciting Muay Thai fights you have ever seen. Pattaya is home to Max Muay Thai. Max Muay Thai has its own stadium, which is a modern venue. Foreigners are generally matched up against Thai’s. There are 3 rounds instead of the traditional 5 rounds, and forward action and aggression are the basis of judging the score cards. It is a little different and it makes for extremely entertaining fights!
Wow! Pattaya really sounds like a winner, right? There are a few down sides here that I need to mention.
THE DOWN SIDE TO PATTAYA
Throughout Thailand, prostitution is ramped. Prostitution is almost socially accepted, especially for a women coming from a poor economical background who has the pressure to take care of their parents. While prostitution is easily recognizable in other parts of Thailand, Pattaya seems to be the epicenter of red light districts.
While it is somewhat possible to avoid, the small ally ways and beach walks are littered with the lady walkers of the night. You won’t get harassed, but you will certainly get solicited.
Some of you may be saying, “This sounds like paradise to me”… Others may say they don’t want anything to do with the red light areas. Pattaya can be difficult to navigate away from the lady walkers, but it is possible to avoid.
Pattaya- offers high level training camps with several Muay Thai stadiums including Max Muay Thai. There is no shortage of nightly entertainment but beware, prostitution is ramped. The beaches are beautiful, and hotels are readily available. There are tons of tourist activities, many of which are great for kids making Pattaya a good family place. Scammers are around so stay on guard as usual, but all in all it’s not so bad. Pattaya offers something for everybody. Stay in the North end of town where it is “cleaner” and more family friendly. Stay near Beach Rd, Soi 1, Soi 2, or Soi 3.