If you prefer your holiday adventures to be a bit sanitised and safely in your comfort zone, a night out at the Ao Nang Boxing Stadium probably isn't for you. Sweaty, noisy, badly lit, un-air-conditioned, locals cheering, punters gambling on kids' matches as well as adults' - a night of Muay Thai boxing was one of the highlights of my holiday in Ao Nang!
On our arrival in Krabi, I came across an article written by a local fighter/trainer (and American ex-pat) called Khru Doc who offered behind the scenes tours on fight nights. He responded to my email and agreed to pick us up on Friday night before the fight.
We arrived at the stadium, already crowded with fans milling about and paid 1200 baht each (about $50NZ or $40US) to get in. Yes, this is expensive in a country where an hour-long massage will run 200 baht and a nice meal for two in a decent restaurant will go for 1000 - but I can get a massage or dinner anywhere in the world - the only place to see Muay Thai boxing is Thailand! And while I suspect the locals don't pay such hefty entrance fees, I also suspect those visitor fees keep the place running.
Tickets in hand, we nabbed a couple of front row couches and went off to explore. First the gym area - stark - and then the fighters' bare-bones sleeping quarters. Grabbed a Singha Beer to cool down and then off to the prep area where the fighters were being massaged. A crowded, men-only zone, I was surprised when they welcomed me with my camera for a close-up look. Massages, prayers, hangers on - I met a famous trainer, whose name I've shamefully forgotten. Loud, a little bit smoky, a little bit hypnotising - definitely Thailand, steeped in history and a bit of mystery. A serving of unvarnished Thai culture and tradition.
And then the fights - though I knew a bit about Muay Thai, Khru Doc was a font of information, taking us through the rituals involved before a match begins, including some of the quirks of the fighters.
The night opened with several matches with very young fighters, who were the most fun to watch. I was impressed at how protective the referees and trainers were and the genuine comraderie between the combatants before and after the match - but during the match it was all on! The adult fighters were stronger, more powerful, but also more tempered and controlled. I enjoyed watching this level of skill, but it was much more serious.
I was free to wander the stadium during and between the matches, photographing the punters, kids, fighters, families. Anywhere I wanted EXCEPT within 1 metre of the ring itself - women are not permitted to touch the ring. (It's a local thing - women boxers fight in the rings in Bangkok and Phuket.) While the Thai people are always friendly, I think they rather liked having visitors come and see them being themselves rather than looking after us.
We missed the free bus back to our hotel after the fight - but it was Thailand, where many things are dirt cheap and for 100 baht got a tuktuk back. Just an amazing experience all around - I can not recommend it more highly if you want to step away from the usual air-brushed tourist activities and get a little bit down and dirty with the locals. And uber thanks to Khru Doc who provided his services for free!
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.