Sep 24 2012
Right up there with ornate temples and spicy food, Muay Thai (Thai kickboxing) is one of the first things that comes to mind when most think of Thailand. Catching a fight in the world’s Muay Thai capital — Bangkok — is considered a must-do for many visitors, and a good number of them head to Bangkok’s most popular Muay Thai venue (at least among tourists), Lumpini Boxing Stadium. Does Lumpini deliver a knockout experience, or are you better off heading straight to the bar?
Centrally located on Rama IV Road, a short walk from the southwest corner of Lumpini Park and Lumpini MRT station, we expected Lumpini Boxing Stadium to feel more like, well, a stadium. It’s actually smaller than some of Bangkok’s nightclubs, and from the outside it doesn’t look like much.
The stadium’s overall atmosphere is how we’d imagine the venue for an illegal boxing circuit hidden in London’s industrial shadow to feel. A dark and gritty warehouse-style interior is illuminated only by a few hanging fluorescent bulbs. Apart from pricey ringside folding chair seats, the well-lit ring is encircled by wide standing-room-only concrete steps. If you go this route, expect to stand (or lean against one of the steel poles or gates) throughout the fights, or be prepared to sit on smelly floors that are continually trod upon. The stadium is not exactly charming, but hey, neither is kickboxing.
Due to a low roof held up by dozens of steel poles, finding an unobstructed vantage point can be a challenge unless you shell out some extra baht to be closer to the ring. Still, we’d pass on the pricier seats not only because standing room is significantly cheaper but also due to it being much better for watching the rowdy crowds of locals, mostly men, who constantly place bets by shouting and pointing over the crowd (don’t ask us to explain how that works). Although ringside seats offer a better view of the fight, it’s a comparatively boring set-up occupied almost entirely by tourists.
A bill of some 10 fights is offered almost every night at Lumpini, starting at 18:30 and finishing up some four hours later, although schedules can change for special events so it’s best to double check before making your way there. The early matches usually pair lightweight amateurs while the later bouts boast more well-known boxers.
All of the fights follow the strict rules and quirky theatrics of Muay Thai, which include flowing pre-show dance routines by each fighter and a sincere knelt bow before the bashing can begin. Although it can get bloody, Muay Thai is far more graceful than regular boxing or the excessively brutal UFC.
Don’t make the mistake of skipping the earlier fights and expecting the main events to be the best bouts of the night. Often the most rousing matches are the earlier ones, which typically involve younger fighters trying to make a name for themselves. On the night we attended, the third fight in got the crowd jumping and roaring through several rounds of fierce swiping, sweeping, dodging and pummeling. In contrast, the main event was an absolute yawn.
Although Lumpini Stadium made for an all-round exciting night and worthwhile peek into an important aspect of Thai culture, we wouldn’t fully recommend it. Prices for foreigners are steep — 1,000 baht for the cheapest tickets, 1,500 for the midsection with unobstructed views (but no seats) and 2,000 for ringside.
Thais are charged 350 baht for the cheap seats, and the almost 300% mark-up makes this one of the most extreme cases of hiked prices for foreigners we’ve seen anywhere in the region. Considering how the rundown stadium doesn’t offer proper seats, 350 baht is reasonable but 1,000-2,000 baht is grossly overpriced. Beer costs the same for everyone, at least (100 baht for a 22-ounce Chang bottle), but next time we feel like seeing two guys gracefully kick the crap out of each other, we’ll hold out for Sunday and head back to Channel 7 for a similar (but free) experience.
Lumpini Boxing Stadium
Rama IV Road, Bangkok
T: (022) 528 765; (022) 514 303
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