Quality of life
Cost of living
Muay Thai training
Summary : Potentially (but not necessarily) the best place for training in Thailand. Cheaper to live here than down on the islands but much more real, and can ultimately be quite a depressing place to live.
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and the most populated city. Expats usually have a love/hate relationship with Bangkok but it’s a place you will definitely find yourself in at some point.
The city’s population tops 8 million and another 14 million people live within the surrounding Bangkok metropolitan region – altogether that’s a whopping 22% of the population. Currently, over 350,000 expats live here.
A lot of Thais move to Bangkok from rural areas to find work and to make a better life for themselves and their family. This explains the huge rise in population since the 70’s, also why the city is so chaotic.
Bangkok is definitely a mixed bag for travelling Thai boxers, in my opinion. On the one hand I got the best training in Bangkok. But on the other hand, it’s a pretty depressing place to live. I don’t know, maybe I just need to man-up.
You’ll soon realise, though, that all the fluffy crap is gone when you get to Bangkok. It’s not built specifically for tourists like in Phuket or any of the other islands is. It’s very real, and the people here behave differently.
This post serves to give an overview of life in the city and what you can expect to find should you decide to train muay Thai here.
Although most of my time in Thailand has been spent in Bangkok, I may sound a little less specific than I did in the Phuket guide and Koh Samui guide – but that’s because Bangkok is such a big place and varies a lot from one area to another so it has to be that way.
Living in Bangkok
It would be an understatement to say that Bangkok isn’t the most picturesque city in the world. The streets are dirty, rats are a common site, and there is a definite “whiff” in the air most of the time.
Have I put you off yet?
Let’s be honest, nobody goes to Bangkok to be wowed by its beauty. Sure, it can look picturesque in photos that are taken from afar, but when you’re actually down there is looks quite different.
If I wasn’t training muay Thai then I wouldn’t be anywhere near Bangkok, if I’m being perfectly honest. But if you are training here then there are definitely some perks.
Day to day life here is a lot more “real” than down south where life is built around keeping tourists happy. The Thais that live in Bangkok couldn’t really give a shit if you’re there or not. You definitely won’t have bar girls shouting at you every 5 minutes to get a massage here!
Bangkok is obviously a lot busier than the touristy places and people just tend to go about their daily routine, much like it would be back in your home town. The expats you see here are often living here full time and are working as teachers so it feels a lot less like you’re on holiday 24/7.
The great thing about Bangkok is that you have everything you need here. Great shopping malls, huge selection of places to eat, buzzing night venues and every type of convenience you can think of.
Cost of Living in Bangkok
Bangkok isn’t an expensive place to live. It’s not as cheap as some places up north but certainly cheaper than the islands down south. This pretty much includes everything – accommodation, training, food and transport. Definitely transport!
Everything from hotels, hostels, apartments, guest houses, condos, and mansions are available in Bangkok.
Your abode of choice depends on your budget and length of stay. If you’re staying for a few weeks and want to live it up a little then you may wish to stay in a hotel or rent a bachelor pad to make the most of your stay. These are the expensive choices.
I’ve stayed in several hotels in bangkok and always tried to find the cheapest room without roughing it too much, so I usually ended up paying 600-700 baht per night for a decent air-conditioned room with TV, fridge and kettle.
If you’re after a place of your own with separate kitchen, bathroom, bedroom(s), expect to pay between 15,000-30,000 in a decent area.
On the other end of the scale, you have hostels which are plentiful, and then guesthouses further along the expense scale.
You may find studio apartments for around 3,000-5,000 baht but this is going to be VERY basic.
However, most Thai boxers staying for more than a month will probably be best off renting an apartment or condo. You should be able to find a nice ensuite room with air conditioning for between 5,000 and 10,000 baht.
Always book somewhere before you arrive to avoid finding yourself in a tight spot. I use Agoda.
Although training costs don’t count for a great deal of your monthly outgoings, they’re still definitely worth considering – I consider them out of principle as much as anything else!
In general, Bangkok gyms are similar in price, if not a little lower, than in Phuket – probably ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 baht per month.
As I said, not a deal-breaker but if you’re strapped for cash then it’s worth considering your options. Chiang Mai is probably your cheapest option in terms of training fees (and a lot of other things too) with Koh Samui right up there with cheap training too.
Food is everywhere. Markets in Bangkok are plentiful, as well as random food stalls dotted around the place. If you’re in the area of Jatujak (or Chatuchak) near FA Group then the weekend market is a decent place to visit for all kinds of food.
The price of dishes in Bangkok can vary a great deal depending on the area you’re in, but it depends more on where you buy it from. Shopping malls are always more expensive – perhaps 80-100 baht for a good rice or noodle dish. Maybe even more. But eat at a market and get your dish for as little as 40 baht, but be prepared for smaller portions than you’re probably used to.
The usual chains of supermarkets exist in Bangkok such as Tesco and Big C, plus 7/11’s dotted around every corner so it’s very convenient to buy your own food and cook it yourself back at your apartment. It’s cheaper this way and a lot healthier too – Thais cook great-tasting food but it certainly isn’t good to eat it on a regular basis.
Despite what you may have seen or heard, Bangkok is a pretty easy place to navigate, providing you go about it the right way.
The right way is to use the BTS (skytrain) and MRT (underground) to get around. These rail systems connect to all of the shopping centres and entertainment areas in Bangkok. Chances are, your gym of choice will be located next to one of these stations so you won’t need to risk using a motorbike.
The BTS is a fast, clean and cheap way to get around Bangkok. Fares start at 15 baht for one stop, and a monthly pass (50 trips) for 1,000 baht. You can also purchase a day-pass for around 120 baht. This service runs from 6:30am to midnight.
The Mass Rapid Transit Network (MRT) covers 18 stations over a 20km stretch. It’s opening hours are 6am-midnight and fares range from 16 baht to 41 baht.
Taxis are everywhere – and you won’t get ripped off anywhere near as often as in the tourist hotspots. Pretty much every taxi driver uses the meter without being prompted, and the fairs are good. The only time you may be charged a different price is if you want to travel to somewhere which is, say, an hour away. The drivers don’t like using the meters in this instance as they don’t make much money, so it’s OK to take a small hit in this case.
Motorbike taxis are the cheapest way to get around, but they’re also the most dangerous! Prices start from 10 baht, and for your 10 baht you’ll be subjected to near-misses, being driven into oncoming traffic, pavement driving and many more death-defying stunts on-route to your destination. The drivers normally wear bright coloured vests will be grouped together at the end of a soi or some other location like near a shopping centre. Motorcycle taxis are quick at reaching their destination due to their driving manner and the fact they can cut through traffic. They should only really be considered if you need to get somewhere quickly. Bottom line: get the BTS…
Training in Bangkok
Bangkok training gets my highest rating out of all destinations. However, it’s not the be-all and end-all that a lot of people make it out to be, and the quality of training you get there largely depends on your current skill-level.
The main reason the gyms are different in Bangkok comes down to one thing – money.
The Thais here are fighting at a much higher level than down south or up north, and that means they are generating a lot more cash, so it is up to the trainers to make sure they are trained properly so that they can get a cut of a bigger purse or win a bet on their fighter.
However, this mentality doesn’t necessarily translate well when foreigners enter the gym and pay for their training. Some gyms take training foreigners more seriously than others. In my experience, the more Thai superstars that are in a gym, the less emphasis is placed on training foreigners who walk through the doors. It’s fair game, really.
Having said that, a lot of gyms are realising the value in training foreigners. It’s less hassle in that they are not responsible for you in any way, except spending a few hours training you every day, whereas training Thais can be hard work when trying to control what they do in and out of the gym, and the fact that they may just decide to up and leave the gym after years of free training, food and accommodation given to them by the gym manager in the hope they will become a champion and repay the gym one day.
The reason I say that your quality of training may depend on your skill level is that the coaching in Bangkok gyms is generally more “Thai Style” than down on the islands where the training is altered for foreigners to pick up techniques.
The Thai-style of coaching is a lot of “doing” but not a lot of “showing”. In my opinion, this style of coaching favours the more experienced athlete.
Bangkok is a bit of a mixed bag in this respect; one minute you might be training in a random, traditional, run-down gym down a dodgy soi, and the next you may think you’ve just landed at a holiday camp.
In general, the trainers in Bangkok tend to take their job a little more seriously than down on the islands. This is the theme in almost every profession, to be honest. Bangkok is just a little more “real” and less laid-back than the islands like Phuket, Samui and Koh Pangan.
But again, it depends what gym you end up in – the gyms with numerous Thai champions may be great trainers but have little time for training foreigners.
The majority of your training partners in Bangkok gyms will be high-level Thai fighters. This is one of the main differences between Bangkok gyms and tourist gyms in places like Phuket. Because of this, Bangkok gyms also attract a higher level of foreign fighter too.
The reason Thai style training works well in Bangkok is that your training partners will probably be of a higher level than elsewhere in Thailand, so you can learn a lot from getting in there with some great fighters and learn the art as you go along, rather than being spoon-fed the techniques.
Of course, that is if the Thais in the gym are willing to train with a foreign visitor. A lot of the time they are not, they would rather train with the other Thais in the gym as they are all fighting at a high-level in Bangkok and there is a lot of money on the line.
You also have to thibk about your weight – if you’re 75kg+ then you’re not going to benefit much from training with the Thais unless there are a few big boys at your gym. Even then, I doubt you’ll find any Thais over 70-75kg.
Don’t be afraid to get together with other foreigners and do your own sparring sessions (if your trainers permit this) as Thais don’t do much sparring with gear on due to their busy fight schedules.
Bangkok stadiums are without a doubt the best in Thailand. Whether you’re passing through Bangkok or training at one of the many muay Thai gyms here, a visit to some of the most prestigious stadiums in the world is a must. Unlike the stadiums in the south, Bangkok stadiums only allow the very best Thais and westerners to fight on their main shows so you know you’re in for some high quality muay Thai when visiting.
Old Lumpinee stadium first opened in 1956 at its original location on Rama IV Road near Lumphini Park but has since moved to a new location on Ram Intra Road and holds up to 8,000 spectators. To win a championship belt here is the highest achievement in the sport of muay Thai.
Lumpinee remains the most prestigious stadium in Thailand but the new stadium certainly isn’t the same spectacle as the old stadium.
As with Rajadamnern stadium, Lumpinee has its own ranking system with weight classes starting from 100lbs. Some of the most famous nak muays to have fought here include Samart Payakaroon, Buakaw Banchamek, Saenchai Sinbi Muay Thai, Anuwat Kaewsamrit and Ramon Dekkers.
Tickets cost 200-2,000 baht per seat and shows take place on Tuesday and Friday from 6:30pm-10pm and Saturdays from 4pm-7:30pm and 8:30pm-12:00am.
Rajadamnern stadium is located on the Ratchadamnoen Nok Road near Khao Sarn Road and hosted its first fight in December 1945 after the Prime Minister of Thailand ordered its construction. This makes Rajadamnern the oldest standing stadium in Bangkok.
The building is made completely from stone and marble, making it feel like an ancient Roman amphitheatre and an atmosphere to match. As with Lumpinee, lots of famous boxers have become champions here including Malaiphet Sasiprapa, Jomthing Chuwattana, Bovy Sor Udomson and Jean Charles Skarbowsky.
Fight nights are every Monday, Wednesday and Tuesday from 6:30pm-10.30pm and Sundays from 6pm-10:30pm. Ticket prices range from 200-2,000 baht depending on where you are seated.
Channel 7 Stadium
The Channel 7 stadium is located at the Channel 7 TV studio behind the old Northern Bus Terminal across from Chatuchak market. These fights are mostly Thai vs Thai and are good quality match-ups.
The stadium is air-conditioned and ringside seats are an option if you don’t want to stand on the ground level or sit on the bleachers. Try to get to the stadium an hour early to avoid a lot of hassle as it gets really busy as it approaches fight time.
Fights are shown at 1:45pm on Sundays and the third Wednesday of every month starting at 12pm. Admission is free.
Omnoi stadium (officially named “Siam Boxing Stadium”) is the fourth largest of the Bangkok stadiums and holds up to 4,000 people. The current stadium was built in 1987 when the old Samrong became too small a venue for the increasing number of spectators who came to view the televised events on channel 9.
Although not considered as important as Rajadamnern or Lumpinee, Omnoi stadium continues to host some big name fights such as Saenchai Sinbi Muay Thai vs Khem Sor Ploenchit and Anuwat Kaewsamrit vs Puja Sor Suwanee.
It is common for foreigners to fight on the Omnoi channel 3 shows as well as Thais and it isn’t rare to see a foreigner vs. foreigner matchup being broadcast. Omnoi stadium was also the first stadium in Thailand to introduce a female commentator on the TV shows. Fights take place every Saturday at 11:am and the admission fee is 200 baht.
Rangsit was the first of the Bangkok stadiums to host female muay Thai fights and it remains the top stadium for Lad
Rangsit stadium hosts fights on Wednesdays and Fridays and is located on the Prachathipat Road in Rangsit. Fights start at 8:30pm and admission is 110 baht for women and 22o baht for men.
Fighting in Bangkok
Fighting in Bangkok isn’t always what its made out to be either. The fights foreigners get in Bangkok stadiums are just as bad as some of the fights that go on down on the islands.
You can get a fight in Lumpinee or Rajadamnern without even trying in Bangkok. The trainers will often want you to fight there so they can take a cut of the money from the promoter. These aren’t the high-level fights you’re used to seeing though, they are un-televised with barely anyone in attendance. These fights are put on to get a few more bums on seats and to make a bit of cash in between the important big-money fights between top Thais.
If you’re good enough to fight on the legit shows in Bangkok then you’ll know it, and you don’t need any advice from me.
If you’re in between that level i.e. you want to face good Thais/foreigners who match up well with you, but you’re not fighting on the big Lumpinee and Raja shows then I suggest seeking fights elsewhere in Thailand and the rest of the world on big shows which pay better.
So it’s pretty simple – you either fight on the legit shows in Bangkok stadiums or the lower-tier shows. OR you travel and fight elsewhere.
Bangkok can be a great place to train – but you have to find the right gym or you could end up at another tourist trap. I think Bangkok probably now has the biggest discrepancy in training quality now that a few westerners have opened gyms here and the Thais are also catching onto the fact that they can make money by catering to foreigners. But all that does is change the entire ethos in the gym and waters everything down because that’s what they think you want.
If you do want that, I would suggest heading down south to one of the islands, or maybe even up north to Chiang Mai.
Anyone who is at all squeamish probably won’t appreciate the hygiene levels in Bangkok gyms. Beginners who visit an authentic fighters gym may not get a lot of attention either, but if you’re still able to train with decent Thais in the gym then the trade-off may be worth it.
Overall, good training in places with top level Thais but ultimately quite depressing when living here full time.
Here are a few links that you may find helpful.
Lots of things to do
High-level Thai training partners
Trainers are usually more serious
More genuine people