The self-imposed drinking ban mentioned in my last post lasted, rather predictably, a pathetic eight hours or so. It’s just so hard to say no when a big bottle of Singha costs just over a quid.
I’d heard from a few people that Muay Thai is a must see when visiting Thailand and, despite not really being into combat sports, I was pretty keen to tick it off the list. The fact we were bombarded with leaflets for the night’s fights upon arrival at Chiang Mai train station suggested that we were in a pretty good place to watch it. As our Chiang Mai schedule was pretty hectic, we decided to go to the Thaphae Boxing Stadium on our first night to check out the action.
We paid 600 baht (just over a tenner) for VIP ringside seats and we had table service too which was handy. Another reason it was so hard to say no to drinking!
The first fight was between two kids who honestly couldn’t have been any older than 10 years old. There was a part of me that was fairly uncomfortable watching this particular fight, but I was also blown away by how technically gifted these two young lads were. I was also very aware of the fact that they could almost certainly beat the shit out of me.
The following adult match ups picked up the intensity a lot as you’d imagine. We started to see more and more knockouts, which was actually pretty crazy to see in a controlled environment instead of outside a club at 4am.
It was really interesting to see the respect involved in Muay Thai and the values that appear to be instilled in the fighters. One particular example occurred during the second match. I can’t remember the names for the life of me, so they’ll be known as “Red” and “Blue”.
It was a pretty close fight when, seemingly out of nowhere, Red delivered a devastating kick to Blue’s jaw and knocked him clean out. As you can tell, the technical terms aren’t exactly my strong point but you get the gist!
Anyway, Red very quickly did the customary bows to all the referees and rushed over to check on Blue, made sure he was ok and helped his trainers with carrying him out of the ring. As a football fan, a sport in which everyone is trying to screw over their opponent, this was a very pleasant surprise to see.
It was also around this time we met the local “bookie”. Now I’m partial to a bet here and there on the football, and I was expecting a similar type of set up whereby you go to a betting stand, fill in a form and are given pre-determined odds for your selections. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Basically, a guy walks round in a fake Man City shirt with a wad of cash, puts a note down on the table and tells you who he’s backing. You then have the option to match his bet for the other fighter. Of course, he’s always backing the favourite so you’re at a disadvantage already, but we only bet 100 baht at a time and it makes it a little more interesting when you have a vested interest.
Needless to say we took no money from him, but it was still a good laugh. My personal highlight was when I’d already put my 100 baht down for a certain fight and Reid had just returned from the toilet. Of course Man City’s number one fan was over like a shot to try and get Reid to put 100 baht down too. After a bit of chat he put his money on the table only for our guy to get knocked out within three seconds. Quickest 100 baht I’ve ever seen spent!
The night continued very much in the same vein, however the action was broken up in the middle by one of the more surreal things I’ve seen on my travels. Five guys piled into the ring, and we were anticipating some sort of WWE style Royal Rumble.
However the referee proceeded to put blindfolds on them and essentially let them run riot. Obviously, as they were blindfolded the referee himself took a few whacks, which was pretty funny. I’m not sure how much of it was a stage show, but either way it was very entertaining. Could you ever imagine that getting past health and safety back home?!
The night flew by and before we knew it we’d sank a few beers, lost a bit of money and it was time to go home. For someone who isn’t a fan of this type of thing, I had a quality night and I’d recommend it to anyone. It was similar to when me and the lads went to the darts in February (that’s the first time Chiang Mai has been compared to Blackpool) in that not everyone in the group was a darts fan, but the right amount of alcohol and enthusiasm can make a great night of it.
On the way out the bookie said with a huge smile and pound signs in his eyes; “see you tomorrow”. Maybe not so soon, but I wouldn’t rule it out at some point.
Update: 10th March 2014
A week later we revisited the Thaphae Boxing Stadium, got more drunk and placed more best and guess what: we actually won some! It felt right to recreate the previous week’s picture with our mate, so here it is…