Thai kickboxing has become increasingly popular around the world in recent years. Lessons can easily be arranged at gyms in Bangkok. But for a more authentic experience, a trip to the Thai countryside is recommended.
Muay Thai, a.k.a. Thai kickboxing, is characterized by the use of fists, elbows, knees, and shins. It is therefore sometimes referred to as “the art of 8 limbs”. Dating back to the 16th century, it has become increasingly popular in recent years.
I attended Travel Blogger Exchange (TBEX) Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, from 15 to 17 October 2015.
In addition to the opening night party, keynote speeches, breakout sessions, workshops, and farewell party, there were pre-event and post-event activities as well as familiarization trips, which were organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
There were 10 two-night familiarization trips to choose from, with destinations running from such well known travel destinations as Chiang Mai, Krabi, Phuket, and Samui to some out of the way places that most non-Thais have probably never heard of.
I know that such short duration trips can actually be quite hectic because organizers try to pack in too much itinerary into too little time. So I decided to give them a miss.
Based on what I heard from some of the travel bloggers that did go on the trips, I probably did the right thing. They said they were downright exhausting!
Pre and post event tours included cooking classes, guided shopping tours, guided market tours, spa treatments, highlights of Bangkok tours, visits to interesting neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Little India, bar-hopping, museum visits, the list goes on.
Unfortunately, I missed out on the pre-event tours, but I did successfully sign up for a Muay Thai class after TBEX Asia ended. I had become interested in Muay Thai on a trip to Thailand a few years earlier.
We were told to meet at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Centre at 7 am, which is when they started serving breakfast at the Shama Sukhimvit, Bangkok, which hosted me for 2 nights during my 2 week stay in Bangkok.
Missing breakfast was much to my chagrin because it meant setting off on an empty stomach! Not only that, I had been told that the hotel’s breakfast was not to be missed! Oh, well …
As it turned out, I should have enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at my hotel. I was the first travel blogger to arrive in the bowels of the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center precisely at 7 am. Most of the hosts did not even show up for at least 20 minutes, some much later.
So I basically had a full hour to waste before being ushered unto a van with 2 other travel bloggers – one from Germany and one from Singapore – for the one-hour trip to the Sor Vorapin Muay Thai Gym, which is situated in the distant suburbs of Bangkok.
The 3 of us chatted the whole way, so the time passed quickly as we were transported from the urban chaos that is Central Bangkok to the bucolic countryside on the outskirts of town, where the gym was located.
Talk about being taken off the beaten tourism track! Our van couldn’t even drive all the way to the studio. We had walk about 10 or 15 minutes along trails cutting through rice paddies and banana groves to reach it.
Which only added to the sense of adventure!
Sor Vorapin Boxing Gym
When we finally arrived, I was delighted to discover that most of the other Thai kickboxing students in the class would be locals, who I assumed lived in the vicinity. There was also one other foreigner, who I learned later was staying at the camp.
First someone helped us don our gloves. Then we were invited into the ring one by one. A teacher or a more advanced student would use body language, facial expressions, and grunts to indicate what he wanted us to do.
We also practiced punching, kicking, and jabbing a punching bag. We practiced punches, kicks, and jabs in formation. We also ran as a group in a circle. I can’t remember exactly what we had to do except that it was more challenging than it sounds.
The class ended with a well-deserved shower and a ride back to the Queen Sirikit Convention Center in Bangkok.
There are lots of gyms teaching Muay Thai in Bangkok proper, but a trip into the countryside did lend an undeniable authenticity to the experience. And it was certainly not what I had expected when I signed up!
I figured that we were going to visit one of the countless gyms teaching Thai kickboxing in the Thai capital. So being taken into the countryside was a very pleasant surprise!
A 2-hour lesson runs 1,000 Thai baht (US$28). For double the price, you can spend the night. The camp has several rooms. A 2-hour lesson, accommodation, and 2 meals runs 2,000 baht (US$56).
Rooms are simple but clean. They have air conditioning, a small refrigerator, and a simple desk and chair.
I have given thought to spending a week or so taking Muay Thai lessons at the gym. It would certainly be a change of pace.
But what would I do when class was over and I wasn’t eating one of those 2 meals? I guess I could read. Or I could work on my blog.
Perhaps I could even take Thai language classes to find out what those Muay Thai teachers were actually saying to us when we were sparring with them in the ring!
Sor Vorapin Boxing Gym, 37/15 Suanphak Soi 1, Suanphak Road, Talingchan, Bangkok, Thailand. Telephone: 66 (02) 282-3551.