Thinking about traveling to Thailand to train Muay Thai? As travel objectives continue to evolve, people no longer just travel to sightsee but more importantly, to experience. For the growing band of Muay Thai lovers, a Muay Thai vacation is unquestionably the best getaway. Training Muay Thai everyday, attending world class Muay Thai fights, indulging in authentic Thai cuisine, enjoying the best Thai massages for cheap, and soaking up the energy of the tropical sun. Pack your bags. It’s time to start planning for your next vacation.
A Brief History of Muay Thai
As with most martial arts, Muay Thai came about as a combat system meant for self-defense and military application. Originating in Thailand, it developed into a formal sport in the early 20th century with a format similar to Western boxing in terms of a ring, referee, set rounds and boxing gloves. Muay Thai gained popularity worldwide around the 1970s after several fights where Muay Thai fighters defeated practitioners of other combat arts. Since then, foreigners have flocked enthusiastically to Thailand to train and fight competitively.
Over the years, the culture of flying to train Muay Thai in Thailand has developed into a rite of passage for many lovers of the sport. Fighters, amateurs, enthusiasts and wannabes alike, take time off to eat, sleep and train Muay Thai (and repeat) on what has come to be known as the Muay Thai vacation.
What is a Muay Thai vacation?
Basically, it’s a vacation where you train Muay Thai, eat Muay Thai, and live Muay Thai. You train like Thai fighters do, eat what they eat, and live in squalid conditions. Alright, I’m exaggerating about the last part.
Whether you want to lose some weight, improve your Muay Thai skills, or try training Muay Thai for the first time, there are many gyms in every major Thai city that would fit your needs like a glove. On the other end of the spectrum, there are many who train in Thailand with intentions to enter fights either back home or right there in the country itself. You will find yourself quite welcome regardless of where you fit on the spectrum. And as long as you can afford it, you are welcome to stay as long as you like (or at least till your visa expires).
The thing is, Muay Thai vacations tend to be a mixed bag of experiences. There are so many Muay Thai gyms in Thailand that are open to foreigners that it’s not surprising to read reviews of every imaginable and unimaginable experience. Both positive and negative.
Gyms that churn out world champions may not necessarily have the best facilities and hygiene. For many gyms, sanitation is not always a top priority and the focus is often on the quality of the training itself. Unfortunately, it isn’t uncommon for foreign fighters to go away with skin infections especially in a humid climate as Thailand. These gyms aren’t the most pleasant of environments to train in and clearly, such a “vacation” isn’t for everyone.
That said, the chance to train Muay Thai in its place of origin, with the best trainers and pro fighters, training the Thai way, it’s an experience of a lifetime. You just need to be at the right gym.
The New Muay Thai Vacation
To attract and accommodate the ever-increasing number of foreigners of all different levels coming to learn and train Muay Thai, enterprising gyms continually improve their facilities and innovate their programs. Putting the “vacation” back in a Muay Thai vacation, a small number of gyms are spearheading the way for a complete Thai experience that extends beyond just Muay Thai. These gyms offer travelers not just an enriching experience to practise the enchanting sport of Muay Thai in a pleasant and authentic environment, but also activities to explore and experience Thai culture.
Here are some elements of a great Muay Thai vacation:
#1 Dedicated Muay Thai Trainers
Not all Muay Thai gyms are run with the same level of excellence and passion. There is a wide disparity of standard and quality between the best and the mediocre. Other than tip-top training equipment and facilities, more often than not, your experience depends a lot on the dedication of your trainers. A half-hearted pad holder who reeks of alcohol can ruin your entire training session even in a big-name gym. While an enthusiastic trainer who encourages and takes initiative to give pointers or sharpen your techniques makes for the best training experience.
Sometimes, the number of trainees can far outnumber the trainers which limits the amount of attention given to individuals during training. This is especially frustrating for complete beginners. But a dedicated trainer will go out of his way to make sure each and every of his trainee gets the attention whenever it is needed. This is the true mark of a dedicated Muay Thai trainer.
#2 Excellent Service
What’s there to say about service? When you come across excellence in service, you will instantly feel it. To reiterate, gym standards vary, and the size of the establishment offers no indication of their service level. To avoid naming names, some of the well known camps in the industry have occasionally garnered poor reviews for their indifferent service staff and even less enthusiastic trainers. Such encounters can certainly diminish anyone’s vacationing spirits. In the best Muay Thai camps -whose objective is to ensure a flawless stay-, you can expect the quintessential Thai service that is nothing short of the very best Thai hospitality and warmth.
#3 Comfortable Accommodation
As the Thai tourism industry is a key source of income for the country, tourism-related infrastructure such as hotel standards continually improve. However, the quality of in-house accommodation varies from gym to gym. This can range from rather squalid bunks to modern resort-style rooms of great comfort. When it comes to the new Muay Thai vacation experience, think boutique resorts set amid lush environments and tastefully-decorated rooms with clean, bright spaces. I can’t think of a better way to rest and recharge after a session of intense training or a long day of sightseeing.
#4 Extracurricular Activities
Thailand has regularly clinched the spot for being the world’s most popular tourist destination. The weather can be sweltering and the infamous Bangkok jam can be a slaughter, but everything else makes up for it. To make your vacation experience more meaningful, thoughtful gyms have taken to organise activities that extend beyond the gym. Sightseeing, attending stadium fights (electric atmosphere), group dinners (a great time to sample authentic Thai cuisine and get to know fellow travellers), and taking part in one of many exciting city events.
Where to Go
Bangkok and Phuket are the 2 top most popular destinations for Muay Thai vacations. The former, arguably the most exciting city in Asia with a balanced blend of urban madness and old world charm and endless activities. The latter, a tropical paradise with stunning beaches and swanky modern facilities to trap you longer than you intended. Either way you choose, you can’t really go wrong. From my experience, Bangkok-based Khongsittha Muay Thai is one of the trailblazers that is paving the way for the new standards of Muay Thai vacations.
Khongsittha Muay Thai welcomes all participants of all skill level to train Muay Thai in a friendly and pleasant environment. It is a large, modern facility that combines high standards of training with resort-style accommodation. The big faculty of enthusiastic and patient trainers are dedicated to improve Muay Thai skills according to each individual’s level. The gym caters very well to foreigners and locals alike and you will feel very welcome at all times.
Besides the passionate trainers, Khongsittha has a dedicated management team that provides activities outside of the gym. These include going to stadium fights, events happening in and around Bangkok, group dinners, etc.. At the end of the day, a spacious, clean room with comfortable bed awaits you to end the splendor in sweet slumber. Train hard, play hard, rest hard. Looking for the perfect Muay Thai vacation in Bangkok? This might just be what you are looking for.
Muay Thai vacations no longer need to be an exercise in masochism. With passionate trainers, boutique accommodation, and activities that extend beyond training, your Muay Thai vacation will never be the same again. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: you may never want to leave. And be prepared to bring home tonnes of exotic tales to share with your friends and family back home.
Chok dee and Bon voyage!