If there’s one thing that all tourists do in Thailand, (other than drinking copious buckets on Khao San), it’s watching the Muay Thai in Chiang Mai. Last week I went down to Tha Pae gate, and to be honest I was prepared to be unimpressed since I’d watched it last year, and every second fight had ended in a “knock out”, which I knew very well was bullshit.
I think I must have gone to one of the more touristy ones last year though, because this time it was much better. Tickets are 400 baht, and around halfway through we were upgraded to the ringside seats which was definitely a win.
The fights are by weight, and my friend Rachel gave me all the information I needed, since she’s engaged to a Thai guy who’s also the manager of a Muay Thai gym here. Fighters are paid 2000 baht whether they win or lose, which could explain some of the “knock outs” I saw last time. Rachel said that if they’re up against someone a lot bigger, or a foreigner, it’s often not worth them fighting the whole five rounds and risking an injury.
Let me tell you ladies, these guys weigh around the same amount as western females, and there is absolutely no fat on their bodies. I’m talking 8 pack abs. It’s enough to make a girl want to step away from the rice and go for a run.
One thing I found strange was how they pour iced water over the fighters between rounds. I would think that would make their muscles cramp up, but apparently not.
One of the fights was marked down as a “special fight”, and it was “special” indeed. Basically, they take 5 guys, blindfold them, and let them into the ring to hit whoever they can sense moving around them. They look like clowns, and it’s an absolute train wreck but I couldn’t look away. The ref got walloped a few times, and they then came around and asked for donations once the fight was over.
Here’s a video of one of the fights, you can tell it’s the 4th round, cause the guys are exhausted:
The second to last fight ended early, as one of the fighters was seriously hurt. It looked like a devastating injury, and he couldn’t even leave the ring without assistance. It’s sad to think that fighting is his livelihood and I’m sure he doesn’t have insurance, or the means to have access to the level of healthcare and physiotherapy that we do at home.
I loved watching the families and friends of the fighters, who watched the fights so intensely.
The last fight was between a Thai fighter and a foreigner from Syria. The Syrian guy won, although the fight itself wasn’t anything to write home about. Of course we had to pose with the winner:
If you’re in Chiang Mai, be sure to take a night to watch the Muay Thai. There are tons of places to eat around the gate, and the whole atmosphere is electric. I’ll definitely go again before I leave.