15 July 2008
Thai Boxing. It didn't occur to me to check it out, but it was hard to turn down when issued an invitation.
We went to Ratchadamneon Stadium, one of the two professional boxing venues in Bangkok. Lumphini Stadium is actually more convenient for all of us but because of exactly the same reason, the fights there tend to include a bit extra showmanship. The couple of guys who have been to both say that Ratchadamneon felt more like a local boxing locale.
Water taxi from the centre of new town to the edge of old town. What fun! It was faster and cheaper than both BTS and taxis. It is a legit form of commute for many people, and unfortunately, we don't see much because the passengers tend to pull up shades made of rice bag materials to prevent being splashed. The passengers can really pack themselves in, but they left us farangs alone. We were jabbering, sometimes loudly the whole ride through. Which was just as well, because our status as farangs were clear to the point that a passenger was kind enough to turn around and alert us when it was our stop.
Back to muay thai, better known to English speakers as "Thai Boxing." Without knowing much about it, I found it to be quite disciplined and strictly controlled. It looked like boxing as many of us see in the States, only with kicks and kneeing included. When one fighter clearly lost before the fifth and end round, both fighters will do a dance maintaining distance, occasionally throwing out a half-hearted kick or jab, but giving the loser a chance to safe face.
Music. Oh my god. They had an assembly of musicians to play with the action. The band consisted of probably five or six people, all playing traditional instruments and seemingly traditional tunes. Tunes that seem better suited for snake charmers than boxers.
Stadium. As foreigners we have two options of seating. The ringside 2,000THB chairs, literally around the ring on the ground level. 1,500 THB would get you a seat on the stadium arena on the concrete. We opted for the second tier, not willing to spend all that money. They had attendants who came by to serve us drinks and snacks, if we want, but we were also allowed to bring in food (but not drinks). Being on the second tier seats was far better- we had a tier that the middle class Thais themselves purchases, but we had a whole section designated for foreigners. I kid you not. We had a better view of the ring, and a sense of excitement from being surrounded by the cheering Thais. We also were close enough to watch the betting in the upper ends of the stadium.
Rounds, two minutes each, 1 and part of 2 are inevitably boring, while the fighters throw out test punches and kicks, getting the feel of their opponent. Rounds 3 and 4 are the core of the action. Round 5 is the closing round, finalizing or solidifying the winner. Usually by the end of Round 3, you can tell who the victor would be. On top of that, the audience starts yelling "hit" for each contact, making it easy to get caught up in watching.
I walked away pleasantly surprised. After having dated someone who was into ultimate fighting, this was rather mild. More than anything, watching the Thais watch boxing is an experience of its own and the one I got out of this.