Muay thai has a rich and intriguing history as Thailand’s national sport. Bangkok in particular is famous for its muay thai kickboxing matches, featuring Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen Stadiums, the two most famous muay thai stadiums in the city. Champions from these venues are considered the cream of the crop. Along with soccer, muay thai is one of the most popular sports in Thailand.
An intense, swift mélange of kicks, punches, knee strikes, and elbow strikes, Muay thai uses eight “points of contact” instead of the two or four utilized in most other boxing or martial arts. Muay thai was originally developed as a defense technique during war. Over time, it became a popular spectator sport, and progressed to become the entertainment of kings. Consequently, Muay thai eventually became a potential ticket to residency in the royal palace, as kings often asked practitioners to teach their palace staff and guards the art.
Nowadays, many muay thai fighters continue make a living from the sport, albeit funded more by the general public than the nobility. A musical ensemble provides a live soundtrack to every Muay Thai fight, in keeping with the current level of action in the ring. The fused sounds of drums, cymbals, and a Javanese clarinet help rouse the audience and instill in them a sense of urgency about the fight at hand. Join the Bangkok locals and partake in observing Thailand's centuries-old tradition of muay thai kickboxing at one of the three venues below.
Located on Rama IV Road in Lumpini Park, Lumpini (also spelled Lumpinee) Stadium is an indoor arena run by the Royal Thai Army. Championship weight class titles go from 111 pounds, or Flyweight, to 147 pounds, or Welterweight. Gambling via hand-signals is allowed here, but must take place on the second level. Tickets generally cost around 200 to 2,000 baht, the latter securing coveted ring-side seats. Contests are held every Tuesday and Friday from 6:30 PM, Saturday from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, and that same night from 8:30 PM onward.
Ratchadamnoen (also spelled Rajadamnern, along with other variants) Stadium is located on Ratchadamneon Nok Avenue. Championship titles here go up to 160 pounds, or Middleweight. Ratchadamnoen Stadium has slightly pricier tickets than Lumpini, ranging from 500 to 2,000 baht. Fights take place more frequently here, on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at 6:30 in the evening. Ratchadamnoen also offers a discounted Sunday ticket price. At Ratchadamnoen and Lumpini especially, fights are well-attended and crowded. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance for major events, since they sell out quickly.
Admission to the Channel 7 Stadium, located behind the old Northern Bus Terminal across from Chatuchak Park, is completely free. Events at Channel 7 Stadium are often televised, and occur every Sunday and third Wednesday of the month. On Sundays, the fights begin at 3:45 PM. On Wednesdays, the fights begin at 12:00 PM. Take the Bangkok Transit System to the Morchit stop, and then hire a taxi to avoid a long walk.
Muay thai, one of Thailand’s ancient traditions, still enjoys great popularity today. Bangkok is home to Lumpini and Ratchadamnoen Stadiums, two of the most well-known places to watch Muay thai kickboxing. The free admission at another Bangkok stadium, Channel 7, offers an enticing discount. Whether you prefer to be right up close to the action with the more expensive ringside seats, or slightly farther back for considerably less baht, a muay thai fight is a crucial Thailand experience.