Muay Thai Photos Credit: Brian Spencer
Two personal firsts from a recent Friday night at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium for muay thai boxing. One, as you might imagine, was watching two wiry fighters without a trace of body fat stretched across their 102-pound frames pound away at each other’s midsections, calves, and faces in carefully delivered flurries of kicks, punches, and knees while I sat just a few feet away. The second was slightly less violent but no less jarring–sipping lukewarm Chang beer not from a cool, frosty mug, or even a thin plastic cup, but rather through a straw from a plastic bag with little handles.
Hey, with the humidity rising with each successive bout and bloodthirsty mosquitos nipping at my ankles as we watched from our almost-ringside seats, that beer-in-a-bag couldn’t have been any more refreshing. Chang Draught is, actually, served at Lumpini in plastic cups, but we instead took turns ducking back out into the street and buying our brews from a vendor at more than half the price. That’s where the bags came into play: you aren’t allowed to bring beer cans or bottles into the stadium, but beer in a plastic bag? Mai pen rai (“no problem”).
Lumpini Stadium is located in the Pathumwan section of Bangkok on busy Rama IV Road, where old, overheating buses dumping plumes of thick black smoke in their wake compete with taxis, tuk-tuks, and fearless (read: no helmets) men and women on motorbikes for a spot in traffic gridlock hell. The stadium is about an hour walk from our apartment on Petchaburi Road, but on that night we decided to pay the 25 Baht fare to ride the BTS Skytrain from Siam Square to Sala Daeng station, then walked it from there. From Sala Daeng it’s a brisk 30-minute or so trek down Rama IV, past the sidewalk restaurants-come-beer gardens bordering Lumpini Park and the sprawling, touristy Suan Lum Night Market.
We scoped out the scene one week earlier and were prepared for the smiling, English-speaking touts positioned out front offering to help purchase your admission tickets. They’re absolutely harmless, but there’s simply no need to risk paying more than you should or of perhaps being sold a counterfeit ticket that won’t be accepted at the door by the ragtag security team. As of January 2009, tickets for farang (a general Thai term for foreigners of Western descent) run 1,000 Baht for third-class, 1,500 for second, and 2,000 for ringside; Thais will pay significantly less. Most foreigners opt for the priciest tier, but we went with the second-class, where we enjoyed stellar vantage points from our seats on the long, rickety wooden benches that circle Lumpini Stadium.
And what an atmospheric setting this old Bangkokian gem provides for fight night.
Much more from Muay Thai fight night at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium after the break…
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