Muay Thai, or Thai Kickboxing, is a national obsession. All boys learn the art of Muay Thai at school and, like “western” boxing, it can be an escape from poverty into fame a riches for the very best.
The “armchair traveller” can easily watch bouts on Youtube and read all about the history and techniques of this martial art but, unless you have been there and experienced it you don’t hear the sounds or smell the smells.
No, you have to go to experience an evening of Muay Thai. If you can, go to the Rajadamnern stadium near the centre of Bangkok to watch an important professional evening of fights rather than amatuer fights in a tourist resort.
I decided to take only my 50mm f1.4 lens with me, to maximise the quality of low light photography. I think it worked quite well. Obviously a longer fast lens would have been preferable but I am not made of money!
So, what can you expect to experience if you go. Well, if you can afford it, about $60 will get you a ring-side seat. You will be close enough to feel and hear the blows. You will see the rhythmic swaying of the fighters as they move to the hypnotic music that accompanies each fight, played live by three musicians sitting on a balcony overlooking the ring. Like snakecharmers they seem to dictate the pace of the fight. You will smell the liniment oil that the fighters use to protect their bodies from the rigour of this brutal sport.
You will also see and hear the excitement of the crowd. This is driven by a combination of the love of the sport and the gambling that is an intrinsic part of the Muay Thai experience. Frantic and complex hand signals dart between spectators signifying changing odds. How the ultimate payments are settled I couldn’t begin to understand, but work it must.
It is an experience worth an evening of your time and, you may, like me, even be inspired to have a practical lesson where you can experience the feeling of kicking and kneeing a heavily padded trainer!