Oh Muay, Thai!

Recently, I had a two night layover in Bangkok, Thailand.

Two nights in a country with a 13 hour flight either side of it may not seem like a particularly long time, but for Cabin Crew, this feels like a fortnight away!

I must admit, after a very busy, very eventful flight over, I slept much of my first day away, and only emerged from the comfort of my bed in the evening to enjoy some well-deserved cocktails, some local cuisine, and a few more cocktails…

Safe to say, we were all feeling slightly fragile on our second morning in Bangkok. This, combined with the facts that A) it was extremely humid, and my hair does not cope well with this, and B) I have actually been to Bangkok before, so have ticked off many of the typical tourist attractions (temples, river cruise…), I was on the hunt for something a little different to do, preferably with the luxury of air conditioning (for my hair & my hangover!).

One of the guys had mentioned that he was going to go and see a Thai boxing match, and, I have to admit, the idea didn’t blow me away to begin with. I’ve never really been into sports – watching or playing – but I decided to go along and see what all the fuss was about.

We bagged ourselves some ringside tickets at the Rajadamnern Stadium, one of the major stadiums for modern Muay Thai. As soon as we arrived outside the stadium, the atmosphere was amazing. It was busy and bright, and locals were shouting passionately at either the red or the blue corner, desperate for their earlier bets to pay off. We had an amazing view of the action, and were able to order hotdogs, popcorn, and beers straight to our seats, meaning we didn’t miss any of the action!

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In the centre of the ring stood two boys, who looked no older than about 18, and were a lot smaller and lighter than I had first expected (their weights are published within the programme given out to spectators), but I can’t believe how vicious some of the matched became! I’ve since done a little research, and Muay Thai is – according to Wikipedia – known as the “Art of Eight Limbs,” as it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows, and knee strikes; thus, eight points of contact. While I was initially quite shocked at how violent the sport appeared, it soon became clear how controlled the matches actually are, and the amount of physical and mental preparation the fighters go through.

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Before each of the 9 rounds, the athletes complete a pre fight ritual, which I personally found to be some of the most interesting and entertaining parts of the evening. The fighters would enter the ring by climbing over – never between – the ropes. This is due to the fact that, in Thai culture, the feet are considered dirty, and in stark comparison to the sacred head, which must remain above the feet at all times.

After climbing into the ring, they would begin by praying in each corner of the ring, walking round with their right arm never leaving the rope in order to ‘seal’ the ring and block out any outside negative forces. The fighters then go on to perform the Wai Kru Ram Muay, which is a ritual that involves performing a dance, usually passed on to the fighter through their gym or trainer, in order to pay homage to those who have assisted them in their journey to the ring, be that family, friends, and trainers.

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The fighters complete these rituals wearing a headpiece called a Mongkon, which is often spun of rope and silk, and blessed by Buddhist monks to ensure victory and protection for the competitors. Traditionally, the Monkon can only be handled by the trainer, never the athlete, and the trainer will remove the headpiece and say a short prayer before the fight commences. I found it fascinating that so much of the evening was dedicated to such traditions, and that prayer and spirituality was such an important factor in the matches.

The atmosphere, as I said earlier, was amazing throughout the entire evening, and I was genuinely glued to the ring all night – this had nothing to do with the fact that it housed extremely muscular men wearing nothing but a pair of silky shorts, promise! 

I’d definitely recommend going to a boxing match to anybody with a spare evening in Thailand, you won’t be disappointed!

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