Posts Tagged ‘Bangkok’

Muay Thai Boxing, Sunday 13th January 2019, 6.30pm

April 29, 2019

Whilst I’ve been to kick boxing in Bangkok before, I’d not had the opportunity to see an event at the Rajadamnern Stadium as they don’t do Saturday nights. However, they do do Sundays and so a public holiday on the Monday meant that we had a rare chance to pop over to Bangkok for a longer than normal weekend and tick it off my list.

Jen and I landing late on the Friday night at the main airport, not the Don Muang one, and so I booked a hotel not too far away. Big mistake. The roof-top bar shown on the website turned out to be aspirational and as such so did my chances of a convenient drink.

The location was handy for a park though and on the morning of the boxing we had a wander around. Highlights were a few water monitors making their way around the rivers.

Later that day we took a taxi in the general direction of the boxing stadium but got out slightly early for a look around a temple. I can’t remember its name, same as with the airport, park and hotel, but it was just as you’d expect a temple to be and as with most of them not really worth the bother of having to remove your shoes.

It was a further half an hour or so’s walk to the stadium and despite there being more than an hour to go to the first bout there were plenty of people milling around. It was too early to buy tickets though and so we called into a café around the corner for some chicken that looked dangerously under-cooked.

Tickets started at 1,000 baht, which is about twenty-five quid and entitled you to watch from the back of the arena and from behind a mesh fence. Next option was the one that we took, lower down and with no mesh for 1,500 baht. If we’d splashed out an extra 300 we could have had a plastic chair, but I thought that section might be busier. I can’t remember what ringside cost, probably 2,000, but we’ve done that before and it’s a bit low down. I prefer to be above the ring rather than looking up through the ropes.

As with the bouts that we’ve seen elsewhere you get snake charmer music played before the start of each fight. There was a four piece band over to our right that reminded me of the one on those early French and Saunders shows.

The fighters performed a dance to the snake charmer music, weaving their way around the ring. Part of the pre-match arsing about involved them standing in a large metal dish and having water poured over them. I could see the benefit of the dish in keeping the canvas dry but I’d have thought a few drops of water would have satisfied whatever ritual was being carried out.

The first fight appeared to result in a disqualification for the boxer in the blue corner after he wrestled his opponent to the floor and in a move straight out of Freddy Natt playground drop-kicked him in the head. Fair enough. The other fella made the most of the foul, rolling about for a couple of minutes in the forlorn hope that a dinner nanny might turn up.

One of the plus points of our section was a fella scurrying around taking drinks orders. It meant that I never went short of 150 baht Singha beers and didn’t need to leave my patch of concrete to get them.

The interesting thing about the second fight was that both boxers ceased hostilities with about thirty seconds remaining of the final round and just danced around as if they’d suddenly spotted a pair of handbags on the floor. Perhaps the result wasn’t in doubt. It was a bit like in basketball where they don’t bother playing out the time properly at the end if one team is out of sight, choosing instead to just bounce the ball until the hooter goes.

Despite the boxing shorts being the usual length, the fashion among the participants was for wearing them rolled high at the waist and then pulled up high on the thigh like Souness in his pomp. A few of the kicks to the shins that we witnessed were uncannily reminiscent of the King of Ayresome Park too.

None of the boxers were particularly heavy but the final contest was notable for taking place at 96lbs. That’s six stone, twelve pounds if I’ve retained my fourteen times table knowledge. For the size of them it might well have been a couple of eight year olds in there. Sadly the place was just about empty by that point, possibly due to everyone else being uneasy about paying to watch small children boot the shit out of each other. On the basis that it’s nothing I haven’t seen the grandkids get up to and with a Singha to finish, we stuck it out until the final bell.

Horse Racing at Bangkok, Saturday 16th December 2017

January 18, 2018

We’ve been to Bangkok for the weekend a few times but as the horse racing usually takes place on a Sunday afternoon we’ve not had the opportunity to attend. I’d noticed a rare Saturday fixture at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club though and so we thought we’d pop along.

Our hotel was right next to the track. It was also handy for Lumphini Park and we spent the morning wandering around watching water monitors fight each other over a carp that one of them must have caught in the lake. We also saw one monitor digging up and scoffing some eggs, probably buried by a turtle.

The highlight of the wandering about though came outside of the park when we stumbled upon a cock fight at the end of a quiet alley. I got the impression that we weren’t particularly welcome and so we didn’t hang about but Jen managed to snap a couple of photos before we left them to it.

As with the recent trip to Ipoh, we got lucky with our hotel room overlooking the race track. So much so that we pulled a couple of chairs up to the window and watched the opening two races of the ten race card from there.

Good as the hotel room was, it didn’t have a tote counter and our view didn’t extend as far around the track as the starting stalls. It took us twenty minutes or so to walk to the track entrance. We were directed away from the posh bit, possibly due to membership requirements but more likely for scruffiness.

The 100 Baht section had no such qualms about letting us in and the stand overlooked the parade ring at one side and the winning post at the other. There was a 50 Baht gate a little further along which got you into a grandstand beyond the finishing line. Both areas seemed quite busy.

Our stand had a roof but wasn’t enclosed and so we didn’t benefit from air-conditioning. It was breezy though and with steady supply of chilled cans of Singha for just over a quid a pop I managed to avoid over-heating.

There were no seats in the stand either, just concrete terracing. That was ok too and we took up a position on the back row. Every now and then we’d have a tray of street-type food from one of the stalls that were lining the concourse area.

One of the odd things about the racing was that the horses would head around to the starting stalls a good twenty minutes before the scheduled start time of their race. They would then be loaded up and left to stand for at least a quarter of an hour. I couldn’t really see why they would do this as it seemed a long time to be cooped up.

For a change, we limited our betting to the live racing and that gave us plenty of time to ponder our selections. It was time that we didn’t really need as we followed our usual selection process of backing the horse with the best name. The system, once again, was spectacularly unsuccessful. There was a horse called Brian in one race and our early two quid bet briefly had him favourite on the tote. Once the more knowledgeable punters had placed their wagers he drifted to around 800/1.

I’m pleased to report that despite the lack of confidence from the market Brian managed to outperform expectations by finishing second to last. Hopefully that might delay his day out at the glue factory. After a day with no returns whatsoever we retired to the nearby St Regis where we were the only customers in a sealed off whisky and cigar bar. I was even able to turn their plinkety-plonk music off when no-one was looking. Perfect ending really.

 

Thai Army v Trang, Saturday 1st April 2017, 4pm

April 20, 2017

This was our fourth visit to Bangkok and I was determined that I’d finally get to see some Thai football. In a perfect world ex-Middlesbrough player Leroy Lita’s Sisaket team would have been in town. It’s always better if there’s a Boro connection. Sisaket were playing somewhere else though and so the next best option was a third division game between the Thai Army and Trang.

The stadium was just off the highway to Don Muang Airport. We’d spotted the ground from the elevated road as we’d arrived that morning and if you timed your journey to coincide with the rush-hour you could probably watch a good ten minutes or so of the action whilst your car inched its way into town.

The Royal Thai Army Stadium appears to be shared between the Thai Army and the second division Army United. Odd choice of name, unless there’s been some amalgamation of regiments going on. There was a sign outside of the stadium declaring that it was ‘The Home of Gentlemen’. That’s a lot better than the cringe worthy ‘Theatre of Dreams’ used elsewhere, but not really the kind of tagline that you’d imagine would strike fear into the enemies of an army. If you have to fight someone, it might as well be gentlemen.

There wasn’t anything going on at that first entrance and so we did half a lap around the ground to find the way in. There was no further mention of gentlemen, but instead we got a motto above the entrance pointing out that the third-rate kickabout that we had turned up for was ‘for country, religions, monarchy and people’. Quite ambitious, I suppose. I’ve always taken the view that football is just a way for people at a loose end to idle away an hour and a half or so.

It was sixty baht to get in, which is about a pound, fifty. Mind you the tickets weren’t even for the third division outfit, they were left over Army United tickets. The whole ticketing process seemed a bit pointless. After all, we could have just been waved through the gate after handing over our cash.

The army side were in a black and grayish stripey number, whilst their coaching staff were kitted out in a sort of red camouflage that might well have been ideal for hiding out in an Azalea bush. It didn’t really blend in at all though with either the pitch or the concrete stadium.

Trang were in an unusual combination of sky blue shirts with yellow shorts and trim. Both sides posed for the customary photos before we stood for the National Anthem which was bellowed out at top volume by a bloke to our left. They like their anthem in Thailand. Last time we visited Bangkok we went to the pictures, mainly for the air-conditioning. We got the anthem there as well.

The pitch wasn’t in much of a condition. It looked as if the home players had been carrying out foxhole digging practice in the goalmouths. There was one big covered stand, some seats in the bowl behind one goal and more at the opposite side to us. With the running track having plenty of room it did seem as if the ground was a little too big for football.

The crowd probably totalled around a hundred and fifty and I suspect most had some sort of military connection. The first half was scrappy with neither side looking threatening. Trang were probably the nearest to scoring late-on, but the Army keeper got down well to a low shot.

Five minutes after the restart the Gentlemen went a goal up. A free-kick was floated in and everyone missed it. The bounce almost beat the Trang keeper but he somehow managed to claw it out. It didn’t go any further though than an incoming striker who was able to nod the ball home to open the scoring.

The home side then doubled their lead on the hour with a well worked goal that was finished off at the back post.

A couple of the Trang players picked up yellows in the second half. Both nodded to the ref and smiled, acknowledging the decision good-naturedly. You don’t see that very often, which is a shame really. Maybe playing at the Home of Gentlemen had put the visitors on their best behaviour.

The Army saw the game out easily enough for a two-nil victory. We sloped off in the final moments and after a few failed attempts to explain to taxi drivers where we wanted to go we eventually, with some local assistance, managed to get a cab back into town.

Muay Thai Boxing, Bangkok, Saturday 24th December 2016

March 9, 2017

Jen and I have already been to Bangkok a couple of times this year, but my plans to see some football had been thwarted by heavy traffic on the first occasion and then, on our next visit, by the cancelling of their FA Cup final due to the Royal mourning period.

This time we were in town so that Jen could run in the Christmas Day Half Marathon. The 2016 Thai football season is over though and so I’ll have to wait until March or so to get to a game.

The race began at 4am, a time that I regarded as ideal for getting up on Christmas morning as a child, but one that seems a little on the early side these days. Still, it went well and I was able to cheer her home in what turned out to be a year’s best time.

The previous night we’d went along to Lumpinee Stadium to see some Thai boxing. It was quite difficult to grasp the ticketing situation. From what I could work out, there were three categories of ticket; ringside, second class and third class and priced at 2,000, 1,500 and 1,000 baht respectively.

I think, although I’m not certain, that the ringside and second class tickets can be bought either from the box office or from one of the boxing clubs associated with the stadium. I presume that the clubs get a bulk discount that enables them to sell the tickets at face value and still be able to take a cut of the price.

We bought ringside seats through one of the clubs and were given a ‘free’ tee-shirt each before being escorted to a section of reserved seats at ringside. Our chairs were in the second row, but had we arrived earlier we could have taken a front-row seat.

The stadium wasn’t that big. There were only three rows around the ring and the remaining seats beyond that were banked. To our right was the second class area that had individual seating. I had a wander into that section and it provided a decent view. It was further away from the action than our ringside seats, but it had the advantage that the view wasn’t obscured by the ropes.

On our left was what I assumed to be the third class section. It didn’t have seats but had concrete terracing. Initially people were sat down but as the action started everyone stood. Most of the people in the third class section looked to be local, whereas in the ringside and second class areas it seemed to be foreign tourists.

There was plenty of betting action going on in Third Class, with wagers being struck via shouts and waved fingers, presumably denoting the round in which the fight would end. It all appeared very chaotic, a little I suppose, like the stock market trading used to be. The settling up of stakes and returns took place in the much less frenzied atmosphere at the end of each bout.

Each fight lasted for up to five, three minute rounds and there were twelve contests on the card. The fighter’s weights ranged from about seven and a half stone up to maybe, nine and a half. I’d have thought we might have seen some lighter boxers, although I don’t know the rules on weigh-ins. Maybe the listed weights are ‘on-the-day’ weights rather than from the day before and prior to re-hydration.

I’d initially wondered if the boxers were all ‘house fighters’. Their club affiliations were listed on the bout sheet though and they came from a variety of different clubs.

I’d not seen Muay Thai live before and I was struck by how brutal it was compared to regular boxing. The infighting consisted mainly of kicks to the legs and knees or to the guts or ribs. I’d expect that cracked ribs are commonplace.

The fellas spent a lot of time on the floor as well. Grappling and then throwing your opponent to the canvas, before falling on top of him was routine. Again, I’d have thought that broken bones would be a frequent occurrence. The referee would often be caught up in a fall and the fighter at the bottom of the pile risked having two bodies land on top of him.

First bell was at 4:30 in the afternoon and each fight was quickly followed by the next. The initial four bouts which included the main event were televised. We had an early night planned due to the 3am alarm call for the next day’s race and so we left after a couple of hours and six of the twelve fights.

It was an entertaining evening though and so next time we are in town I’ll try and check out one of the other Muay Thai venues.