Muay Thai or Thai Boxing
Lumphini and Ratchadamnoen Stadiums are the nerve center of Thai boxing in Bangkok. Here regular bouts are held, which is a high-octane, vociferous and unruly affair. In Thai boxing, the blows are hard-hitting and real, not the WWF kind.
Thai boxing is a vicious but graceful martial art, practiced in Thailand for centuries. During 1920s, the sport was banned due to the high incidence of death and serious injuries. Later equipped with Queensbury rules for added safety, it was reintroduced. The bout consists of three 5-minute rounds. The players are allowed to use all parts of their body except head, to force the opponent to surrender and defeat. Another attraction of the bout is the dance routine, Ram Muay, performed at the beginning by the fighters. It is to appease the spirits, and to pay respects to the art and the teachers.
Some of the popular venues of Thai boxing are listed below.
Lumphini Boxing Stadium, Rama IV Rd., next to Suan Lum Night Bazaar
Telephone: 02-251-4303, 02252-8765, 02-253-7940
Timings: Tue & Fri from 6:30pm-10:30pm, Sat 5pm-8pm, 8:30pm-midnight
Ticket rates: 1000 baht, 1500 baht, 2000 baht
Ratchadamnoen Stadium, Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue
Telephone: 02-281-4205, 02-280-1684-6 I
Timings: Mon, Wed, Thu 6:30pm-1pm, Sun 5pm-8pm, 8:30pm-midnight
Ticket rates: 1000 baht, 1500 baht, 2000 baht
Takraw (Kick Volleyball)
This game requires the combined skill of volleyball, football and gymnastics. Lumpini Park on Sundays is a favorite haunt of takraw players, which include students, security guards and tuk-tuk drivers. In this game, two teams play each other with a dozen per side. The rattan ball is kicked about without using the hands. The aim is not to let the ball touch the ground on your side of the court. This ancient game is very popular in Bangkok and it guarantees a packed stadium. The athletic fluid motions of the players are amazing to watch.
The people of Bangkok are great believers in the benefits of aerobics and they practice this form of exercise in spite of their busy lifestyle, in the open areas of the park. The evening hours of around 5pm, see the young and old of Bangkok, including the office-goers, throng the parks to follow the aerobic routines under the guidance of a coach. Most of these classes are free and it is easy to locate them due to the high-decibel disco dance songs. Lumpini Park and Benjasiri Park are the ones in the heart of Bangkok to have these sessions. Rommaninat Park at Siriphong Road, near the Giant Swing, Saranrom Park at Thaiwang Road, near The Grand Palace and Chatuchak Park are the other parks with aerobic classes.
Racquet Club, 49/9 Sukhumvit, Telephone: 02-714-7200
Yen Akat Court, Soi Yen Akat, Telephone: 02-249-6935-6
Badminton is a popular game among the young and old population of Bangkok. One reason for its immense popularity is the simplicity of the equipments required. You just need a racquet, a shuttlecock and some chalk powder to draw a court. The game is played everywhere – in courtyards of houses, on roads, in empty plots of land and local playgrounds. Badminton courts are also available on rent and sometimes even free of cost. The Youth Center in Lumpini Park, Racquet Club and Yen Akat Club are some of the centrally located courts.
Bowling a favorite past time among the Thais. Ten-pin bowling alleys are available at most shopping malls. Due to the immense popularity of this sport among the young crowd, these bowling alleys are turning into nightclubs with bars that stay open until midnight. These nightclub-cum-bowling alleys have special light effects and DJs pumping high-voltage music. Blu-O at Siam Paragon, Major Bowl atop J-Avenue in Thonglor and SF Strike bowl in MBK are some of the bowling alleys. The Esplanade offers private rooms and alleys on rent for private parties.
Web site: www.grosshopperadventures.com
Tours: Sun-Bangkok, Daily Chao Phraya, Sat & Thur barge
For affordable cycle tours in and around Bangkok and even to some location in Southeast Asia, Grasshopper Adventures is the best. Most of these trips are cycling tours and sightseeing combined, which makes it a worthwhile experience. They offer a leisurely ride around the city along quiet back lanes and lush green parks. This tour is done on Sundays and covers 15kms for USD20. Local guides accompany the cyclists and the roads chosen are flat good. A minimum of two is required for tour booking. However, the operator also offers customized tours.
For longer and challenging cycling expeditions, the 3-day tour to the Chao Phraya Islands (USD200) or Bangkok-Ayutthaya 2/3-day tour (USD180-215) is ideal. These expeditions combine cycling with traveling and living aboard a transformed rice barge.
Sub-Zero Ice Skate Club
Ratchadapisek Rd, Esplanade 4th Fl [MRT Thailand Cultural Centre]
This is not just an ice rink; it is more of a nightclub with youngsters swaying to the DJ-ed music and the rink ablaze with strobe lights. For beginners, coaching services are offered for speed skating, figure skating, ice skating and even ice hockey. The lessons cost anywhere form 700 to 1500 baht. The pro shop in the complex has a full stock of blades. You can even go there to have a look around and take advantage of the ‘ice bar’ on the side of the rink. Of course, karaoke facilities are available here as well.
Lumphini Park Youth Center
Soi Klang Racquet Club, Sukhumvit Soi 49-9
The National Stadium
With the rise of Paradorn Srichaphan in world tennis, it has become a popular sport among the young Thais. Many hotels have in-house tennis courts for exclusive use of their guests. However, if you want to try some public courts in the city, there are a few of them. Some charge a nominal fee, while others are available free of cost. Bangkok hosts two major tennis tournaments – the ATP’s Thailand Open and the WTA’s Bangkok Open.