Samui Wining & Dining
MUAY MUDDLE!
There are two Thai boxing stadiums in Chaweng – let’s straighten out the online muddle.

There are two Thai boxing stadiums in Chaweng – let’s straighten out the online muddle.There are two Thai boxing stadiums on Samui, but if you try to book online, then you’re in for some fun. Firstly they’re both in Chaweng. They’re both about ‘Muay Thai’ boxing. And they both get their actual names abbreviated, as they’re too long to say in full. And then you can add the fact that there’s a whole bunch of stuff online that’s years out of date – a lot of websites refer to a third stadium which disappeared years ago, not to mention that many people refer to Petbuncha as ‘Chaweng Stadium’.

          

To clarify things: there’s ‘Samui International Muay Thai Stadium’, just off Chaweng Beach Road (the way in is close to the landmark of ‘The Islander’ pub. And then there’s ‘Petbuncha Samui Stadium’ that’s over by the end of Chaweng Lake, next to Laem Din market. And if you need further proof how confusing all the various variations of these names are, a close look at TripAdvisor shows that about half of the reviews for each are from people who think they are in the other stadium!

          

Anyway, once inside, the content – what you’ll see and how it’s presented – is just about identical. I’ll only point out one glaring difference: in one (and I don’t dare say which) Thai people get in free and have an exclusive little area only for Thais. If you happen to go with a Thai girlfriend or a Thai family, you won’t be allowed to sit with them. You’ll have to sit on your own, away in the paying seats.

          

The art of Thai boxing, Muay Thai, is an ancient one, and in the past (before the internationally popular MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) appeared on the scene) was considered to be not just superior to boxing, but deadly also. Its exponents use knees and elbows as well as fists, and kicks are an essential part of the discipline. It’s Thailand’s national sport and, as such, young boys (and now even girls)There are two Thai boxing stadiums in Chaweng – let’s straighten out the online muddle. train fiercely and with commitment from a very early age.

          

And, hardly surprising considering that this sport is so ancient, there’s a great deal of ritual attached to it – although many would insist that this is merely historical, and the true heart of Muay Thai is in its spiritual engagement, rather than the showy presentation.

          

Before each fight, a small orchestra of musicians present ‘sarama’ – a rhythmic and atonal mix of sounds produced by two kind of oboe-like pipes plus drums and cymbals. There’s no melody; the idea is to create the right mood for the fighters to focus fully. And during the fight the tempo rises and falls, with a great deal of frantic improvisation and clashing of cymbals, designed to stimulate both fighters to engage with more determination.

          

Although, before this all starts to happen, both fighters will lull themselves into a mental and spiritual calm. They undergo several minutes of ritual, each in their own part of the ring, to ward off evil spirits and secure protection from good spirits, backed up by the mystical power of their headbands and amulets.There are two Thai boxing stadiums in Chaweng – let’s straighten out the online muddle. Then they’ll perform the ‘Wai Khru Ram Muay’, to honour this ancient art, and pay respect to their trainer, by circling the ring three times before kneeling and bowing three times as a sign of respect to Buddha, before going through a personal but symbolic dance to demonstrate their prowess to their opponent and the audience.

          

To check this all out for myself, I went along to the Samui International Muay Thai Stadium, on the main Chaweng Beach Road – simply because they are not the ones who are responsible for those infuriating loudspeaker vans which run endlessly around Chaweng. This venue underwent a complete refurbishment last December, and the new entrance and foyer would not be out of place in a high-class hotel.

          

There are three pricing bands: 1,500 baht for standing (or sitting on the steps), 2,000 baht for the mid-range tiered seats, and 2,500 baht for the ringside VIP seats (with tables and waitress service). A tip here right away: the VIP seats are actually below the floor-level of the ring and you’ll get a far better view from higher up.

          

The format is that the first fights of the night are between the youngsters – often some very young ones – and boy do they have some go in them! This will lead into bouts between Thai fighters, and end up with the international fights at the end. Usually these are the fiercest, as the completive spirit between Thais and foreigners is strong! The bouts start a little after 9:00 pm and go on until quite late.

          

It’s all become a bit of a tourist trap, with ‘tours’ being offered and concessions being handed out down the line and expensive drinks prices. (Note: go in person to the stadium and save money on your booking.) But . . . what you’ll see is in no way diminished by this. It’s the real thing. Booking it might be a bit of a ‘Muay Muddle’, but it’s all well worth it!

          

Rob De Wet


 


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