In Bangkok, muay Thai training goes upmarket
From a visitor’s perspective, muay Thai usually brings to mind gritty fight nights at Bangkok’s Lumpini Stadium, or a questionable bout in a ring set up in an aging Phuket or Koh Samui bar.
In the past, tourists who wanted to give it a try themselves had few options beyond the professional camps targeted at hard-core fighters who want to come to Thailand solely to hone their skills with Thai coaches.
These days, you don't need to have MMA aspirations to take part in Thai boxing, also known as “the art of eight limbs” for its use of eight points of contact -– the hands, feet, elbows and knees.
Even Thailand's luxury hotels are starting to offer programs for guests who want to slap on some gloves and get into the ring.
Leading the luxury muay Thai charge is newcomer The Siam -- designed by renowned architect Bill Bensley and owned by the Sukhosol family -- which just opened in June.
Pick up any given global travel magazine these days and chances are you’ll see The Siam featured somewhere inside.
This remarkable new riverside hotel, filled to its carefully crafted rafters with antiques from the owners' private collections, was the work of years of planning. And the results are knocking every other luxury newcomer in the region out.
Among The Siam's highlights is the luxury muay Thai gym, where guests can take part in a variety of training programs depending on skill level, ranging in length from a single day to a full week.
"Muay Thai kick boxing is one of the core experiences that we offer here at The Siam," says Melanie Giles-Clapp, head of PR and wife of The Siam's owner, singer/actor Krissada Sukosol Clapp.
"It is our hope to offer our guests a unique and authentic Thai experience and muay Thai has never been done before at a luxury level."
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The Siam offers everything from a 15-minute "taster" and muay Thai 101 all the way to multi-day programs. Classes are available for both adults and kids.
"It was our GM Jason Friedman’s idea to add a muay Thai boxing ring to the gym, we had the space and he had the vision and we loved it!" says Giles-Clapp. "He deserves the credit –- he has done muay Thai training himself but never had the opportunity to do it in style and comfort, hence the idea."
Sessions take place between 7 a.m.-8 p.m., while guests can opt to include an excursion to a local muay Thai training centre to learn with the pros or check out a muay Thai fight night.
The Siam’s executive chef will also prepare special dishes in line with guests' training. Afterwards, ease those battered muscles with some specialized spa treatments at The Siam's Opium Spa.
Price varies according to program. 3/2 Thanon Khao, Dusit, Bangkok. +66 (0)2206 6998. www.thesiamhotel.com
Another riverside luxury hotel running muay Thai programs is The Peninsula, which just launched a package that allows guests to train with boxing champing Dam Srichan, a member of the Thai national team.
Guests get an hour with Srichan, which includes a crash course in the basics of muay Thai, as well as warm-up and cool-down exercises.
Next comes 30 minutes of deep relaxation in The Peninsula Spa's heat facilities and an 80-minute massage.
The muay Thai/massage package starts at 9 a.m. Guests will go home with a pair of embroidered kick boxing shorts as a souvenir.
Price: 5,000 baht/person. 333 Charoennakorn Road, Klongsan; +66 (0)2 861 2888; www.peninsula.com