If you are thinking about training Muay Thai in Thailand there are a number of options to consider. For most people the choice will come down to the 4 largest destinations in Thailand for Muay Thai: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya and Phuket. Each place represents a completely different environment for training.
There are many other areas you can visit that are not included in this list that have great gyms. Places like Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan and Krabi are just of few of the many other destinations. This article only breaks down the most popular places to train.
Training Destination #1 – Bangkok
Whether you decide to train in Bangkok or not, you definitely have to visit when you come to Thailand. Bangkok is one of the most unique cities in the world. It is home to massive shopping malls, one of the world’s largest outdoor markets, temples, and the best selection of food in Thailand.
Bangkok has an immersive BTS and MRT system that covers a good portion of the city and one of the largest fleets of taxis in the world. Transportation is never an issue when you train in Bangkok.
Filled with crowded streets, an unlimited amount of food options, busy traffic, heavy pollution, and even the occasional political protest, Bangkok is home to the largest number of authentic Muay Thai gyms.
By authentic Thai style gyms, I am referring to the fact that these gyms are not catered to foreigners. Authentic Muay Thai gyms make their money from the earnings of their Thai fighters that fight on the local circuits, with a goal of having Champion fighters that can bring in more money to the gym. Unlike tourist gyms, that make their money from the paying tourists who are training at the gym, Thai gyms don’t cater to tourist and focus heavily on their in house fighters.
In terms of Muay Thai, Bangkok has the best gyms in Thailand. It is home to the legendary Lumpinee and Rajadamnern stadiums. Living in Bangkok will give you access to the best that Muay Thai has to offer in terms of quality of fighters and talent. Bangkok has the largest selection of Thai gyms, however, most of these gyms are not catered to tourist and are focused on raising Thai fighters.
When it comes to experienced fighters who have a lot of fights under their belt, Bangkok is the place to train. The level of competition is unparalleled to anywhere else in the world. You will find the most amount of current and ex Lumpinee and Ratchadamnoen fighters training at the different gyms scattered around Bangkok, which is what makes it so appealing to the many Muay Thai enthusiasts that train there.
For someone who is at a beginner or intermediate Muay Thai level, Bangkok can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with the Thai language and are new to muay thai. If you end up at the wrong gym you might find it difficult to learn anything because the trainers might not speak a word of English. Bangkok is not easy to get around, so expect to get a bit lost trying to find the various gyms. Everyone should try training in Bangkok at least once, just to say you’ve been there and done that.
- Highest level of Muay Thai Competition in Thailand
- Huge Selection of Authentic Muay Thai Gyms
- Unlimited Food and Entertainment Options Available
- Can fight in the world Famous Stadiums Lumpinee and Ratchadamnoern
- Most number of current and ex-champions
- Heavy traffic and pollution can put a lot of people off
- Most “authentic” Muay Thai gyms aren’t catered to tourist. Expect them to concentrate on their own fighters
- No Beaches – This is a big turn off for people who are looking to have that perfect holiday in Thailand
- The Occasional Political Protest – It’s generally safe as long as you don’t venture to the protest zones
- Difficult to Navigate Around
- Less Catered to Beginners/Intermediate Students
Training Destination #2 – Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is the ideal destination for people looking for that authentic Muay Thai feel, without being situated in a huge city like Bangkok. Chiang Mai is situated in Northern part of Thailand and has a more Mountainous feel to it. The city has everything that you would want in a big city, yet it still maintains an authentic feel that cannot be found in the island destinations like Phuket and Koh Samui.
Chiang Mai has a smaller amount of Muay Thai gyms compared to places like Phuket or Bangkok, but there are enough options to keep everyone happy. One of the benefits of training in Chang Mai is it’s a very big tourist destination, so you will still have access to you all creature comforts that you are used to back home. Chiang Mai is also the best destination for elephant lovers, as there are nearby conservation areas that cater to them.
People who are not interested in the tropical islands and beaches to the south, can train Chiang Mai to have a different experience. While Chiang Mai is less touristy than places like Pattaya, it still has plenty of tourists. You will still see a large amount of industry catered specifically to the tourists who visit the city.
- Great City that is full of Thai Culture
- Plenty of Gyms for you to Choose From
- Mountainous Area that is Great for Hiking and Trekking
- Cheap Accommodation
- Clean air throughout most of the year (Avoid March, April, May because of BAD pollution)
- Mosquitoes! some of the gym locations are home to a crazy amount of mosquitoes in the evening. Expect to be eaten alive.
- No Beaches – What you get in mountainous hills, you lack in beaches and islands.
- Not as many options for gyms
- Less Tourist Training in Chiang Mai – Since there are fewer gyms on the island
Training Destination #3 – Pattaya
Since Pattaya became one of the major sex tourism stops for the American servicemen during the Vietnam war, it has grown into a city that hosts over 4 million visitors a year. Filled with tourist from all over the world, including a huge Russian population, Pattaya is a popular Muay Thai training destination for tourists.
Some of the most famous Muay Thai gyms in Thailand are located in the infamous Pattaya. Gyms like Fairtex Bangplee and Sityodtong gym are just a couple of the big name gyms that call Pattaya their home. Pattaya also happens to be the sex capital of the world, so this is also a big destination for the sex tourist who wants to do a bit of training and have a girlfriend or two on the side.
Unlike Chiang Mai and Bangkok that are big cities without the beach, Pattaya has the ocean right by the city. This is a big tourist city so you can expect to be bombarded constantly with people trying to sell you something or women who want to become your girlfriend.
For some people who are looking to focus solely on Muay Thai, Pattaya is filled with too many distractions that can pull them away from training. If you are the type of person that is not phased by constant harassment from the local sex workers, then this place could be for you.
I visited Pattaya back in 2007 and the whole city felt like a brothel. I remember being solicited for sex constantly as I was walking down the streets and going into the shops. If you stay on the outside of the tourist areas I am sure you can avoid this scene as much as possible.
- City is right next to the beach
- Number of good gyms here
- The craziest nightlife in all of Thailand
- Abundance of accommodation options
- Sex Capital of Thailand (Pro or Con depending on the person)
- Constant Harassment from locals who are trying to sell you things (tourist areas)
- Very inauthentic feel to the city (Tourist Central)
- You will see the ugly side of Thailand
Training Destination #4 – Phuket
The last popular destination that most people will consider is Phuket. Phuket is an Island that is situated off the south-western part of Thailand. It is right near another famous island in Thailand, Koh Phi Phi, a place that every tourist visiting Thailand wants to visit. Phuket is by far the most popular training destination for people visiting Thailand.
There is a common misconception that training in Phuket means training in Patong (the heaviest tourist part of the island), however, this is far from the truth. In fact, most of the Muay Thai gyms on Phuket are actually located far away from Patong.
There is a huge number of foreigners currently living and fighting in Phuket, so you won’t feel alone while your there. Phuket has the largest amount of gyms that are catered specifically to tourists. Gyms like Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket Top Team and Sinbi Muay Thai are all hugely popular and have visitors from all over the world. There are also some smaller gyms on the island like Singpatong, that have high level fighters and maintain a Bangkok style of training and fighting.
If you are planning on having your first fight in Thailand I would recommend starting out in Phuket, as there are the largest amount of foreigns training and fighting, you are likely to have a better matchup (not always the case.) With fights happening 6 nights a week, you won’t have a shortage of options available.
Most would argue that the main advantage to training in Phuket is the access to the beaches and different tourist attractions on the island. This is one of the reasons why Phuket is one of the most popular destinations to visit in all of Thailand. In addition to the beaches and surroundings, there is no shortage of food options available for those looking for a good meal.
- Beaches, Beaches and More Beaches – It’s hard to go wrong on an island paradise
- Largest Selection of Muay Thai Gyms catered to foreigners
- Access to surrounding islands like Phi Phi and the beautiful Krabi
- Largest amount of westerns training/fighting gives better fight matchups
- Great Training atmosphere and Environment
- Huge selection of fitness camps if you don’t like Muay Thai
- Highest number of foreigners training and fighting here
- Accommodation and training is more expensive here
- Most Gyms are catered to Tourist unlike Bangkok gyms
- Very dangerous roads to drive on
- Overly Touristy – Expect to be surrounded by a million Russians and Chinese on the beaches
Conclusion – It All Depends on You
Try them all.
The only way you’ll know where you should train is if you try different places. Don’t get stuck on one area or another.
The best place to train Muay Thai in Thailand will depend on what you are looking for. If you are looking for that pure authentic style muay thai filled with rigorous training, then a place like Bangkok is the perfect option. People looking for a great cultural experience while being surrounded by luscious mountains should consider a place like Chiang Mai.
And of course, for the people looking for that training “holiday,” while being surrounded by amazing beaches and beautiful islands, Phuket is the choice destination. In a perfect world, you would train at all three destinations and find a place the fits you the best.
Please Note* There are more locations to train in Thailand, but these are the three biggest muay thai destinations in Thailand.