One of the best parts of training in Thailand is choosing where to train. With so many great places to train in Thailand, it can be hard to choose where to train. Should you train in the mountainous region to the north or on the tropical islands near the beaches?
For most people, the choice will come down to the four largest destinations in Thailand for Muay Thai: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Pattaya, and Phuket. Each place represents an entirely different environment for training. There are some other regions like Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan, Krabi, and Koh Tao that also have tourist camps that I will cover also.
There are some other regions like Hua Hin, Koh Samui, Koh Phangnan, Krabi, and Koh Tao that also have tourist camps also. I will provide a brief segment on each area that you may want to choose.
It is important to note that everyone has different needs. If you are already a top level fighter, you will want to choose a training destination that you can get a lot of good level fights. If you are a beginner, you should probably choose a gym that is used to dealing with beginners and has a few people your level to train with.
Most people don’t consider air quality when they are booking a trip to Thailand, but pollution can be extremely bad in the months of December-April in Bangkok, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai. In fact, in the months of February-April, Chiang Mai is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Since most gyms are outdoors, pollution is a definite factor when choosing a gym.
The Southern destinations like Koh Samui and Phuket have the least amount of Pollution year round. So if you want to avoid pollution and are visiting during the Dec-April months, I suggest you train in the south of Thailand on one of the islands.
If you plan on training in Chiang Mai, Bangkok or Pattaya, the best time of the year is between May-October during the rainy season. The pollution is not nearly has bad as the winter months and the training is much better.
If you are stuck between two different destinations, you should do both. Why not train a few weeks in one place and another few weeks in another location? That will allow you to see more of Thailand and know where you should train on your next visit.
Training Destination #1 – Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the craziest cities in the world.
Whether you decide to train in Bangkok or not, you have to visit when you come to Thailand. It has massive shopping malls, one of the world’s largest outdoor markets, hundreds of temples, the best selection of food in Thailand, and it is the home to the best Muay Thai stadiums in Thailand.
In short, Bangkok pretty much has everything, except for beaches.
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 gyms that built around 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, which 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.
As a result, if you show up at a gym full of Thai champions, you will not get a lot of attention. These gyms prioritize their top fighters, and you will notice that these guys get the most attention before a fight.
Bangkok has the best Muay Thai fighters 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 regarding quality of fighters and talent.
When it comes to experienced fighters who have a lot of fights under their belt, Bangkok is the ideal place to train outside of Phuket. The level of competition is unparalleled to anywhere else in the world. You will find the most amount of current and ex Lumpinee and Rajadamnern 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.
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.
While there are gyms in Bangkok like Khongsittha that cater to beginners, those gyms tend to be pricier than other places in Thailand that have excellent beaches and fewer people.
- 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 Rajadamnern
- 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 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 safe as long as you don’t venture to the protest zones
- Hard to navigate Around
- Less Catered to Beginners/Intermediate Students
- Expect a Tuk Tuk Driver on Your First fight
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 located 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 huge tourist destination, so you will still have access to you all creature comforts that you are used to. Chiang Mai is also the best destination for elephant lovers, as there are nearby conservation areas that cater to them.
While Chiang Mai is less touristy than places like Pattaya, it still has plenty of tourists. You will still see a significant amount of industry catered specifically to the tourists who visit the city.
- Big 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 severe 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 constantly bombarded 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 regularly 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 on the southwestern 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 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 you’re 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 is the largest amount of foreigns training and fighting, you are likely to have a better matchup (not always the case.) With fights happening six 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.
Where to Train MMA in Thailand?
Besides the Muay Thai, Phuket is the de facto home of the top MMA camps in Thailand. If you don’t want to train Muay Thai and want to take an MMA trip, I suggest you visit Phuket.
Phuket is home to the three largest MMA gyms in Thailand: Tiger Muay Thai, Phuket Top Team, and AKA Thailand. All of these gyms are catered to the western market. Tiger is the biggest, Phuket Top Team as the best atmosphere, and AKA has amazing facilities.
Even though you should probably stick to Muay Thai in Thailand, these are the three options if you are stuck on training MMA while you travel to Thailand. If you plan on training Muay Thai, I would suggest you train in a Muay Thai dedicated camp. Get a real authentic feel, instead of a commercial vibe.
- 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
- Best place to train MMA in Thailand
- Accommodation and training is more expensive here
- Most Gyms are catered to Tourist unlike Bangkok gyms
- Perilous roads to drive on
- Overly Touristy – Expect to be surrounded by a million Russians and Chinese on the beaches
Less Popular Training Destinations
Hua Hin is a city that is south of Bangkok located near the beach. The city has reputation for being the holiday destination of the wealthy Bangkok elites. That being said, it has also seen some tourist gyms pop up in the past few years.
There are a couple of gyms located in Hua Hin that has become quite popular among some Muay Thai travelers.
Hua Hin has its charm that is hard to deny. If you want more of a laid back feel, with lower prices and good food, Hua Hin is an option.
Keep in mind that there are only a few gyms to choose from.
Koh Samui (Koh Phangnan and Koh Tao)
The three islands located on the East coast of Thailand are also popular training destinations in Thailand. Koh Samui has one of the reputations as being one of the cheapest places to train in, while the islands of Koh Phangnan have some reputable training camps.
The island of Koh Tao is known for their cheap diving courses, so if you want to train Muay Thai and get your diving certificate, then that is an option also. Koh Phangnan is home to the famous full moon parties, which can see upwards of 50,000+ tourist come to the island for the night.
Overall, these are heavily touristed areas. Expect to see only tourists at most of the gyms you train in. If you are a beginner, you will get set up with some local tuk tuk drivers in your first few fights, until you are good enough to face tougher competition. Koh Samui has the biggest stadium in the area, so expect to take boat trips over if you are training on the other islands.
Issan (Northeast Thailand)
Issan is home to a few Muay Thai camps that some people like visiting. If you train in Issan, there is not much to do besides train. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what you want to do with your vacation.
One thing I love about Issan is the food. If you like spicy food then you should visit an Issan restaurant. The food is amazing, and it can be relatively healthy if you tell them to avoid putting in MSG in the food. (“Mai Sai Pung Shoe Rote” is the rough way of saying no MSG please)
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 choosing 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 fantastic beaches and beautiful islands, choose a place like Phuket or Koh Samui.
Better yet, plan to make a few stops on your trip to train in multiple areas. There is no reason why you can’t train in a few locations in the land of smiles.