I had a nightmare of a journey to get there, but I enjoyed some exciting Muay Thai (Thai kick-boxing) at Lumpinee Stadium on Friday evening.
There are two large boxing stadiums in Bangkok -Rajadamnern (a.k.a. Ratchadamnoen) and Lumpinee. There are fights at Rajadamnern every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday whilst Lumpinee has events every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. On a previous visit to Bangkok, I went to the Rajadamnern Stadium, so this time I wanted to try Lumpinee. Lumpinee is further out of the city so would take longer to reach, but I had no idea just how much longer it would take!
The Friday night event starts at 6.30pm and ends about 11.00pm. I knew from my previous visit to Rajadamnern that the early fights are often the least entertaining, and that 4.5 hours of kick-boxing can be a long night. There were nine bouts scheduled for the event, so I decided to miss the first two or three and didn’t leave my condo until after 6.30pm.
I caught the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit, at the northern end of the Sukumvit line. From Mo Chit I would have to catch a taxi the rest of the way to the stadium.When I got out of the station about 7.20pm, I saw that the traffic heading north was bumper-to-bumper and wasn’t moving. It would have been pointless trying to get a taxi that was stuck in that mess, so I went to the southbound side of the road and was able to get a taxi willing to take me to the stadium. The driver suggested that we take the highway, to which I agreed. I soon realised that this meant I was responsible for the 70 bahts toll-fee (on top of the taxi fare). Whilst the highway may have been a bit less congested than the regular road, it wasn’t by much. All three lanes heading in our direction were congested with stop and start traffic. Meanwhile, the lanes going in the opposite direction were almost empty. What I had expected to be a relatively short taxi ride ended up consuming two hours of my evening! Fortunately, the taxi meter seems to primarily count kilometers travelled, rather than time spent, as the final fare for two hours and about 18km was 250 baht (less than $8) plus the 70 baht toll fee. There had been no sign of road-works or a traffic accident, so I can only assume that Friday night traffic is always gridlocked going out of town like that (and perhaps every weekday is the same). Had I known before departure that my journey would have entailed a two-hour taxi ride, I surely would not have bothered.
It was 9.25pm by the time I walked up the steps to the stadium and the 6th bout was already underway. I had missed the Thailand Super Bantamweight (122lbs) Championship bout (bout 5) because of the lengthy taxi ride! But I knew that the main bout was listed as bout 7, so there would still be something worth watching.
As I exited the taxi, one of the stadium staff (in an orange shirt and carrying a clipboard) approached me with a view to selling me a ticket. She advised me of the ticket options: first class 2,000 baht, second class 1,500 baht, and third class 1,000 baht. I’d already decided that I wanted to be in the cheap seats with the locals. I had sat in the 2,000 baht ringside seating at Rajadamnern and this time I wanted to be amongst the atmosphere of the betting locals. I told the staff member that I wanted the third class ticket and she told me that it was a championship night and was very busy – the third class section was full with little space available. Undeterred, I told her that was where I wanted to sit. With a disgusted look, she waved me away towards the ticket counter.I hadn’t moved more than a couple of feet when a second lady approached me and tried her best to upsell me to the ringside seats, telling me how busy it was in the third class section. I suspect that the staff are on commission to sell the higher-priced tickets. I stuck to my guns, bought the 1,000 baht third class ticket and was pointed to the entrance door.
I hadn’t eaten dinner and had initially intended to eat some food outside the stadium. However, due to the delay in the taxi and the fact that the 6th bout was already underway, I just wanted to get inside. After a quick purchase of a bag of Lays potato chips (crisps) and a can of Chang beer, I headed upstairs and found myself in the midst of an energetic crowd in the packed-out third class section. There are no individual seats in third class, just concrete steps or bleachers on which to sit/stand. And they all seemed to be full. I walked up the steps to the very back, from where I was able to see over the shorter Thais standing in front of me. It didn’t take long to realise that I’d made the correct decision to come to the third class section.
The 6th bout was still underway and it was a very competetive match. The crowd was loud and energetic, shouting for their favourites and loudly acknowledging knee-strikes to the abdomen with shouts of “Eeee.” There was plenty of action outside the ring also, as men in the crowd gestured to each other, signalling their willingness to bet and seeking others willing to take the bet. I have no idea what any of the hand signals mean, but betting on the fights is clearly an integral part of attending these events. And it adds to the atmosphere to be amongst it.
Video clip from bout 6 showing the action in and out of the ring (apologies for the shakiness of the footage).
Video from a subsequent round of bout 6 that was eventually won on points by Kaimukkaow (blue corner) against Lod-Lek in the 132lb weight class
Bout 7 was listed as the main event, in the 136lb weight class, and featured Muangthai (red corner) against Petchpanomrung (blue corner). There was a lot of excitement in the crowd over this bout and there was some strong betting action, as seen in this video clip:
In round 2 of the main event, Muanthai unleashed some viscious elbow strikes that put his opponent down and out for a TKO victory. Petchpanomrung had to be carried out of the ring on a stretcher, as seen in the clip below:
With the main event concluded, about half of the spectators left the stadium, with two bouts still to come.
Bout 8 was a 107lb bout that started out slowly but became more exciting as it went along. Petch-Eak (red corner) took a points win over Hinlad-Lek.
The final bout saw the lightest competitors of the night at 100lbs. There wasn’t much action in the first round and it was already close to 11.00pm. Concerned about the return journey, I decided to leave before the last bout ended.
When I got outside, I was soon approached by a taxi driver offering his services. But he quoted me 300 baht to get to Mo Chit. When I declined, he dropped his price to 250. That was what I’d paid for the two hour ride through horrific traffic, that I assumed wouldn’t still be a problem at 11.00pm. I declined the offer, telling the guy that I was going to get a metered taxi. He assured me that I wouldn’t be able to find one at that time of night. Oh really? I walked about 25 metres down the road, past the entrance to the stadium, and saw that taxis were pulling up for waiting passengers. It didn’t take long to secure a taxi that would take me to Mo Chit using the meter. That return leg covered 20km (he mistakenly took me to the Mo Chit shopping centre first, instead of the BTS station), lasted about 35 minutes and cost 165 baht. The taxi got me to Mo Chit station at 11.40pm, about 30 minutes before the last train departed.
Whilst I only saw two complete bouts and two partial bouts, I enjoyed my visit to Lumpinee Stadium but I would have reservations about going back for an evening event due to the horrendous traffic on week nights. Lumpinee’s Saturday events run from 2.00pm to 8.30pm so would likely be a better option to avoid heavy traffic.