Get More out of Thailand with these 5 tips
Millions of visitors arrive in the Land of Smiles each year, but you can get more out of Thailand with these great tips.
Food is everywhere in Thailand. While it is tempting for visitors to eat in guesthouses and restaurants, the best dishes are found where the Thais eat. Some things are not to everyone’s taste (I am yet to meet a foreigner who likes pickled field crabs with their somtam), but there is a lot to discover outside of your comfort zone. If you are going to Thailand for training, then being out of your comfort zone is kind of why you are there. Many tourists won’t go further than pad Thai (yawn), curries and banana pancakes. Try some other dishes from the street vendors and roadside stands. Try khao soi, laab, nam dok, som tam, gyo nam, khao mok, khao men gai, pad kee mao – the list is literally endless. The other beauty of streetfood is that you can see it being prepared. That means no sudden bathroom surprises that put you out of action and slow your training. Join a long line: a line of people at a stall means that the food is good and the turnover is high – no food sitting out for the flies. If you do need a bit of Western food, then grab a burger or some french toast, but try to venture out more often than you seek comfort – it’s what you are in Thailand for.
It is easy to have a plan and try to stick to it, but in Thailand, things don’t always go your way. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it pays to embrace flexibility and impulse. The buses might not be running, or someone might tell you where you want to go is not as good as another place. An easy way to get more out of Thailand is to listen to others and be prepared to change your plans. I rarely book accommodation far in advance in Thailand, as my plans may not remain static. This extends to your training too. You can go with a plan, but you might find a particular trainer that specialises in a different area of Muay Thai. You might discover that an absolute clinch master is now training at the gym, so you would be dumb not to take advantage of that. Your diet plan will almost certainly fly out the window from the moment you arrive. All that protein and BCAA that you packed is likely going back with you. That budget you had for ringside seats might end up being more thinly spread over more fight nights in the cheap seats. Embrace change. Accept uncertainty. It’s part of the experience. You can’t always have a plan for everything.
Trust, but not indiscriminately
Everyone relaxes a lot in the Land of Smiles. What they don’t realise it that while locals are friendly, the Thais have several smiles, some of them actually show they are not happy with you. Situations can change very quickly and smiles can turn to frowns. There are countless stories of drugs being planted on foreigners, so that locals can get rewards from the police. I have met a few guys who got girls home, only to wake up and find their bags slashed and money taken. Many Thais carry knives, particularly if they work in industries that might put them in harm’s way. While the vast majority of people leave Thailand with nothing but positive experiences, precautions are a good idea. One tip I got from my friend Michael Powell of The Candy Trail, was to carry money and cards in a plastic bag. Nobody will think you have anything worth stealing if your wallet is a crappy shopping bag bundled up into your pocket. That all being said, you have to let your guard down too. Be friendly with strangers and have a great time. Your gym will be a haven of trust, so if in doubt about something or someone, ask one of the trainers at your camp. Remember this too – if you wouldn’t jump on the back of a stranger’s motorbike with no helmet and hurtle off into the unknown back home, question why you are doing it in Thailand.
Don’t get too drunk
Drink is everywhere in Thailand. Not just bottles of Chang and Singha, but crazy mixed drinks like the fearsome “buckets” made with Sangsom rum, syrupy Thai Redbull and Coca-Cola. It is very easy to get smashed out of your mind for next to nothing. The crowd will encourage you and almost everyone who has visited Thailand has overindulged at least once. Sometimes the padmen at the gym are the worst for this and I have been dragged out to drink whisky with them on more than a couple of occasions. Situations in Thai bars change rapidly though and when you are in a poor state, you can get into some serious trouble. I was almost killed in a bar brawl when two of my new drinking buddies took exception to something I did or said when I was heavily intoxicated. They sucker punched me and stomped on my head until someone jumped in to stop them. They were fighting for keeps. That’s the Thai way. I needed a metal plate in my face and had no recourse for justice. That incident changed my entire outlook on getting too drunk. If I was sober, I could have put my training into effect and defended myself. Sober, I would have stood a chance, but I was defencelessly drunk.
Go to a good Muay Thai camp
If you are reading this article, I assume that Muay Thai or MMA are at least interests of yours. So this advice is directly for you. Don’t cheat yourself with your training. Get more out of Thailand than just kicking a few pads while a disinterested padman shouts “oohwee” at you. Almost every town has a great camp. Phuket, once just a resort area, now has several great camps like Sitsongpeenong Phuket, Sumalee and Tiger Muay Thai. Foreigners had been fighting in Patong Stadium there for a long time, so it made sense to open gyms there, rather than expecting fighters to fly to Phuket from Bangkok each fight. Even the small islands have been attracting big names. Legendary fighter “The Emperor” Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn has a camp on the party island of Koh Phangnan, making it easy to get top notch training away from Bangkok and close to the beach. Do your research before you go, make sure that you are planned (but flexible) and know where you want to train before you arrive.
I hope that with these tips you get more out of Thailand and fall in love with it. There is nowhere else quite like it in the world. With a great balance of training, exploring, eating and chilling out, you can have the time of your life, while improving your fight game. Oh – and this goes without saying – go to watch the fights!
- Bamboo Island by Praveen
- Kra-pow by Eric Molina
- Patong Stadium by Jeff Gunn
- Bucket by Kullez