Thai Boxing, Biking and Burgers in Chiang Mai…

Our trip from Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai went pretty smoothly. We bought the bus tickets from Chiang Rai’s Terminal One Bus Station (aka the ‘old’ bus station in the centre of town) for 132 BHT each. This was for the 2nd Class A/C bus with The Green Bus Company which leaves Chiang Rai around five times a day from Bus Terminal Two (aka the ‘new’ bus station).

Getting from one terminal to the other is easy – you can either take a tuk tuk for around 30 BHT or just get on the minibus that transfers local passengers to and from the two terminals. The minibus (or songthaew as it’s commonly known) costs just 10 BHT per person, so that’s what we did!

When we got to Terminal Two we were surprised to be directed towards a rather posh looking silver coach. We’d presumed that the cheap ‘2nd Class’ tickets would entitle us to the types of buses that we’d been used to so far on our travels, but perhaps they do it differently in Thailand!

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So after a comfortable 3.5 hour journey, with just one stop halfway, we arrived at Chiang Mai’s Arcade Bus Station, just a couple of kms from the city centre. We got a tuk tuk for 20 BHT each to our guesthouse close to the Mae Ping River and checked in!

Our first stop on arrival in Chiang Mai was over the river to a certain US chain-restaurant that we hadn’t come across in over two months… McDonalds!! We thoroughly enjoyed a break from noodles and rice with double burgers and over-sized drinks, before heading back to the guesthouse to sort out our washing and plan the rest of our evening.

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Chiang Mai is known for it’s Muay Thai Boxing stadiums and we had heard that every Friday night it’s possible to watch a real match at the Kawila Boxing Stadium, East of the Mae Ping River. This is quite close to our guesthouse so we walked round there very excited, only to find that the stadium was shrouded in pitch black and was closed! A few of the locals on the road outside tried to explain that we couldn’t go there, but with their limited English couldn’t tell us why or where we could go to actually watch a fight. After speaking to a woman in another local guesthouse we found out that the stadium had burnt down and was in the process of being re-built! She said that the fights had moved to the Municipal Stadium north of the ‘Old City’ and that they started at 9pm. It took us around 45 minutes at break neck speed to walk up to the Stadium, but once again, when we got there most of it was in the dark and the only people there were a few runners, BMX-ers and a bunch of girls practising cheerleading! Obviously not Thai fighters!

We found someone sat in a booth and asked him about the boxing. He then told us that it had moved again to the Thapae Gate Boxing Stadium – a 30 minute walk back the way we came! Anyway, we eventually found it, discovered that the Kawila Stadium fighters did in fact now fight there, paid our 400 BHT entrance and sat down at our seats 15 minutes early and one row back from ringside!

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Our seats were great and the matches soon commenced – first a ‘Lady’ fight, followed by 5 more fights.

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Some of them were pretty fast paced and the third match was awesome – the guy in the blue gloves didn’t stand a chance!

Just before the last two fights, they put on a special fight where three young fighters were blindfolded. The whistle blew and off they went, punching the air, the referee and occasionally eachother! It was very funny.

The boxing is a great night out – you can buy food and beers there too and because of the stadium’s proximity to Thapae Gate and the centre of town, there are plenty of bars around for you to continue your night out afterwards.

The next morning we hired a motorbike and went off to explore some more of Chiang Mai and it’s many Wats and temples. The first one took us 15 kms outside of the city centre and up the winding mountain roads towards Doi Suthep National Park. Right at the top of the mountain is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep – a Buddhist temple accessed via some very steep steps, which gives visitors a fantastic view of the sprawling Chiang Mai city below.

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Back inside the city walls and after a thrilling down-hill ride on the bike, we visited three more Wats – Pra Singh, Chedi Luang and Chiang Man. By far our favourite Wat was Chedi Luang. This is right in the centre of town and here you can see the remains of the original Wat before it was half destroyed by an earthquake. It’s a magnificent building and makes the newly built temple beside it pale into insignificance.

Wat Pra Singh

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Wat Chedi Luang

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Wat Chiang Man

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Sightseeing done, we headed to the train station, followed by the bus station, to compare prices to Ayutthaya in central Thailand, our next stop. Whilst it would have been a nice change to get the train instead of the bus, it was quite a bit more expensive so we opted for the Government run bus for 364 BHT each. This is an A/C bus to Bangkok which should arrive in Ayutthaya at around 5.30pm (leaving at 9am from Chiang Mai).

That night we decided it was time to sample some of Chiang Mai’s nightlife and went over to the university area of the city. There were some very cool bars there, all with a really funky vibe and hardly a tourist in sight! It wasn’t at all seedy unlike the tourist bars, as we later found out! Before going to the tourist area we first had to drop the bike back at the guesthouse then get something to eat! We’d been so busy all day we’d hardly eaten, so decided to walk towards the night bazaar to find some local food. We ended up in ‘Food Street’ and had some delicious Khao Soi and Red Curry!

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We then headed up nearby Loi Khor Road where halfway down we came across the Loi Khor boxing stadium surrounded by about 20 bars, where a so-called ‘real’ fight was going on. Somehow we doubted that any real fighting was happening in this touristy nightspot. Most of the bars were frequented by Western gentlemen in their 50’s, escorted by young Thai girls or, shock horror, Thai ‘Ladyboys’.

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We sat there for a while, just taking it all in, before walking up to the end of Loi Khor Road where the rest of the busy bars were. Here, we found one playing some really good music so sat drinking beer and Thai Whiskey whilst watching some more ‘Ladys’ accost the foreigners walking by! Richard was particularly confused by some of the Thai girls playing pool and had real trouble distinguishing ‘what was what’!

The nightlife in Chiang Mai was certainly quite eye-opening but probably just a mere glimpse inside the night scene of Bangkok – we’re looking forward to that! There is definitely a great night out to be had in Chiang Mai but as we’ve realised you just need to choose your ‘area’ carefully! The rest of the town is pretty ‘big city-ish’ and it’s only really around the old city walls that it has any character. Getting out and about on a bike is once again one of the best ways to enjoy Chiang Mai!

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