Do you dream of hopping in a fighting ring and putting your opponents to shame with your float-like-a-butterfly-sting-like-a-bee skills? Looking to make a major lifestyle change that starts with a fitness vacation in a tropical paradise? Is the idea of going to a place that’s famous for churning out professional-level fighters just a little bit intimidating? If the answer to any (or all) of those questions is yes, read on!
Chalong Bay is a tiny part of Phuket: an island in the south of Thailand that’s internationally known for its world famous Muay Thai gyms. These fitness spots range from tiny and beginner-friendly to massive and professional. Plus, the bay is filed with assortment of fitness gyms, yoga studios, and an endless number of massage spots you can go to after a long day’s work out.
Curious but not sure where to start? We’re here to help you out:
What the heck is Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is a traditional Thai martial art, sometimes referred to as the “science of eight limbs” because you use your elbows and knees as much as your feet and hands. It’s an extremely effective fighting style that dates back centuries, and is a great fitness activity because the training includes high intensity interval and strength training.
In Thailand, Muay Thai not just viewed as a martial art; it has significant cultural associations and history. It’s a test of honor and fortitude as much as it is strength. People flock to Muay Thai gyms all over the country to watch fighters compete.
Each fight begins with the wai kroo, which is a ritualized kind of dance that honors each fighter’s teacher, Muay Thai itself, and the fighter’s country of origin. It doubles as a way for fighters to stretch out a bit in the ring before the fight. It’s interesting to watch, whether you’re catching a match on tv or make it to one of Thailand’s many Muay Rhai rings.
Why Chalong Bay?
The Muay Thai gyms that dot Soi Ta-iad, the main Muay Thai street in Chalong, are some of the best in the world; professional fighters from around the world come here to hone their skills before high level fights.
Most of the gyms offer onsite accommodation as well, with some including meal plans, so all you have to worry about is getting the most out of your training. Everything in the area is geared towards a fitness lifestyle, from the restaurants to the massage parlors to the supplement shops.
Plus, there’s a massive white Buddha statue atop the hill a few kilometers away, so you can go for a morning run or walk for some great views of the area. A lot of gyms will offer group runs here!
What are the best gyms?
If you’re an absolute beginner, and you’re a little bit intimidated by some of the larger gyms that are geared to more experienced fighters, you want to go to Chokchai. I definitely was nervous when I first arrived. A lot of the people walking the streets were in incredible shape, and I definitely wasn’t.
At Chokchai, I took my first two Muay Thai classes and fell in love with the sport. They were really great with first timers, working one-on-one or with pairs to make sure that the entire class learned the moves correctly and safely. Chockchai offers two classes a day on different aspects of Muay Thai fighting or other martial arts, and you get free passes to train here if you go to Titan Fitness or 5 Elements Yoga.
Phuket Top Team is one of the big-name gyms that’s well known for working with professional fighters across the globe. While the gym is top notch, beginners are more than welcome. I trained here, and you can too. Top Team offers a fully packed schedule six days a week, so you can choose between Muay Thai, wrestling, Brazilian jiu jitsu, and more.
The classes here are definitely more intense than at Chokchai, but you have so many more options and can tailor your workout to your strength, skills and energy level.
Tiger is the number one Muay Thai gym in all of Thailand. They take care of everything for you. You stay in their dorms, eat with their meal plans, and train onsite with some of the best instructors and figures in the world. It’s a one-stop shop. I’ve heard people joke that it’s a weight loss factory because of how regimented it is. That said, if you want everything sorted out for you — this is the place.
The training is great and highly professional. They also have great yoga classes with an awesome instructor. Sometimes they take their classes to the beach for sunset yoga. Spend six weeks here and you can’t help but leave Thailand in better shape than you’ve ever been before. The downside to Tiger is that it doesn’t have the same family feel as some of the smaller gyms, like Top Team; it’s much more businesslike.
Other Fitness Options
Titan Fitness is super popular people on fitness vacations. It’s another place that takes care of everything for you. They have all different kinds of fitness classes, a gym, an outdoor obstacle course, beach training, and an in-house restaurant. They get you fighting fit, rather than fighting.
5 Elements is one of my favorite places in Chalong Bay. They do four yoga classes a day, including a restorative evening yoga class and aerial yoga. If you stay in their guesthouse, all the yoga classes are included for free and they have a sauna and an ice bath that feels incredible at the end of the day. It’s run by an awesome Thai lady whose friendship was one of the highlights of my time in Phuket.