Muay Thai is a huge part of the culture in Thailand, literally everywhere you look. The Thais are definitely into training and have their own gyms, and you’ll see little open-air Muay Thai gyms that consist of a ring and little else all over the place. Likewise, there are arenas big and small where they have organized fights (and disorganized gambling!) and trucks driving around blaring ads for those fights from rusty loudspeakers, often with the Muay Thai fighters themselves doing demonstrations in the back.
Fairtex Training Center in Pattaya
If that’s not enough for you, you’ll also see foreigners training everywhere, as it’s become a big business for travelers to come to Thailand and immerse themselves into Muay Thai training camps, whether they’re for one lesson mostly for the photo op, for a month or two as a live-in student, or, often to lead up to their first official Muay Thai fight (respect!).
Speaking of big business, there is no bigger brand in Muay Thai – home and abroad – than Fairtex. I had the opportunity to visit the Fairtex training center several times in Pattaya, the Las Vegas of Thailand that’s an hour and a half from Bangkok. In fact, they have Fairtex gyms in Bangkok, China, Australia, San Francisco, Japan, and others.
But back to the gym in Pattaya, it’s hard to see that it’s a gym at all when you’re walking by. In fact, I can only describe it as an entertainment complex – nothing short of eclectic and all-encompassing. There is no front and center clear entrance that it’s actually Fairtex you’re walking into, but a couple of smaller doors and confusing signage.
The reason for that is that they have their own hotel right there that’s most prominent (and not called the Fairtex hotel.) I assume that’s mostly for people who want to stay there and train, but who knows? It’s a nice hotel but a little old and not many people walking through it.
But I think there are other very humble accommodations for fighters who want to stay and train because I see guest houses with tons of athletic shoes out front. Anyways, you walk through the bowels of the hotel or wind through their alleys and courtyards and reach the gym part, which consists of a huge area with several rings outdoors under a high airplane hanger roof. There are always trainers working out with students, and it’s really cool to watch and impressive. They also have a big indoor gym that’s more of a health club set up with weights, cardio machines (air conditioning!) and more indoor training facilities.
Add in a full-service spa, restaurants, a giant swimming pool, a sky-high outdoor climbing wall, and a strange zoo area with wild cats and owls, and you have Fairtex. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part of Fairtex – the gift shop. If you suck at Muay Thai and aren’t training (cough cough) then the next best thing is to wear the gear and try to look cool. So I did have a chance to step into the shop and buy two pairs of awesome training shorts (that actually were comfortably in my size at XL!). They also have plenty of gloves, wraps, shin guards, etc. and t-shirts, singlets, and killer sweatshirts (I couldn’t stomach the price tag). The gear isn’t cheap at all, but it’s quality, as Fairtex started as a garment company.
Check out Fairtex in Thailand some time – and take the time to train before you hit the gift shop!