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SANTAI OR HONGTHONG? - Chiang Mai


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SANTAI OR HONGTHONG? - Chiang Mai
Hello everyone!
I’m Priscilla, an Italian k-1 fighter (still at regional level at the moment, even though the fighting season is not done yet). I’ve been thinking about Thailand a lot in last months and made many resources. Santai Muaythai and Hongthong Muaythai came up to me as the two best gyms in Chiang Mai, in which I could find what I’m looking for. 
I want to improve my skills so much (and learn Muay Thai skills too) and to fight (if the teacher thinks I’mma be ready), due to covid here in Italy there are not too many chances. 
I’ve just read Sylvie’s opinions, which were so helpful (thank you champ).
But is there anyone who have trained at both gyms? 
Which one do you think could fit better for a girl fighter? Which do you think is the best, considering gym and accommodation facilities (I can’t find many pictures of the JR guest house, the Santai’s accommodation), “community” and trainings? 
Thanks:)

 
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Hi there!

I've just finished my first session at Hongthong this evening so I might not be the most qualified person to comment as I haven't trained at Santai but from my perspective things were really lovely at Hongthong.

I had some technical correction from my pad holder but not to the point where it seemed like I had been doing things wrong forever. In terms of fighting I've gone there expressly for the purpose of fighting and they seemed really happy and willing to let people fight (someone actually agreed to a fight at the time I was there so its not like it is a 'behind closed doors' deal).

Unfortunately, I can't comment from the perspective of being a female fighter in a gym but that being said it seemed like the women who trained with us today were included. I don't feel like they were as actively included as men were. I had to offer to spar with one of the women because she was left without a partner but I'm not sure if that is just a one-off or a long-term thing. I do know that women do fight out of that gym successfully so I imagine you would have opportunities to get rounds in and all that. But, from my perspective as someone who is openly, though not too openly, queer I felt comfortable. People were respectful and didn't seem to be creepy towards the women at the gym though I don't speak Thai and can't comment on whether anything was happening that I didn't understand. 

From a community standpoint they were lovely I was introduced to everyone, and they made an effort to remember my name. I got good treatment and jumped right into the group really, I've even been invited to a gym drinks on the weekend. So in terms of 'community' it seemed really nice but I can't say whether that will be universal as I'm able to pass as a cis-het man. 

All in all, after only one day of training I plan to go back, unfortunately I'm not staying at the gym but the facilities didn't seem to bad. I think they were only built in the last 5 years or so.

Sorry that I don't have all the info you need but I hope this helps! :) 

 

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1 hour ago, Tom Wakefield said:

Hi there!

I've just finished my first session at Hongthong this evening so I might not be the most qualified person to comment as I haven't trained at Santai but from my perspective things were really lovely at Hongthong.

I had some technical correction from my pad holder but not to the point where it seemed like I had been doing things wrong forever. In terms of fighting I've gone there expressly for the purpose of fighting and they seemed really happy and willing to let people fight (someone actually agreed to a fight at the time I was there so its not like it is a 'behind closed doors' deal).

Unfortunately, I can't comment from the perspective of being a female fighter in a gym but that being said it seemed like the women who trained with us today were included. I don't feel like they were as actively included as men were. I had to offer to spar with one of the women because she was left without a partner but I'm not sure if that is just a one-off or a long-term thing. I do know that women do fight out of that gym successfully so I imagine you would have opportunities to get rounds in and all that. But, from my perspective as someone who is openly, though not too openly, queer I felt comfortable. People were respectful and didn't seem to be creepy towards the women at the gym though I don't speak Thai and can't comment on whether anything was happening that I didn't understand. 

From a community standpoint they were lovely I was introduced to everyone, and they made an effort to remember my name. I got good treatment and jumped right into the group really, I've even been invited to a gym drinks on the weekend. So in terms of 'community' it seemed really nice but I can't say whether that will be universal as I'm able to pass as a cis-het man. 

All in all, after only one day of training I plan to go back, unfortunately I'm not staying at the gym but the facilities didn't seem to bad. I think they were only built in the last 5 years or so.

Sorry that I don't have all the info you need but I hope this helps! 🙂

 

Thank you so much Tom! Hope you’ll have that fight! 
This helps a lot, as I am travelling alone, one of key points is community, so I’m happy to hear this!
About the girl being left out of sparring, that could never be me, I always find the way to be in, even though I work out with all men. 😄

During last days, I have also seen in HONGTHONG instagram feed, that there are two girls working out there to fight. 
I guess HONGTHONG will be a good choice.

thanks again and have a good (training) stay 🙂

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Santai Muaythai suffered significantly from covid, many trainers have left, and they don't seem to prepare fighters these days. Their accommodations were quite good before covid, there was a newly built hotel right next to the gym, but I doubt it's still operational.

As to Hongthong, there's an American woman who trains there and fights regularly. This, I think, answers your main concern. I cannot say anything about the gym's accommodations, but it's closer to the town and there are more options to choose from.

Btw, check their Facebook pages. Facebook is the main social network in Thailand, and they share everything there.

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On 3/5/2022 at 2:10 AM, priscilla.eva said:

Thank you so much Tom! Hope you’ll have that fight! 
This helps a lot, as I am travelling alone, one of key points is community, so I’m happy to hear this!
About the girl being left out of sparring, that could never be me, I always find the way to be in, even though I work out with all men. 😄

During last days, I have also seen in HONGTHONG instagram feed, that there are two girls working out there to fight. 
I guess HONGTHONG will be a good choice.

thanks again and have a good (training) stay 🙂

Hi Priscilla,

I'm sorry for not replying, I completely forgot after reading your own reply!

I'm glad that Hongthong looks like a good option for you they have been really lovely to me the last couple of days and have even tentatively suggested that I could fight mid-late March depending on the covid situation. In terms of 5 round Muay Thai fights I'm unsure how those opportunities will go as I and few others at the gym have been offered weird mixed Boxing/Muay Thai fights. But there are definitely those opportunities out there, its just that you gotta take what you can get at the moment.

Thanks for your support I'm in Chiang Mai till late April so if you're looking to come around April I'll see you at the gym! 🙂

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Priscilla,

I know it's a while back but this is my experience

In January 2020, I went to Chiang Mai to train for two months. Sadly, COVID arrived and forced me to come home 1 week sooner. When I arrived in Chiang Mai, I visited both gyms. I arrived at Hong Thong between sessions, I guess, because it was completely empty. I didn't train there so I can't give any advice. I ended up training at Santai. It was a particularly busy time and they had 8-10 coaches. Some of them were still fighters so they would purposfully pick women to train and just do the basics. There was 1 coach who refused to train women altogether because 'Not strong enough'. instead of mentionning that to the person in charge of pairing, he would just swap with another coach and make the women feel like crap. 1 coach was completely jaded and didn't even look at us when holding the pads. There were 4 coaches I liked because they actually cared in teaching you something. Poye and Sak were my favourite. Sak mainly trained fighters. I know quite a few have left over the last two years but I don't know what the situation is right now. 

Not being a fighter yet, I often felt I was put in the 'women tourists not worth training' category. My experience there was bittersweet, especially that I went to Thailand only to train. 

Also, this might not be an issue at all but information worth knowing 1. Being beside a temple, women are not allowed to train in a sports tops. 2. The morning sessions were at 6am.

As for the accomodations, they varied depending on the building. One has a nice pool. The mattresses in the rooms were hard and plastic-covered, but I think that's common. Many washing machines available. Quite a few restaurants within walking distance.

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Thank you Jessy! 
I’ve booked everything, I’ll be there in September and I’ve texted with HONGTHONG, I think that’s the choice. 
I’m so sorry for your experience, hope you’ll ho back there and have what you were searching for💪🏼
 

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  • 10 months later...

Hey Priscilla,

How was your experience? I hope it was good... I'm thinking of training in Chiang Mai for a month (July) and would love to get your feedback, as would others who read this thread, I imagine.

 

 

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SJC74 - Here's my recent January 2023 experience training for one-week at 'Santai', and one-week at 'Boon Lanna', both gyms located outside/south of Chiang Mai city center. TL;DR, I'd pick Boon Lanna Muay Thai for one-month dedicated training with minimal life outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping. 

Context: I spent early October 2022 to early January 2023 in Northern Thailand; 2.5-months in Pai, 1-month in Chiang Mai. I learned Muay Thai basics at Wisarut Gym in Pai at a relaxed pace. I wasn't killing myself during that time, but was able to develop a baseline foundation for the sport and improve general fitness. After leaving Pai in second week of January 2023, I went to train at two gyms outside of Chiang Mai, Santai and Boon Lanna. I did not train at Hongthong, but I did stop by in the midafternoon to see it. Here's my two cents as a beginner.

First thing to note, and arguably the most important consideration is how far from old town Chiang Mai you're comfortable being. The best gyms in CM are a ways away from the nightlife/tourist action happening in the city. You'll need to plan logistics accordingly. Having a motorbike, accommodation, quick food/grocery options, social life requirements, touristic desires etc. are all considerations that need to be made. There are a lot of gym options in and around Chiang Mai. Hover over the greater city on Google Maps and search 'Muay Thai Gym', and you'll see many of the options. Most have websites and/or facebook pages to glean information from to get general vibe of the gym, while others have a sparce internet presence that requires an in-person visit to get the scoop. I visited four gyms in total, but only trained at two. 

Santai: I trained here 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This was the busiest gym in Thailand that I trained at thus far, with an average 30 students per session, and 6-8 instructors. This is a good gym if you want to sleep, train, and be social with other students and not have too much of a life outside of training. People spend months living and training there together, so naturally the "family" like feelings evolve amongst students and trainors. Everyone was friendly, but I kept my head down and didn't socialize too much beyond basic pleasantries. A months time is long enough to develop stronger relationships if that's what you're seeking. English was common enough amongst students and trainers to make communication easy and clear. Despite the gym being a bit small for the large number of students, it's equipped with three rings and many bags. Because of the many people, it was lacking in the sanitation department; it felt a bit dirty for my personal standards, but keeping in mind that I've been a long time mild germophobe so learning Muay Thai has been an exercise in acceptance for me. Standards and personal comfort vary of course, I'm just saying it could use a good powerwash and mop.  

The general class routine was: run/skip rope, group stretching/shadowboxing technique, padwork, bagwork, clinching, stretch/cool-down. While you're going through group stretch, the woman who handles office/paperwork affairs and the two old-head instructors list names on the whiteboard for padwork assignments. Each pad holder had 3-5 names underneath them and each student would get 3 5-minutes rounds with them. It seemed like the newbies were assigned to go first and each day you'd be with a different pad holder who would work you in different ways, while evaluating your skill level. The two old-head instructors would walk around with their sticks whacking stick correcting form of folks working a bag. You're sort of on your own after padwork, so you'll want to come prepared with a few combinations you want to practice on the bag, otherwise you might be a little aimless and unfocused; at least that was the case for me as a newbie. Overall, this gym was a 6/10 for me. I'm grateful I went and experienced it for the sake of gym comparisons, but I wouldn't return here. Keep in mind I'm rather introverted and would prefer to train with Thai's than foreigners. It was 70/30 foreigners to Thai's training there. I stayed 10-minutes down the road from the gym. There's a main street near gym with accommodation, restaurants, and locals-only night markets. Odds are the only other westerners you'll see around that area are also gym goers. I think someone could quickly improve their skill level dedicating one-month to training here, just don't expect to do too many tourist activities outside of training, eating, recovering, sleeping. Students and trainers fight out of the gym and seem to be in different promotions weekly. If you want to fight, that's definitely possible here. 

Boon Lanna: The monday after Santai I moved accommodation down the road 20-minutes to a place near Boon Lanna Muay Thai where I also trained for 6 sessions total, once per day monday to saturday mostly in the afternoon. This is the former Lanna gym Sylvie trained at. She mentioned it's a different gym now than it used to be, so I can give an update to what it is like now. This has been my favorite gym to date. The new owner, Master Boon, sponsors Thai fighters from the Hilltribe, so when you train here, you're mostly training with them. It was 80/20 Thai to foreigner ratio and an amazing experience. Sylvie recently wrote about gyms having golden years where there's a bunch of people training/fighting out of a gym an times are good, and other times when the same gym has dried up and it's a shell of it's former self as people move on. This gym seems to be in early stages of new golden period as Master Boon and his female partner seem motivated and have a good thing going. They are currently having new student housing built on the property attached to the facility. The existing facility is very nice, very clean, wide-open-air facility. There was only one non-thai living there, a Canadian, the rest were Hilltribe boys/men.

My technique, confidence, and general understanding of the sport improved significantly in only a few sessions as they paid a lot more attention to me. After light conditioning and shadowing boxing, every session began with light sparing where Master Boon selected matchups, randomizing opponents for 3-4 round. Sparing against the Thai boys was very helpful, but at ~185cm (6-foot) felt strange punching and kicking a literal child. These kids were tough and strong though, and I saw in advance pictures of them online bloodied up smiling after a fight. We both knew that I couldn't hurt them, and we both knew they could wreck me any second, which actually helped me feel relaxed in a way I've ever never felt before. After sparing, padwork, then bagwork. Both of which I felt like I received ample and helpful guidance for improved power and technique. Everyone was patient with me which was appreciated. I'm a slow learner. Classes end with 45min-1hour clinching, which I did not do, opting for strength conditioning with a few others instead, concluding with abs, stretch, cool-down.

Sit Thailand MT Gym: This gym is closer to old town, next to airport. Has accommodation nearby, I dropped in mid afternoon just to see it, no opinion. Lookup 'joelxthewolf' on instagram. He documents his training/fighting out of that gym and you can get a sense of things from him. Looks legit. 

Hongthong: Drove past. A bit closer to old town, but still outside a ways. Fighters often on local promotion. Sizeable open-air gym. No opinion. 

Like I said, there are many others to choose from. Get a motorbike on arrival and spend your first day dropping into several to get a feel before commiting. Manop. Buakaw's Banchamek Gym, Chiang May Muay Thai, Santai, Sit, Hongthong etc. Be prepared to be on the road all day for that, Chiang Mai is surprisingly quite big and spread out. 

Here is the average weather forecast is for July in Chiang Mai: "This month is known as a warm month. The average maximum daytime temperature in Chiang Mai in July lies at 31.7°C (89.06°F). The average minimum temperature is 24.0°C (75.2°F) (usually the minimum temperature is noted at night). The amount of rain during this month is high with an average of 145mm (5.7in). It rains an average of 19 days of the month. The sun will occasionally show itself with 121 hours of sunshine during the entire month." Something to consider.

I should have taken better notes during my training, but didn't, so these are just some of my recollections/feelings. Ask away with any questions, I'll be glad to give my two cents. I am now training at a small gym in Isaan and plan to be more diligent and methodical with documenting my progress and experience. I'd like to post and participate in this forum more. Thank you Sylvie and Kevin for the platform and second hand push to do so, and all the info you've provided over the years- it's been very helpful for me on this journey and I'm having so much fun. 

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Wow, what an amazing write-up- thanks. That should prove really useful.

Tbh, both Lanna and Santai both sound like they have great aspects to them. I find I can usually get something useful from pretty much any gym, trainer or sparring partner, so I don't know whether it's best to stay at one gym for a longer time, or a week at a couple of good ones...

How's training in Isaan? Would love to hear about that.

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You're welcome. I agree that no matter where you choose, you'll get something out of it and will be pushed to train hard. I'm partial to the idea of trying a few different gyms for one-week minicamps, in the off chance that my first gym/neighborhood selection isn't the best fit. On Sundays travel to the next gym+accommodation and repeat weekly training process starting each Monday.  I value novelty and diversity of experience, so I'm more inclined to approach things this way. The downsides to this being the continual shallow/short gym relationships you'll build then leave behind, and the lack of attention/guidance you'll get from some trainers who know you're just passing through. Being the new kid can be hard. 

My experience is limited to training at four gyms in five-months, so take my wisdom with a grain of salt, I'm still new to this world.

I will post my experience training in Isaan in a new, separate thread, so look out for that soon :). 

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