So you’ve found a great travel deal and you’re thinking that Thailand is next on your to-do list. (Update: here’s a place where we find travel deals usually:

For most people, a vacation to a tropical paradise like Thailand is a time to let loose and indulge. But if you want to walk a different path, then learn Muay Thai in its country of origin. As well as top-notch training, you’ll get a look into the culture of Thailand that you won’t find in a bar. Also, unlike most vacations, you’ll come back from this one stronger, fitter and more disciplined than when you set off. 

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You can find great camps all over Thailand. Bangkok has lots of serious, top quality gyms and you’ll also have access to all the capital has to offer. Pattaya and Phuket have quality, foreigner-friendly camps close to glorious beaches and infamous nightlife. Chiang Mai has a bustling Muay Thai scene, beautiful countryside and a more relaxed pace of life. The islands of Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are popular training spots and a little cheaper. These are the most popular training locations, and each has stadiums in case you want to fight. 

Choosing a Gym 

Once you’ve chosen a location, do some Google research on the gyms in the area, checking reviews in particular. If you don’t have a strong preference after your online research, spend a few days at each gym after you arrive. Consider the following: 

Price: Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya tend to be more expensive, but you can find slightly cheaper gyms around. Chiang Mai, Koh Samui and Koh Phangan are a little cheaper.

Location: Camps can sometimes be little way from hotels and tourist spots, though some offer on-site accommodation.

Atmosphere: What’s the vibe of the place? Do you feel comfortable? 

Facilities: Is the equipment good quality? Is the camp cleaned regularly?

Quality of training: This is partly subjective, but generally do you feel you will learn and improve? Do you want a more relaxed pace, or do you want to be pushed?


Physical Preparation 

Most gyms will have you training twice a day in tropical heat, and possibly at a higher altitude than you’re used to. Your cardio will take a hit! Although you’ll adapt to the heat and intensity, conditions will still be tougher than back home. So gradually increase your cardio and training frequency in the 3-6 months before you arrive. The fitter you are when you arrive, the more you’ll be able learn from your training as opposed to just surviving it. 

muay-thai - coupon codesToughening Your Feet 

You’ll be training outdoors on either carpet or rubber mats, which will get hot even with a roof over the training area, and they’ll also get wet from the sweat. With your feet rotating when you kick, this is prime environment for blisters and ripped skin, especially if you’re used to training on soft mats. Spend some time in the months leading up to your trip walking barefoot, or training on hard surfaces like wooden flooring. This will help develop callouses on the balls of your feet. Even if you do prepare in this way, bring some bandages and sports tape as these are not too cheap in Thailand (around 120 Baht each for a roll from pharmacies). 

When You arrive 

Don’t feel you have to dive into two classes a day right from the start — ease into it! You’ll probably have been travelling a long time and it will take you a week or two to adapt to the heat. You don’t have to give 100% at every class too; you’ll end up overtraining and unable to put your full effort in. You will also sweat profusely in Thailand, so remember to drink plenty of fluids while training and buy a box of electrolyte sachets from a pharmacy to put in your drinking water. 

Doing Muay Thai in Thailand will be one of the most difficult things you have ever done, but it will be worth it. Every morning you will think up 100 reasons not to train, and every morning you’ll do the mental gymnastics you need to get out of bed. You’ll build discipline, fitness and self-defense skills, and you’ll develop the sort of friendships that are only forged through shared difficult experiences.