This is the first edition of a new section of the fighters guide where I review different gyms I’ve been to, and different stadiums and promotions I’ve fought at/for. This specific one will be on Hongthong Muay Thai in Chiang Mai Thailand where I have been training and fighting out of for the past four months. I want to preface this by saying that what is written here below is only one specific fighters opinion from one specific point in time. That’s important because every gym goes through up’s and downs in terms of the quality of fighters and trainers they have, or the numbers of fighters and trainers. Its also important to know that what you specifically are looking for in a gym might differ from what I look for, and those differences don’t make one gym “bad” and another “good.” Sometimes people ask me if X gym is good and I honestly can’t answer that question without knowing more about the person asking. So with all that in mind; here we go.
Hongthong Muay Thai is located east of the Ping River in Chiang Mai. Its distance from the old city (center city) area of town reduces the number of tourists, and tourists catered businesses and give it a nice neighborhood feel. Chiang Mai itself is the northern capital of Thailand. It’s a good place to train and fight since it’s the cheapest city in Thailand and has 4 different stadiums which each hold 3 to 4 shows a week. The gym is owned and operated by two brothers Gen Hongthonglek and Joe Hongthongnoi, however, Gen spends most of his time in Australia these days training and competing over there. The Gym has accommodation available which is very nice, AC, TV, Wi-Fi, shower, and fridge, that runs 5,000bht/month. That’s a very decent price as far as gym accommodation goes, but if your willing to look around the neighborhood a bit you can find the same amenities for much cheaper. Training is going to run you 9,000 baht/month for two sessions a day. They do have half-day prices as well as weekly and single sessions if that’s what you’re looking for.
The gym itself is a covered outdoor gym like 99% of gyms here in Thailand. It has maybe 20 heavy bags, one large ring, some battle ropes, but very little in the way of weights. There are a few dumbbells and kettlebells at very light weights. The gym employs 5 with tons of experience including Joe himself who is an amazing Muay Khao fight (knee/clinch specialist,) and Kru Mart who was once a trainer at the now-famous Jitmuangnon gym and helped produced Thai superstars such as Panpayak and Rodtang Jitmuangnon. When I was there I primarily worked with Kru Mart who is just a phenomenal pad man. He’ll work you hard but still finds ways to work technique into your pad sessions. One thing I loved about working with him was how if I tried something new perhaps that he didn’t call for he would work that in and explain it to me. He would also take things that you like to do and work those in as well, whereas a lot of trainers will simply teach you their style.
I had a total of five fights in the time I was training at Hongthong. All of my fights were at local Chiang Mai stadiums although I did have an offer to compete on a Super Champ show, which is a big televised Bangkok promotion in Thailand that would have been a big step up for me, unfortunately, it didn’t work out due to visa issues. Joe had booked fights for other fighters there at Lumphini, Rajadamnern, Super Champ, Top King World Series, and even some fight in China for people training at his gym. He seemed to me to be very well connected gym owner despite not having the largest stable of fighters at his gym. In terms of training partners, Hongthong is mostly western students although a few of the trainers are still competing and will clinch and spar with their students, however, they’re all around 60kg so for most western men that’s going to be a pretty significant size difference. This is something to consider when looking for a gym in Thailand. You may want to go to a very traditional Thai gym but if your 170lbs or above chances are you will have very few training partners, so its good to find a gym with a good mix. For me, there were two foreign fighters training regularly at Hongthong that I could train with. One, Kary, was an excellent fighter who fought on Top King, and in China, and the other was Luis an 85kg fighter who fights at heavyweight in Rajadamnern and is a phenomenal clinch fighter.
What I enjoyed most about Hongthong Muay Thai though was the community atmosphere, and that’s a rare thing. Everybody at the gym would go out to see each other fight and support them. We would go do things together on Sundays. Sometimes after training Kru Mart would invite us to eat with him and he would cook up his favorite foods, stuff you’ll never find on a menu in the states, and teach me how to eat like a Thai. He was always correcting my technique on literally everything from low kicks, to how to wear more shorts, to table etiquette. Keeping in mind the ebb and flow of gyms, I would recommend Hongthong very highly, especially if you are a 170lbs fighter or above looking into gyms in Chiang Mai. You get experienced trainers, well-rounded training partners, a well-connected gym owner who can provide you with opportunities to grow and fight on the larger show, and a welcoming community around you, not to mention its extremely reasonable prices. I really enjoyed my time there, and I honestly would not have left if it was not for visa issues. Damnit Thailand why are you making it so difficult for me to inject my American dollars into your economy?