Seeing about of Thai boxing, or Muay Thai, has long been on the to-do-list for tourists coming to the kingdom: the skill and athleticism of the fighters is admired by people all over the world. But whether you are at one of the traditional boxing stadiums or watching up-country, the experience often fails to live up to expectations. Seats can often be so far away from the fight that you miss all the action; the heat and noise can ensure that your senses are as battered as the boxers’ and, unless you’re a local, fights are hard to follow. But there’s a new way to enjoy this ancient sport at Asiatique the Riverfront in Bangkok.
Muay Thai is one of the most exciting martial arts, but like many fighting styles, I’ve often felt that it’s better watched on the big screen or television than in the boxing ring. Close ups, slow motion, atmospheric music and a storyline of sorts can add to the action and help you appreciate the skill of the fighters.
This is because the real art of Muay Thai comes from the rapid and powerful body movements of the boxers who’ve been trained to use not only the fists to fight, but their entire body from heads to arms, elbows, knees, legs and feet, to make quick unpredictable moves, high flying jumps and kicks. These are skills that take many years of hard training to master – yet when used in the boxing ring, it can all be over in a flash. So the art form has recently become popular in movies and Tony Jaa became an international star when he showcased his boxing talents in “Ong-Bak”, “Tom Yam Koong” or “Muay Thai Warrior.” Thailand’s unique boxing culture was also showcased by the director Ekachai Uekrongtham in the award-winning film “Beautiful Boxer.”
The news that Muay Thai has now found a new showcase in Asiatique the Riverfront, Bangkok, is very welcome. The Muay Thai Live – the Legend Lives show will educate a daily audience about all factors of this ancient art and allow them to see the skills of the fighters close up in an elaborate stage show. And, with Asiatique the Riverfront becoming so popular with international tourists, they’ll be able to share their experiences of Muay Thai with people the world over.
The Muay Thai Live – the Legend Lives at Asiatique the Riverfront is offering something which appeals to everyone, not just martial arts fans. By hosting it in a venue where people come to drink, shop and enjoy different aspects of Thai culture by the Chao Phraya river, the show’s producers knew they’d attract a wide ranging audience. So they’ve put together a phenomenal team of creative minds, actors, designers and of course talented boxers and united them under the vision of one of Thailand’s most highly regarded film directors, Ekachai Uekrongtham.
I’ve long been a fan of Ekachai’s work and I’m not alone. His film “Beautiful Boxer” won plaudits the world over and made him the perfect choice to stage a state-of-the-art show about Muay Thai. And in Muay Thai Live – the Legend Lives he has brought his many film-making techniques to bear. He draws the audience into the story by showing the history and origins of the art with multimedia and theatrical performances that dramatize the lives and heroics of early Muay Thai heroes.
The spectacular show is made up of five acts. The first three tell the stories of stand-out Muay Thai warriors from Siamese history. The show opens with the story of The Tiger in Disguise inspired by the legend of the Tiger King who kick-started the golden age of Muay Thai. We see the mysterious hero defeat several champions before The Prisoner with Eight Limbs takes the stage. During the performance I watched, I could hear the audience gasping at the skills of Nai Kanomtom, the chained prisoner as he faced ten fighters at once. The third act The Broken Sword tells the story of General Pichai who, according to legend, would confront armed warriors with his bare hands. To add to the action, there are stunning scenes of ancient sword fighting in this part of the act and sparks literally fly.
But as with Muay Thai itself, the show is not just about the fighting. And it is the other elements of the martial art that really make act four, Muay Thai Forever, a highlight of the evening. We see all the members of the cast join together to perform a beautiful traditional dance the ‘Wai Kru’ which artfully shows how Muay Thai fighters pay respect to their masters and trainers. This special act also highlights some of the major techniques of Muay Thai that make it so different from other fighting styles. The amazing art of the fighters is accompanied by atmospheric music composed especially for the show, and which draws on traditional Siamese musical styles. The combination of action on stage and uplifting music really draws the audience in for the show’s final act and finale.
The Passion Fighter brings the audience into modern times with the tale of a Muay Thai boxer forced by fate to fight to save the girl he loves. To the great enjoyment of the audience, this tale plays out like an action movie scene with some typical touches of Thai comedy. The stunts are highly impressive and the story is highly amusing with a touch of romance thrown into the mix. It was certainly enjoyed by myself and the rest of the audience, many of whom wouldn’t normally be the types you’d expect to see at a Thai boxing match. And of course, while the skill levels of the boxers are second-to-none, this isn’t a typical boxing match, Ekachai Uekrongtham’s cinematography techniques combined with state-of-the-art light, sight, sound and laser techniques make every act of the show thrilling and fascinating, even to newcomers to the sport.
This is a show designed to impress boxing fans as much as people who’ve never watched a match. Some of the Muay Thai fighters’ stunts actions and impressive techniques can make you hold your breath in awe. The kicking, the jabbing, the punching the clinching and neck wrestling are artfully portrayed and designed to amaze. It sometimes seems as though the performers are flying through the air swiftly and magically. Indeed they don’t restrict their antics to the stage, and use their physical prowess to pop up in different parts of the auditorium, really bringing the audience into the show.
Women certainly are not put off by watching a show about fighting. When I was at the show, the young actors with their rippling smooth muscles and near-impossible feats of strength, enraptured more than a few female members of the audience.
In all, Muay Thai Live – the Legend Lives offers a new and exciting way to show off Thai boxing to the world. The show is an imaginative act and because it can only be seen in Bangkok, it is sure to become one of the must-see attractions of the city. I for one was enraptured by it and I could tell from the applause of the internationally mixed audience that they had enjoyed it too. It should ensure that this uniquely Thai art becomes even better known around the world.
Muay Thai Live – the Legend Lives takes place every evening at 20:00 hrs. at The Stage, Asiatique the Riverfront. The theatre with seating arranged like that in a boxing stadium can accommodate 600 spectators at a time. Tickets for standard seats cost 1,200 baht and premium seats are 1,500 baht.
The simplest way of getting to Asiatique Riverfront is to take the free 15 minute shuttle boat from Sathorn pier. This is easily reached by taking the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station. It is also easy to get there by bus or Taxi through Charoenkrung Road.