Discovering the sporty side of Bangkok
For some of us it might have been a while since the last time we put on those running shoes, hit the gym, or even attempted to do a push-up at home. Although we are aware of the numerous benefits of an active lifestyle, it’s just hard to find the motivation to suffer through anything resembling exercise, especially in this heat. But despite the torrid temperatures, sports are a big part of life in Thailand (and in Bangkok especially) and there are many different ways to add some sporty activity to your daily or weekly routine. Here are some inventive ideas on how to “get in the game”.
For visitors to Bangkok who don’t want their normal exercise routine to suffer, why not book into the centrally located Pathumwan Princess Hotel, one of the city’s many high-end hotels offering first-rate sports and fitness facilities. The hotel’s Olympic Club, located on the 8th floor of the adjacent MBK shopping centre, offers guests more than 100 different types of workout stations and a large range of exercise classes. Check out the rooftop tennis grounds, the basketball half-court, the 400 metre jogging track, as well as the 25-metre-long salt water swimming pool. In addition, locals and non-guests can also become club members, with prices starting at around B16,000 for six months.
For those who want to practice their golf game while in Bangkok, there are several driving ranges located throughout the city, including 42 Tee Off (close to Phra Khanong BTS station), RCA Driving Range (just off Petchaburi Rd), and a 50-yard mini-driving range at the Dusit Thani Hotel (next to Silom MRT station). Or, for a real 18-hole game, there are five golf courses located east of the downtown core—close to Suvarnabhumi Airport—including the Thana City Golf & Sports Club, the Summit Windmill Golf Club, and Muang Kaew Golf Course.
While Bangkok is incredibly hot almost all year round, this crazy city actually offers places to skate, and even play hockey! Lace up those blades and head to The Rink Ice Arena in Central World (B220/hour) or, if you want to take things a step further, sign up for ice hockey lessons at The Rink Ice Arena Central Plaza Rama 9, where training sessions are held every Wednesday from 8:30pm to 10pm. And if you want to catch some local pros in action, check out Bangkok Ice Hockey League’s website for the dates and times of upcoming matches.
Speed demons should head to Easy Kart—the biggest indoor go-kart track in Bangkok—for a pedal-to-the-metal adrenaline rush. Located in the RCA Plaza (just off Petchaburi Rd), the racetrack features a night light system, a computer time system, and a panoramic bar and restaurant. Race individually or join as a group, and whether you’re a beginner or experienced rider everybody is welcome. The track is open daily from 1pm to midnight.
Cycling in the city is not the easiest (or safest) activity, but if you head a little ways outside the downtown core Peppermint Bike Park offers urbanites a safe environment to ride within a paved 2km track. There are two courses: the normal paved lane and a more challenging elevated mountain bike track that contains a wooden bridge, curved path, and rolling slopes. The park is car-free, safe, and open to all types of riders. Annual membership is available for just B200. On top of that, members pay B100 during the day and B150 at night (for non-members it’s B150, and B200 at night).
Remember how much fun it was to jump around trampolines as a child? Well, it’s not just a fun activity reserved for kids, but has actually numerous physical and mental health benefits for youngsters and grown-ups alike. Trampoline aerobics is a perfect cardio exercise. According to a study by NASA, 10 minutes jumping on a trampoline provides the same fitness results as 33 minutes of running. However, the mat (or pad) absorbs 80 per cent of the shock from the rebound, which reduces the risk of joint injuries. To try this activity in Bangkok head to Rockin’ Jump, close to Chong Nonsi BTS station, for some freestyle jumping, trampoline dodgeball, or just diving into pools of soft foam cubes. Prices start at B400 for half an hour on weekends (or an hour during the week). Another big trampoline park in the city is Bounce, located on the 5th floor of The Street Ratchada shopping complex. It consists of five different activity zones, including freestyle jumping, wall running, and dodgeball. General admission is B490. Other places to check out include Amped Trampoline Park on Soi Sukhumvit 69, and Funny Jump on Bang Na Trat Soi 56.
If you want to get even higher than you can on a trampoline, try Bounce’s rock climbing area with 24 different climbing walls. Adrenaline junkies will agree that climbing is a fun and thrilling experience that improves strength, posture and agility, all within a safe environment. Another Bangkok climbing hotspot is Urban Playground which offers over 650 sq.m of indoor climbing space. It’s located between the BTS stations Phrom Phong and Thonglor, and its facilities range from a bouldering wall and cave to 12 metre top-rope climbing, and activities that include a one-hour ‘introduction to climbing’ class. There are routes for all levels, whether you are an experienced climber or a first-timer. Urban Playground also provides a fitness centre, badminton course, swimming pool, yoga studio, and tennis court. There are different memberships available, but non-members pay B426 for weekdays and B525 on weekends.
Learn horseback riding at The Bangkok Equestrian Center, located close to Suvarnabhumi Airport. The centre offers stabling, tack gear, grooming, and horse training, among other services. All levels are welcome to learn and improve their riding skills whether its the basics or world-class dressage training. There’s also a Pony Club for youngsters to give new riders a soft introduction to horseback riding. Find out if you like it by getting a three lesson trial package first.
If you are still not motivated to get into the game yourself, get caught up in the frenzy of the crowd at one of Bangkok’s many live sporting events. Twice a month, horse races—for watching and betting—are held at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club on Henri Dunant Road, and at the Royal Turf Club on Phitsanulok Road. Besides playing the national lottery, betting at these horse races is the only other legal form of gambling in Thailand. Finally, football fans can either head east of the city centre to Rajamangala National Stadium, the home stadium for Thailand’s national football team, or the centrally located Suphachalasai National Stadium (at the same-named BTS station) for national and international football games. Football is hugely popular in Thailand and the fans who attend these matches are as die hard as they come.