Taking a deep dive into Bangkok’s beguiling wide world of sports
An estimated 2.2 million foreigners have come from practically every corner of the planet to live in Thailand, with a majority of them residing in Bangkok. This city’s expats therefore represent a wide world of tastes, and over the years Bangkok has shown nothing less than an effusive eagerness to adopt new ideas from them—from American-style Country & Western-themed bars, to Japan’s most famous contribution… the karaoke bar! Thus it should come as no shock that an equally “wide world of sports” has taken root here. And while it’s no surprise that conventional sports such as football, golf, and tennis are popular pastimes, there are a number of facilities and clubs that cater to some surprisingly obscure sporting activities as well.
INDOOR ROCK CLIMBING: Thailand has long been an outstanding outdoor rock climbing destination (see pg. 43), but the whole country still sees new developments each year in the arena of indoor rock climbing. In Bangkok, the most longstanding urban climbing spot is The Racquet Club, which houses the recently renovated Urban Playground. The club offers a couple of courses for beginners, as well as some more advanced bouldering routes laid out each week, set across 650 sq.m of space. Members to The Racquet Club have access to the climbing zone, but day passes are also available for non-members (B475 weekday/B575 weekend).
But The Racquet Club isn’t the only game in town anymore. Rock Domain, off Bangna-Trad Road, offers even more space—1,100 sq.m in fact—and over 100 bouldering routes. You can also enrol in group or private sessions. Day passes cost B400 for adults, and monthly and yearly passes are also available at pretty solid discounts (for example, B21,500 for a year-long pass).
The newest player on Bangkok’s climbing scene is the sprawling branch of international chain Climb Central. Catering to western suburbanites, the Climb Central outlet on Kalpapruek Road is currently the biggest indoor climbing space in Thailand. It has over 1,000 metres of wall space, featuring a range of overhangs across its 50-plus climbing lanes. Rates are B600 for adult walk-ins, and B500 for kids.
WAKEBOARDING: Since it’s a fine way to actively cool off in the sweltering city heat, wakeboarding has—understandably—become increasingly popular among both locals and expats. Taco Lake near Suvarnabhumi Airport, has been offering cable-led wakeboarding since the 1980s. As Thailand’s first wake park it still draws in crowds with its abundant space and beginner-friendly rides. Not to mention, a day on the water will only set you back B500.
Nowadays, there are two other wakeboarding parks within spitting distance of the city centre (proverbially speaking). Located in Lumlukka, Pathum Thani, the Thai Wake Park is probably the best known, in part because the park often hosts Sunday parties with DJ sets as well as other events. Experienced wakeboarders will no doubt enjoy the many features set within the lake: handrails, triple pipes, wall rides, and so much more. The park also caters to beginners and private parties (B740 all-day pass on weekdays/B920 all-day pass on weekends). To add to the party atmosphere there are restaurants and bars onsite, as well as a 40-room hotel just one minute from the dock.
WATER SPORTS: Located just a 25 minutes’ drive from downtown Bangkok (on a good day, of course), Zanook offers a full range of water-based activities for every level. That includes water skiing, wakeboarding, and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) across its cable park, aqua park, and separate SUP zone. There’s also plenty of refreshments on site, which, you’ll find, are quite welcome after your workout on the water.
You don’t have to leave town to get wet and wild, though. Flow House at A-Square, on Sukhumvit Soi 26, offers flowboarding—a kind of controlled stationary surfing—with lessons and rides available by the hour (B750 p/hr, or B5,000/B9,000/B12,000 for 10, 20, and 30 hour packages). If you’re terrible at flowboarding or simply into spectator sports, you can always just get a tasty craft beer at Changwon Express on the 2nd floor and critique the more experienced riders as they perform tricks you could only dream of doing in the pool below.
LACROSSE: Part of the appeal of Bangkok for many expats, in particular, is the vast and varied surprises it contains. Take lacrosse, for example. That’s not exactly the first sport that comes to mind when you think of international league, but it’s not only in Bangkok—the sport is also doing great things for the city. After studying in lacrosse capital Massachusets, Prantarit ‘Payu’ Nerngchamnong brought the sport to Thailand with the help of friends, including Wansit ‘Peem’ Chatikavanij. In 2009, the two helped to co-found the non-profit Thailand Lacrosse Association, the official representative of Thailand in the Federation of International Lacrosse. Payu and Peem have championed the sport across Southeast Asia, organizing matches against newfound clubs in Singapore and Hong Kong. Bangkok’s lacrosse pioneers have launched development clinics at the university level, hosted tournaments in Phuket, organized games for disabled students at Ramkhamhaeng’s National Stadium, and brought the sport to kids who live in the Khlong Toei slums. The players practice weekly at Arena 10 on Thong Lor Soi 10, and plays friendlies at Yamaha Stadium at Impact Arena. Pay a visit www.thailandlacrosse.org for more information.
BASEBALL: Despite there being sizable American, Japanese, and Korean populations in Bangkok, baseball remains, at best, a fringe sport in Thailand. While the International School of Bangkok (ISB) runs baseball and softball leagues for kids aged 4-18, and the Bangkok International Softball League offers beer-league play at Queen Sirikit Park in Pathum Thani, those who just want to take some hacks can turn to the Bangkok Batting Cages (located at the tail end of Sukhumvit Soi 31). Open seven
days a week, from 10:30am until 9:30pm, the centre offers 25 pitches for just B100, or all-you-can-bat for B5,000. There are five cages, each of which slings fastballs at a different velocity. The batting cage might be the heathiest way to blow off steam when the city is driving you nuts.
ULTIMATE FRISBEE: If you want an exciting non-contact team game, requiring razor sharp throwing skills and immense stamina and agility, look no further than ultimate Frisbee. It’s played on grassy fields—a rarity in this town—and if you’re keen to try it the Bangkok Soi Dawgz play pick-up games every Sunday from 3:30pm to 6:30pm at the MRT headquarters off Rama IX Road. About 40 or so enthusiasts show up each weekend, from many different countries and of all ages (from teens to seniors), and the only equipment needed is cleats, or football boots. Pickup game contributions are B100 per player, but it’s free for first timers. In addition, for the past 18 years the Soi Dawgz have been hosting an annual tournament in which about 200 players, from about 25 countries, travel to Bangkok (in January or February) to play in mixed teams against one another. To find out more about the league, visit www.bangkokultimate.com.
ROLLER DERBY: Although the sport has existed for over 80 years, roller derby caught fire in the past 10 years as an alternative—and thoroughly exciting—points-based contact sport. The mixed-gender Bangkok Roller Derby has been going strong since 2013, gathering every Sunday at 6pm at the Roller Dome in The Emporium shopping mall (BTS Phrom Phong). Like the Hash House Harriers, players are given a nickname when they join the league (eg: Jean Claude Van Slam, the current coach of the Bangkok team). In 2017, the league hosted its first international event, the ‘Siam Skate-tacular’, so clearly the sport is growing here. The best part is this group is open to anyone; drop in whenever you want to skate. To find out more visit bangkokrollerderby.weebly.com for more information.
GAELIC FOOTBALL: Naturally, there’s a Gaelic football and hurling club in Bangkok…. I mean, why wouldn’t there be a Gaelic sports club here? The Thai GAA chapter launched in 2007, and every year the group hosts its own Gaelic games. This year, they were held within the leafy expanses of Bangkok Patana School. Meanwhile, every Tuesday the group meets for training at NIST International School on Sukhumvit Soi 15, as well as cardio sessions at National Stadium on Thursdays. To find out more visit www.thailandgaa.com.
From water polo, to indoor volleyball, and even to ice hockey (yes we have that too!), whatever your favourite sport may be in your home country there’s a good chance you can keep playing it when you’re in Bangkok. Or, you can take the plunge and try something new. Self-exploration in Bangkok has never been easier—or better for you.
By Craig Sauers