National Muay Thai Day is much easier to pinpoint, in terms of dates, than some of the other festivals that occur in Thailand! It takes place on the same date every year, regardless of which day of the week it falls on, being March 17th.
For the uninitiated, Muay Thai is a combat sport, also known as Thai boxing, that has been taking place in the country for hundreds of years. Two competitors duke it out in a ring, using their hands, elbows, knees and feet.
National Muay Thai Day (or Wai Khru Muay Thai) is a celebration of Thailand’s national sport, and of its most famous fighter, Nai Khanom Tom. Special events are held at arenas and training camps up and down the country.
The best thing about National Muay Thai Day might be the story behind it. The whole thing is basically a celebration of the legendary fighter Nai Khanom Tom.
Nai Khanom Tom was a boxer, and a soldier in the Thai army. In 1767, during one of their many wars with the neighboring Burmese, he was captured and taken to Burma. The Burmese king held a religious festival, at which there were a number of martial art contests.
Nai Khanom Tom was chosen to battle a Burmese fighter, who used a Burmese martial art form against Nai Khanom Tom’s Muay Thai. He defeated him handily, then went on to beat a further nine competitors without taking a break.
The Burmese king was so impressed with his skills that he granted Nai Khanom Tom his freedom. His legend as a fighter, and as the figurehead of Muay Thai, lives on to this day.
You’ll find Muay Thai stadiums and training facilities all over Thailand, and most of them will hold events to celebrate National Muay Thai Day.
Undoubtedly the best place to check it out, however, is Ayutthaya. It’s Nai Khanom Tom’s hometown, and has become the country’s Muay Thai center. The festival begins there with a big parade, featuring elephants and Thai dancers.
Hundreds of fighters from around the country gather to pay their respects to their trainers, and of course to the legendary fighter, who has a statue there.
The festivities in Ayutthaya begin a full week before the day itself, culminating in a prestigious tournament at Ayutthaya Stadium. The tournament, which takes place from the 16th-17th March, attracts fighters in various weight classes from all around the world.
If you’re a fan of Muay Thai specifically, or combat sports more broadly – or even just want to witness a celebration of something so important in Thai culture – head to Ayutthaya in March. It’s an extremely quick and easy ride north from Bangkok, by car or minibus.