Looking for a boxing training camp overseas? Get to know Soi Ta-iad, the 2km strip in Phuket that’s attracting fighters from around the world. (Photography: Tiger May Thai)
There are two very distinct groups of travellers who make their way to Soi Ta-iad, a 2km street in the southern Phuket district of Chalong. You’ll recognise the high socks, short-shorts and headbands as the unmistakable markings of the CrossFit set. This group make up around a third of those who visit, and they’re mostly there for Unit 27.
You’ll know the larger group in an instant, if you’re one of them. They’re the fighters and martial arts lovers. And they’re here to train in the same gyms as some of the world’s best.
The transformation of Soi Ta-iad into Phuket’s ultimate holiday destination for fighters started with the opening of the street’s main attraction, Tiger Muay Thai, back in 2004. Since then, a number of fight gyms have opened up, including Phuket Top Team, and the latest, Chokchai Muay Thai, opened by boxer/muay thai fighter Chokchai Chockvivat whose claim to fame is fighting Manny Pacquiao (and that’s prime Pacquiao before he went to the US, not politician Pacquiao of recent times…).
Even though most of the fighters head to the area for muay thai and MMA, boxers have been making the journey too, including Aussies Tim Tszyu (current WBC Asia Super Welterweight Title holder), Kaye Scott (2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist), and Dave Toussaint (undefeated middleweight champ), who have all trained at Tiger.
A day in a boxing training camp on Soi Ta-iad
So what is it about the area? Imagine this: You wake up in your lovely bungalow – that costs you the equivalent per night of a burger and beer in Surry Hills. Bleary-eyed, you walk over to one of the many healthy cafes on the street and order a protein pancake and coffee for breakfast (for less than half the price you’d pay in Sydney).
Now, with some food in you and caffeine running through your veins, you walk the short distance to the fitness area at Tiger Muay Thai to do the 9.30am Battle Cat Conditioning Class. While you’re there, you realise you can’t do anything half-assed, because there’s a former world-title holding UFC fighter doing the exact same session as you. (True story: That happened to me last December, when Cody Garbrandt came in to do the conditioning class. Check out the Insta vid below.)
Next, you might head straight over to do the boxing area to do the technique class with Tiger’s head boxing coach Sam Bastin at 10.30am, and by the end, you’ll be amazed that your legs are still working after doing two intense sessions in a row. You might end up talking to the local Thai fighters and coaches who tell you they’ve had 300-plus fights, which puts your experience in perspective. Or you might notice an insanely fit 11-year-old world champion muay thai fighter from Ireland, training in one of the rings, who also puts your comparatively limited experience into perspective (see: Jodie “the beast” McCarthy).
You then walk back to your bungalow, which is now tidy and clean (thank you, room service!), shower and change, then head out to have lunch at one of the many healthy cafes for grilled chicken and veg. Or, if you’re not cutting weight, a Thai curry.
After all that training and eating, you’re a little sleepy, so you nap in your bungalow. You wake up in time to do a one-on-one pad session with the boxing legend himself, Chokchai, which is basically all power, with no timed rounds, for 60 minutes. You feel like you’re going to die in the humidity. You’re tired and hungry (again), so you grab a chocolate and banana protein shake from one of the bamboo-hut fruit-stalls on the street. After an early dinner, you decide to finish the day with yoga back at Tiger, and before bed, you drop off your sweat-drenched workout gear to the laundry cleaners who’ll have your clothes all fresh and new in the morning.
You go to sleep in your bungalow, then wake up and do it all again.
That was basically how each day panned out when I went to Soi Ta-iad last December – give or take a few afternoon trips to the beach – and how it will likely be again when I return in a couple of weeks. It’ll be my third training camp at Tiger. I cannot wait.
You are guaranteed to return home much fitter than when you arrived (and how many holidays can you say that about?). The quality of your sparring really depends on who’s at the camp at the same time, so the best thing to do is to contact the head coach of the gym beforehand to get it organised. When it comes to recovery, there’s a pricey flotation tank in the neighbourhood, but the street is also filled with legit massage places that only cost around 300 baht for an hour. Having said that, the massage places are of varying quality, so make friends with someone who has been on the Soi for a few weeks, and ask them for a recommendation. The closest beaches are a minimum 30-minute drive away, so hire a scooter while you’re here to make the most of Phuket.
Boxing training camp costs
Note: I’ve only included the gyms I’ve visited below.
Tiger Muay Thai
1-week all-inclusive group training (incl. conditioning classes): 4,600 THB
1-week muay thai group training (incl. boxing): 3,500 THB
One-on-one session: from 700 THB
1-week group training: 3,000 THB
One-on-one session: 700 THB
Where to stay
There are heaps of great, cheap places to stay on Soi Ta-Iad. A few years ago, I stayed at Signature Phuket Resort, which is one of the nicer properties and is like a mini-apartment with a kitchen and lounge (approx $50 per night). Last December, I booked Happy Cottages, which was cheaper at $40 per night, yet still had a lounge room and a communal pool. This time around, I’ll be staying at the Ra Residence apartments for a grand total of $25 per night (stick that in your fancy Surry Hills burgers and beers!).
Soi Ta-iad food guide
If you do end up at Tiger, it’s likely you’ll bump into Joey Angeles during your stay. She’s the social queen who organises the weekly trips to nearby beaches and bars (despite the intense training, you’re also allowed to have fun while you’re there). She’s also the PR Manager for Tiger, so if anyone knows where to get the best food in Phuket, it’s Joey. Here are her tips.
Near the camp
* Any local Thai place is good. Family Boy on Tiger Road is a family run resto and is really clean. A nice Thai family runs it.
* The chicken place across Floraville, just after the Family Mart and the Bamboo Massage place where the old ladies are serve the best roast chicken ever! These little joints sell Isaan food, which is north-eastern Thai cuisine. They’re known for their grilled chicken and catfish, the papaya salad, “somtum”, grilled chicken hearts and liver… It’s so cheap and so good – try it!
* Ali’s BBQ is really popular. It started as an eight-seater place down the corner and is now a kebab empire! [Lizza’s note: this was one of my favourite places to eat dinner. Definitely try the barbeque skewers.)
* Tony’s is the only place that hasn’t really changed its prices since I started at Tiger six years ago. I mean it is pretty cheap and I’ve never had any issues there. This place has a group-fighter atmosphere.
* Island Poke Bowl has buy-one-get-one-free coffee from 7:30am-9:30am. They also have the best brekkie and poke bowls!
* The Salad Labz is a good option if you want to quickly want to make your own salad.
Outside of the Soi
People always hear about the Blue Elephant before they get to Phuket, but Tu Kab Khao is way better. My fave Thai restaurant is Natural Restaurant. It’s so good, cheap and has a tree house feel. For fusion Thai, Suay restaurant is amazing!
The best international grub:
- Sala Mexicali for Mexican
- The Spartan for burgers!
- Agli Amici for pizza
- The Green Man for Sunday roasts
- Gallery Cafe is another one for Sunday roasts and French toast
- Kuma Sushi: All-you-can-eat Japanese buffet! So good and cheap at 490 baht.
- Hogfather Palai for Texas BBQ
- Ceres for ribs and pasta
- Bellini for Italian
And it’s all guilt-free in Phuket, because you’ve trained up a massive appetite.