Football is very popular in Thailand. You will see small football pitches everywhere and the locals start friendly kick-around games everyday in the late afternoon once the temperature starts to drop.
Until recently there was no national football league in Thailand. The two top leagues were the Bangkok League and the University League. However, in 2009 a national league was formed with the idea that every province should have their own team. Phuket’t team gained promotion to Division 1 in 2010. They play their home games at Surakul Stadium in Phuket Town. It is early days for this fledgeling national league and it is hard to say whether it will be a success. They will have a problem competing with the immense popularity of the English Premier League with most Thai football fans giving their allegiance to either Man U or Liverpool.
Organised football at local level takes the form of tournaments. A small tournament may take place over a weekend while the big tournaments may take a month to complete. Most tournaments have an entrance fee and prize money to add spice to the contest.
For a friendly game, you will have no problem joining a kick-around on the beach in the evenings. In Patong, there is a big, dirt football pitch on the beach road next to Hat Patong Road. This is where they hold the Patong tournaments. Local ex-pats and Thais play a friendly game here every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 15:30, if no tournament is taking place. Anyone can join in.
When you first play against the Thais, you may get the impression they are lightweight and easy to knock off the ball. If you play against one of the local teams, you will soon lose that misconception. Although there are plenty of good ex-pat players in Phuket, no ex-pat team has won a major tournament. The best Thai teams are too fit and well organised.
The Phuket Soccer 7s is a popular international tournament that takes place every year in November. Teams from all over Asia and even further afield come to compete over a hectic weekend.
If you want to exercise in Phuket there are plenty of Gymnasiums. Many of the major hotels have their own gymnasiums. In addition, there are a few private gymnasiums that accept guests.
In Patong, for a good strong workout we recommend the Phuket Gym Patong just off Sai Nam Yen Road. From Rat-U-Thit, go 100 meters up Sai Nam Yen Road and the Gym is in the first right hand turn. It has a good range of cardio and resistance machines and free weights. The fees are 150 baht for a single session, 750 baht for weekly membership and 1500 baht for monthly membership. Long-term residents can get discounted rates.
For something a bit more swanky in Patong, try Tai Life on Soi Sunset next to Tai Pan.
In Phuket Town, the best Gym is Asia Fitness Club in the Royal Phuket City Hotel on Phang Nga Road. This gym has excellent equipment, exercise classes, swimming pool and sauna. It is open to residents and members with monthly membership available.
Also in Phuket Town is Smart Gym on Chana Charoen Road opposite Expo Market. They have a daily rate of 180-baht or membership rates starting from 1,500-baht a month.
Thai boxing is one of the most highly regarded combat sports in the world. The vicious combination of punches, kicks, elbows and knees are brutally punishing. There are four main venues for watching Thai boxing in Phuket (and a number of smaller rings and training gyms).
- Patong Boxing Stadium
- In patong, off Sainamyen Road close to the ten pin bowling alley. This is a new venue with real fights including some of the best fighters from local gyms, challengers from Bangkok and some foreign fighters. Check their billboard for the fight dates. Entrance price varies depending on the card and can be as much as 2,000 baht for foreigners.
- Tiger Boxing Stadium
- In patong, go to the end of Soi Sansabai and turn right on to the new road. The stadium is on your left. This is another new venue with real fights including some of the best local fighters, challengers from Bangkok and some foreign fighters. Check their billboard for the fight dates. Entrance rates vary depending on the fight card but prices for foreigners start from 800 baht.
- Phuket Boxing Stadium
- In Saphin Hin, Phuket Town. This is the oldest boxing stadium in Phuket and has real fights between good local fighters and a few guests from the rest of the country. The show normally takes place on Friday nights and entry is 450 baht. You can book tickets and transportation at local tour shops.
- Suwit Boxing Stadium
- On Chao Fa East, Chalong. They have fights between fighters from local training camps, including a few foreign fighters and a few fighters from nearby provinces. The show takes place evey Friday night and entrance is 900-baht for the cheap seats and 2,000-baht for ringside.
If you are interested in learning Muay Thai yourself then you should read about Tiger Muay Thai Camp.
Most of Phuket’s tennis courts are at hotels and private clubs. There are several hotels with tennis courts and coaches available, particularly around the Laguna complex at Bang Tao Beach. Check with your hotel for details.
There are not many public courts. In Phuket Town, there is Saphin Hin and the tennis club on the corner of Surin Road and Damrong Road.
Phuket has a rugby team, the Phuket Vagabonds, based at the British Curriculum School (formerly Dulwich College).
Phuket also hosts the Phuket International Rugby 10s tournament. This normally takes place at the Karon Municipality Stadium. Unfortunately, after the tsunami the stadium was not in a fit condition to play so the 2005 tournament was held on a public pitch in Phuket Town.
Phuket Riding Club is on Wiset Road between Chalong and Rawai. They have riding rings for beginners and children. You can do a 1-hour ride through rubber plantations and jungle for 650 baht or a 2-hour ride along Friendship Beach for 1,250 baht. You can e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.