In an attempt to get to know Bangkok better, Ashley and I have been exploring some of the city’s lesser known attractions. Anyone with a guidebook knows about the different muay-thai fights held nightly in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, these Chiang and Singha sponsored fights make for an entertaining nights when you have guests in town but at the same time they also feel like they were designed to cater to the foreign tourists. (I’m still trying to go to one of the Sunday fights that every motorcy and department store is broadcasting). So a couple of weeks ago we decided to break from the pack and spend a Sunday afternoon at the Royal Bangkok Sports Club’s races.
Located between some of Bangkok’s premier shopping malls and hotels, the Royal Bangkok Sports Club (RBSC) is an exclusive, multipurpose sports ground with tennis courts, swimming pools, a golf course and, of course, a horse racetrack. Most of these grounds are reserved for the country’s elite the exception being the 50 Baht concrete bleachers. With an rows of motorcycle taxi drivers, food vendors, binocular rental stalls it shouldn’t be hard to find the entrance provided you don’t walk the wrong way like we did. Yes the Ratchadamri BTS Station overlooks the race track but to get to the actual gate requires more walking (and Thai) than you’d think. Do yourself a favor and take a motorcycle or taxi from the BTS to the gate.
Entrance for the general public bleachers costs a mere 50 Baht – there is a swanky box seats and set lunch option but we didn’t realize that until after we’d paid and made our ways into the stands. I think it’s 500.00 a person but don’t quote me on that. On your way in grab some water, pay for the English guide (because there is no English once you’re in the public stands) and head up. The ground floor does allow you to sit right on the track but the finishing line is far enough down that you need to be higher up if you want to see the end of the race. There are no assigned seats just open-air concrete bleachers so sit where ever you can find room.
Once you’re settled the races are like horse races anywhere in the world. Before each race the horses are paraded around giving punters an opportunity to assess their options. After a trumpet the betting starts and the horses make their way to the gates. While you wait for the actual race to start you can go place a bet (we found no English so if you decided to bet make sure you bring your patience and a smile), watch golfers play the holes located in the middle of the track (although they seem to pause while the actual race is being run) or just enjoy the people watching opportunities. When we were there there was the guy decked out with chains of palm sized amulets (is it wise to listen to someone that needs that much help?), there were the horse race sages – old timers chain-smoking cigarettes and writing out notes and people like us there just for entertainment. Eventually all the horses find their way to their gate, there is a brief pause while the better clock counts down and then a gun shot and they’re off!
Now I am not a horse racing aficionado and I can’t tell you how long the track was, whether the horses ran fast or not, the quality of the animals or the riders. Horses ran around the track and someone won – that’s the extent of my understanding of horse races. However, I will say that watching people watch the races was excellent. The people in the stand really got into each race – which makes sense if they had money riding on it. At the start of the race there were a few people yelling, but the crowd really started getting into as the horses rounded the corner and made their way to the finish line. Not that this is unusual at a race, but it was entertaining watching the crowd of Thais really get into the race and get really loud.
You can find more information on Royal Bangkok Sports Club website.
I also have more pictures from the Royal Bangkok Sports Club Horse Races over on Flickr.