At a Loose End
I would say the three main things to do in Bangkok are visiting temples, ambling around a market, or eating/drinking. But when you live here the novelty of those activities begins to wear off. You crave a pastime with more meaning, more purpose. You actually need to head no further than the Royal Bangkok Sports Club (RBSC)for the horse racing. It’s conveniently located right in the center of Bangkok.
On two Sundays per month (but sometimes Saturday instead) the horse racing is held at the RBSC. It normally begins at around 12:00 and then I think the last race is at around 17:30. But it’s a pretty casual affair so you can wander in whenever you feel like it. And nobody will bat an eyelid if you’ve had enough and want to leave before the end. There are normally ten races, generally of around the same distance, so it gets quite repetitive.
Prawn Sandwich Brigade
We’ve been to the horse racing in Bangkok on two occasions. On our first visit, we were with an RBSC member so we got to go in the members’ section. We had to pay 500 THB but it meant we got to go inside to the bar. On the second occasion, we opted for the cheapest of cheap general admission tickets at only 50 THB. There were no seats, just terraces. There was no bar but people were selling bottles of Chang out of coolers, as well as random street food. Also, not a Western toilet in sight, we were squatting all the way.
But the main premise is to watch and bet on the horse racing, and that is the same no matter where you are sitting, standing or squatting!
Odds On Favourite
The first time we went to the races, we had both just learned Thai numbers which came in handy when trying to place bets. The odds are displayed as whole numbers, which I didn’t really understand at first. What it’s actually showing is what you’d get back for every 10 THB you bet. It actually makes quite a bit of sense.
Before the start of each race, the place seems to go completely silent as an announcer calls out something in Thai. I think they are announcing which jockey is going to ride each horse. Apparently, this is something that can be decided at the very last minute.
You go to a window to place a bet. It’s the same as in the UK and you can bet to win, place or various combinations that have specific names. I think you can find details in the race card program. Fortunately, there’s an English version of the race card available, although I seem to remember having to buy this outside the ground. It’s only 100 THB though and you won’t have a clue without it.
There were a few Farangs in the members’ bit but this is a predominately Thai affair. Correction, it’s a predominately Thai male affair. It doesn’t seem that popular with the ladies. That being said, it is a friendly atmosphere. And even floundering Farangs are accepted. You may even find yourself celebrating a winner with a complete stranger.
As legal gambling options are limited in Thailand, the crowd really get into every race. It’s normal to chant the name of your horse during each race. This really adds to the camaraderie of the whole event.
Dress to Impress
There is allegedly a dress code but I saw very little evidence of anyone following it in any section. I would suggest that anything particularly skimpy may be frowned upon but otherwise wear what you want. And it is pretty warm in that grandstand, particularly if you did opt to walk from the BTS. There’s no breeze so cooling down is a challenge. I recommend wearing clothes that you don’t mind sweating in.
It’s a Winner
I don’t think the standard is quite the same as in the UK. I’m not sure if these horses are true thoroughbreds – they seem to come in varying sizes! But it is entertaining, inexpensive and something you can do with very little advanced planning. It’s definitely worth trying if you’re at a loose end.