Best Gyms and Fitness Centers in Bangkok, Thailand

California Wow's seedy 'pole dancing' billboard

The latest craze in Bangkok, Thailand is joining western-style fitness centers and gyms. Bangkok has many western-style fitness centers, most of which are top quality. Fitness centers are located all over Bangkok, with the chain fitness centers having gyms in several locations. Fitness centers like California Wow, True Fitness and Fitness First seem to have branches everywhere. With choices like this though, which fitness center or gym is the best?

True Fitness – I pass True Fitness every night on my way home from work. They are located at the corner of Asoke and Sukhumvit, and have a total of 7,000 square meters on five different floors of Exchange Tower. They offer all the usual fitness machines, plus classes in yoga (hot yoga is very popular), aerobics, dance, Pilates and spinning. They also have a True Spa, where you can go and relax while you get a massage, facial, hot oil treatment etc., and a True’Est beauty center, offering all the typical beauty services. There’s also a True CafĂ©, which serves not only coffee drinks and fruit juices but also full meals and it is delicious.

If I had to choose between any of the Bangkok fitness centers, I would probably choose True Fitness. It not only offers everything you could want, but it’s not usually very crowded – a problem that unfortunately seems to plague many of the other fitness centers in Bangkok.

Fitness First – Fitness First has more than 12 locations around Bangkok, with more opening all the time. It is one of the most popular fitness centers but is, however, quite busy much of the time so, unless you’re going early morning or late evening, you’re likely to experience crowds. They do offer all the typical cardio equipment, free weights, weight machines etc. as well as a ‘Cardio Theatre’, where you can listen to music or watch TV or a movie while you’re exercising. You also get a free pair of headphones when you sign up for membership.

One extra nice thing about Fitness First is you are not limited to the fitness center you sign up with. They have a ‘passport’ system, which means you can use your Fitness First membership anywhere in the world where there’s a Fitness First gym. Fitness First is also less pushy than its direct competitor California Wow, so it’s a much nicer atmosphere to workout in and also to be left alone to workout in. Fitness First also charges Thai and Western clients the same prices.

California Wow – With 12 fitness centers in Bangkok, California Wow is one of the largest fitness chains in Thailand. With the usual cardio and weight lifting workout opportunities, California Wow also offers yoga, Pilates, Kickfit (a punching/kicking workout based on Muay Thai), and pole dancing. There has been quite a lot of outrage directed at California Wow for their pole dancing classes though, as Thai girls do not want to be seen as behaving like prostitutes. In fact, an enormous California Wow poster advertising their pole dancing classes was taken down just over a week after it went up, probably due to complaints.

California Wow fitness centers do usually have promotions going on, so check carefully before you sign up as you can usually get a fitness membership cheaper than first offered. California Wow has also had several complaints written up in the Bangkok Post newspaper that their marketing tactics are extreme, they’re very aggressive about ‘upgrading memberships’ and it ends up being a place where you’re just a body handing over money every month. Westerners are also given a higher price structure than Thais, who receive much cheaper membership offers. From what I’ve read and from what I’ve been told by Thai friends, I would give California Wow a wide berth.

Clark Hatch Fitness Center – Clark Hatch has 14 different fitness centers in Bangkok. Many of them are located at area 4 and 5 star hotels and all offer different amenities. There’s always a cardio and weight lifting area, and most of them also offer a swimming pool, aerobics classes, yoga, and even things like table tennis and dance and step classes. Check out each individual Clark Hatch center, as they all have different activities. Clark Hatch doesn’t tend to offer many promotions so working out here can be a lot more expensive. However, a direct result of this is less people so it’s a nicer workout atmosphere. Most of their centers also offer free parking for 2-3 hours.

These four fitness center chains all offer something different and it depends what you’re looking for as to which one would be the better one. Overall, if I chose, I would go with True Fitness as they have good promotions, a large fitness center and gym area and their staff is not too pushy. Whichever one you choose though, any of the fitness center chains in Bangkok are Western-standard, modern and offer a great opportunity to workout.

Photo – California Wow ‘pole dancing’ billboard – see the car accident below it? The drivers were probably distracted