Traditional Thai Sports, Thai Boxing, Takraw, Long-Boat Racing, Buffalo Racing and Kite Flying

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Traditional sports are an expression of a culture that developed from an agricultural way of life and passed from generation to generation. Thai sports are also a form of entertainment during religious ceremonies and festivals. While golf, tennis, water-skiing and windsurfi ng have been eagerly adopted, the older pleasures have never been forgotten. Even in sophisticated centres like Bangkok they continue to exert a strong appeal among young and old alike.

Thai boxing (Muay Thai)
Long-boat racing
Baffalo racing
Kite Flying

Thai boxing (Muay Thai) Thai Boxing

back to topTakraw

The second most popular Thai sport is probably takraw. The difference between this sport and Thai boxing is that takraw is played every day, in every city, town, village, farm, temple or wherever there is space. The aim of this game is to keep a woven rattan ball about 12 centimetres in diameter in the air for as long as possible by using the feet, knees, elbows, and head but not the hands. There are three different types: Takraw wong or circle takraw, sepak takraw or net takraw, and takraw lot huang or hoop takraw.

The most common version of the game is circle takraw. The ball is passed from player to player and each is given points for style, consistency and retrieval of diffi cult balls. After a set time or a set number of throws, the highest score determines the winner.

For sepak takraw, a head-high badminton net separates two threeman teams. The ball is tossed into play and served over the net by a kick. The rules are as for volleyball except that a player may touch the ball three successive times, though never with his hands. Players pass, set up and spike in a series of pirouettes and somersaults. The most spectacular move is the 360-degree airborne cartwheel spike.

In hoop takraw, a team of six or more players stands at the perimeter of a circle. Hoops are suspended over the centre and the players must hit the ball through them during a 30-minute period. Each successive team tries to surpass the previous team’s score.

Circle takraw can be seen throughout the country in informal games played by young men in their lunch hours on any available piece of waste ground. Hoop takraw is normally played at Sanam Luang during the hot season; while net takraw is played at the National Stadium on Rama I Road, tel: 0 2214 0121; and at Hua Mak Stadium on Ramkhamhaeng Road, tel: 0 2318 0940-4. More information can be obtained from the Takraw Association of Thailand, tel: 0 2281 1038 and 0 2281 1054. A takraw ball is also a popular souvenir for tourists.

back to topLong-boat racing

Long-boat races have remained popular since the days when waterways were Thailand’s transport infrastructure. Regattas are featured at country fairs to celebrate the end of the rainy season from September to November.

Long narrow, boats decked with fl ags and with garlands at their prow are manned by maybe 50 people. Each boat represents a temple and races are held at a high pitch of enthusiasm between two boats at a time. Many provinces, among them Phichit, Surat Thani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Nakhon Phanom, Nan, Phitsanulok, Bang Sai, Ayutthaya and Bangkok stage spectacular races. Dates vary in each province but are listed in the TAT Major Festivals and Events 2007-2008 Calendar.

back to topBaffalo racing

For the farmers of Chon Buri Province, near Bangkok, water buffalo racing is an important annual festival, beginning in mid-October. Starting at dawn, farmers walk their buffalo through the rice fi elds, splashing them with water to keep them cool before leading them to the race fi eld.

As many as 300 buffaloes may race in one day in groups of fi ve or six, spurred on by riders with wooden sticks as hundreds of spectators cheer. But this festival is not just for fun: it helps to keep up the number of buffalo which has been falling at an alarming rate in other regions as machinery replaces the buffalo in Thai agriculture. Not an art form, exactly, but a cultural tradition that should be kept alive.

back to topKite Flying

Kite flying is a competitive sport and Thailand is probably the only country where battles are fought between two different types of kites, one male, the other female.

The male kite, chula, is a metre and a half in length and shaped like a fi vepointed star. The female kite, pakpao, is diamond-shaped, 0.76-metre long, usually with a long tail. The female kite is lighter and normally handled by just one person, but the male kite can be so large that it requires anything up to 20 men to send it aloft and manoeuvre it.

There should be a minimum of two chulas and four pakpaos to compete in a match. There are many rules governing the contests but the object of the air battle is to force your opponent’s kite into your territorial groundspace.

Competitions are generally held in the hot season of March and April and a popular venue is Bangkok’s Sanam Luang. Aside from the fi ghting kites, Thais make and fl y all sorts of other kites in hundreds of different shapes and sizes from a few centimetres to several metres.

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Last Updated : 25-Nov-2013