by Kristie Rodgers
The Thai calendar is packed with national holidays and local festivals.
These may be religious festivals or those that honor a local hero, celebrate seasonal changes and harvests, or are dedicated to activities such as boat racing and kite flying. Apart from hosting other events, most “wats” stage temple fairs. Along with scheduled fairs such as the Golden Mount Temple Fair in Bangkok and Loy Krathong, there are a number of smaller regional festivals and celebrations.
The smaller ceremonies are often as entertaining as the main event itself, with vendors selling food and trinkets, and flamboyantly dressed kathoeys adding color. Folk music such as likay and ram wong, beauty contests, and games add to the general festivities. These also include cockfighting and Siamese fighting fish contests.
Muay Thai And Krabi-Krabong
Muay thai is a national passion. Most provinces have a boxing arena, but the top venues are in Bangkok. Lumphini Stadium has bouts every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday, and there are boxing matches at the Ratchadamnoen Boxing Stadium on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Krabi’s Ao Nang Krabi Stadium is the south’s largest arena with bouts every Friday. Visitors interested in actually learning the skills of this sport should contact the International Amateur Muay ThaiFederation, who should be able to recommend suitable gyms and instructors.
Another revered, long established Thai martial art is krabi-krabong, meaning sword-staff, after some of the hand weaponry used in this sport. The techniques are taught according to ancient rules and standards, although skill and stamina, rather than injuries inflicted, are now the measure of an accomplished fighter. Krabikrabong is often demonstrated at cultural performances for tourists.
This acrobatic sport, which is similar to volleyball, is popular all over Southeast Asia and played by young males on any clear patch of ground. The idea is to keep a woven rattan ball in the air using any part of the body apart from hands. The players’ extraordinary agility and speed are a treat for visitors reared on more ponderous sports.
There are elaborate versions of this game, but the classic style has a team trying to get the ball into a basketball-like net during a set time frame more times than their rivals.
Despite sepak takraw (a competitive version of the original takraw), being incorporated into the Asian Games and Olympics, professionalgames of this sport are surprisingly rare.
SOCCER, RUGBY, AND SNOOKER
Thais have always been enthusiatic about football or soccer and the game was introduced to the country as early as 1897 and came under the king’s royal patronage a few years later. In 1996, a professionalsoccer league – the Thai Premier League with 18 clubs – was introduced. Rugby has also sparked remarkable interest, with its own league and participation in the Hong Kong Sevens.
Matches are held in Bangkok at National Stadium, Hua Mark Indoor and Outdoor Stadiums, Army Stadium, and Royal Bangkok Sports Club.
Thailand is one of the most successful non-Anglophone countries to adopt snooker.
Revived by an Englishman, Maurice Kerr, Managing Director of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, it was thereafter popularized throughout the country by the world seeded, James Wattana. Since then snooker has become professional and both domestic and world ranking events are held in Bangkok.