Thai people are great sports enthusiasts and sports fans. Thailand sports play an integral part in the life of every Thai national. Thais enjoy both traditional and indigenous games as well as modern international games. There are a wide array of sport activities to choose from in Thailand. Golf is perhaps the most popular international sport apart from badminton, soccer, boxing, snooker, tennis and bowling. Traditional games of Thai boxing, kite-fighting, boat racing, buffalo racing and Takraw are also practiced in Thailand, some on a regular basis and others are a form of entertainment which take place during religious and royal ceremonies and festivals.
Discover some of Thailand’s traditional sports:
Muay Thai or Thai Boxing is the national sport and cultural martial art of Thailand. It was developed hundreds of years ago as a form of close-combat that utilizes the entire body as a weapon. Muay Thai fighters train many hours a day and often begin when they are 6-8 years of age. They typically take their first fight when they are 8-10 years old. Today Muay Thai is becoming very popular on a global scale. It was recently accepted as an Olympic sport, finally gaining it’s deserved recognition. Professional martial artists from all forms of the fighting spectrum agree, Muay Thai is essential to becoming an all-around multifaceted fighter and will continue to grow in popularity.
Buffalo have always played an integral part in Thai culture and have been used for centuries to plough rice fields. The Chonburi Buffalo Races date back many years ago when farmers from the countryside would come to town to trade produce. One time, two farmers got in an argument over who had the fastest buffalo – and thus the first race began! Now, the meaning behind the festival is to pay homage to the buffalo and they are treated like royalty and get top notch meals and personal attendees that take care to cool them down with buckets of water. Along with the races, the festival includes a beauty pageant for the most attractive buffalo, a humorous buffalo costume contest, rides for children, folk music performances, and of course delicious authentic Thai food.
Long Boat races
Long-boat racing has always been one of Thailand’s signature sport festivals, held annually during Thai Buddhist Lent period which is around September and October since the river’s tide is highest. The traditional long wooden boat races go back more than 4 centuries ago in Thailand. The long boats in competition can measure up to 30 meters and are made of wood finished with decorated long prows. The races are rowing competitions with boats that must go on an average distance of 500 meters. Along with the competition, there are also many activities for people to join in. Food fair, parades and other amusements, like ferris wheels and merry-go-round usually are always available nearby for visitors to enjoy after the race.
Takraw is one of Thailand’s most popular sports, yet most Westerners have never heard of it. Imagine a net similar to volleyball, then reduce the ball to the size of a small melon and make it out of rattan, and that’s all the equipment required for a Takraw game. It is a mixed form of football (soccer) and volleyball with a little bit of kung fu and acrobatics. The basic objective of the game is to keep the ball from touching the ground. Players can use their feet, knees, head, shoulders and elbows but not their hands. It is often played by workers at the end of the days work to wind down and also can be seen being played at temples, schools and parks. To watch the professionals play in competition is something else!