Image: Royalty-free Google images
Passed down from generation to generation, traditional Thai games are an essential element in Thailand’s cultural heritage. Thai games reflect the Thais’ way of life and their intellectual subtlety. It is a fine bond that has bound the Thai together through the ages and continues to do so.
The following are the five most celebrated Thai games:
Makruk, or Thai Chess, is a board game that looks very similar to the standard game of chess. A descendant of the 6th-century Indian game of Chaturanga, which is known as a predecessor of chess, Makruk has been described as being more strategic than traditional chess. The target of Makruk, similar to traditional chess, is to checkmate the king i.e. trap him so that he can not move in any direction.
Interestingly, there is a variant of Makruk, known as Ouk Chatrang, that is played in Cambodia. Ouk Chatrang has been known to have been in existence since the 12th century, as it has been depicted in the Angkor Temples.
Sepak Takraw is another sport with thousands of followers in Thailand. Essentially conceived as a compromise between Malaysia and Thailand, this sport derives its names from Sepak, which is the Malay word for “kick”, and Takraw, which is a kind of Thai woven ball. This sport, which is referred to only as Takraw in Thailand, is similar to volleyball but differs from it in its use of the woven ball, and allowing players to use their knees, feet, head, and chest to touch the ball. Takraw is a sport that requires skill, technique, and coordination with players FORBIDDEN to use their hands.
The sport’s popularity has heightened over the years, and it is now a regular game in the Asian Games and Southeast Asian Games. While formal versions of the game are similar to volleyball, with a net between the two teams, the more casual games are played in a circle as the ball is passed around.
Kaeng Ruer originated in Thailand during the Ayutthaya period and has managed to maintain its popularity till today. Its history in Thailand spans centuries, though there has been no historical evidence of its origin. The boat races are commonly held from the months of September to November and usually to celebrate the end of the rainy season. The boats used in Kaeng Ruer are made from hardwood. Each of these boats is manned by a team of between eight and ten oarsmen and a helmsman and have coloured cloth tied to the boat to honour the guardian spirits.
Chon Wua is believed to have long been a traditional pastime in Thailand’s southern provinces since the Ayutthaya period. Chon Wua is usually held during local festivities or on the first Saturday of every month and the bulls chosen have to go through a year’s training before they can enter the ring. The match reaches its conclusion when the weaker bull retreats. The locking of the horns as the bulls clash never ceases to enthral the devoted Thai spectators.
Image: Royalty-free Google images
Kite Flying is a sport most enjoyed by Thais during the months of March through May. Kites are said to have been used by the Thai since the 13th and 14th century during the Sukhothai period, though it became more popular during the reign of King Rama IV. During this era, people were granted royal permission to fly kites at Bangkok’s Phra Men ground which is located next to the Grand Palace.
Kite flying turned into a competitive sport where battles are fought between two different types of kites: male and female. The male kite is called Hula and is shaped like a five-pointed star. It’s huge and needs up to 20 men to manoeuvre it. The female kite – Pakpao, on the other hand, is a lighter diamond-shaped kite that needs only one person to handle it. It’s definitely a treat to watch these multi-coloured, uniquely designed kites filling up the skies.
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