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Village Cycles The Seasonal Cycle The Thai Villagers Life Part 6





Throughout the year, villagers share a common interest in gambling, travelling (pai tiao) and sports. Gambling is a passion. The national lottery excites imaginations in every province, as do cock, bull, fish and cricket-fights by the score. Card games are a pastime favoured by both sexes and almost everyone can play Thai-style chess.

Pai tiao by foot, boat, bus, motor bike or rail is a favourite way to relax Travelling makes the villages less insular and personal relations with family and friends are trea-sured as much for the opportunities they afford for travel as for the affection upon which they are based.

Besides national celebrations there are regional festivals like the Northeast Ngan Hae Bong Fai or skyrocket festival in May or June of each year. Traditionally a period of letting off steam, the festival’s highpoint occurs when, amongst much high-spirited revelry, villagers fire homemade rockets, some of them 20 metres tall, into the sky to ensure plentiful rainfall for the forthcoming rice season.

A sharp contrast can be seen in the soberly attended, purely religious festivals such as the Northeastern Sern Prawaerd which commemorates the Buddha’s last incarnation before his rebirth to become the historical Buddha. Inside the temple compound, individual monks take turns chanting the story of Prawaerd and of the Buddha’s numerous other previous exis-tences.

Takraw and kite flying are popular sports. Takraw is played by a loosely formed circle of men who use their feet, knees, thighs, chests and shoulders to acrobatically pass a woven rattan ball to each other, endeavouring to keep it per-petually in the air and eventually kick it into a basket hung high above their heads.

Kites are flown mainly during the breezy hot season. Popular in Thailand since at least the founding of Sukhothai, kites have profitably been used in war-fare : an Ayutthayan governor quelled a 1690 Northeast city-state’s rebellion by flying massive chula kites over the besieged city and bombing it into submission with jars of explosives.

Nowadays, kite flying is an individual pleasure or a competitive sport. Opposing teams fly male (chula) and female (pakpao) kites in a surrogate battle of the sexes. The small, agile pakpao tries to fell the more cumbersome chula, while the male kite seeks to ensnarl the female kite and drag it back into male territory.

During temple fairs, another popular sport, the unique martial art of Thai boxing, is frequently featured. An art of self-defence developed during the Ayutthaya period, Thai boxing forbids biting, spitting or wrestling. However, boxers may punch, kick and shove and unrestrainedly use bare feet, legs, knees, elbows, shoulders and fists to savage each other into submission. A vicious kick in the throat, an elbow smash to the eyes, a knee into the stomach or a whiplash kick in the groin can immediately floor the sturdiest of opponents. Nowa-days, boxers wear conventional boxing gloves, a somewhat civilized development considering that less than 50 years ago boxers customarily fought with fists bound with hemp which contained liberal amounts of ground glass.
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Article Added on Thursday, January 7, 2010
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