TRADITIONAL THAI SPORTS, RECREATIONAL SPORTS IN THAILAND AND TIGER WOODS

KITE FIGHTING IN THAILAND

Kite fighting is popular in Thailand and is even a league sport. The origin of the sport is not known. It probably has religious or ritualistic roots. The kite-fighting season last from February to June. The All-Thailand championships, held in Bangkok, is a major sporting event. .

There are two kinds of kite-fighting kites: the large star-shaped chula, or male kite, and the smaller diamond-shaped pakpao, or female kite. The chula may up to two meters across and requires several people to launch it. It has bamboo slats tied on to its string which are used to entangle the tail of the pakpao. Generally, two pakpao are used. They are about half the size of the chula and are much faster and maneuverable.

In a competition, the more cumbersome Chula attempt to snare the Pakpao kites and pull them into a designated territory. The more maneuverable Pakpaos, which often have bits of glass on their strings, attempt to severe the strings of the Chula or wrap around it and bring it crashing to the ground.

Kite flying is so popular that the playful vernacular term chak wow , meaning to “fly a kite,” is also slang for masturbation. According to Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Thailand : “The term compares male masturbation to the hand action of flying a kite, a popular Thai pastime. An even more euphemistic term for male masturbation is pai sa-naam luang, which means “to go to the grand field,” referring to the very popular park area near the royal palace in Bangkok where people fly kites. For women, the slang term tok bed is used, meaning “to use a fishing pole.” These playful and euphemistic expressions reflect the acknowledgment that masturbation occurs for both men and women, and yet some discomfort prevents a straightforward verbal expression.” [Source: Encyclopedia of Sexuality: Thailand (Muang Thai) by Kittiwut Jod Taywaditep, M.D., M.A., Eli Coleman, Ph.D. and Pacharin Dumronggittigule, M.Sc., late 1990s; www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/IES/thailand

Longboat Racing

The annual longboat race in the northern Thai town of Pichit in is Thailand’s oldest river boat race. Held for almost 100 years, it has been around about as long the Henley Regatta in England. The races are held over two days on a 650 meter course on the Nan River in 20-meter-log teak dugout boat rowed by teams of 30 or so men and occasionally women who are follow orders. from a coxswain. The vent is a festive affair with pretty girls, feasting and cheering cords

According to the Thai government: “Long-boat races are a reflection of the Thai people’s way of life connected to and dependant on the waterways. Boats have been used in transport all over the country since time immemorial. In the past, long-boat races, employing a large number of oarsmen, were also seen as try-out sessions for men wanting to join the navy, a major defensive force for the country in former days. These days, royal barges in grand processions down the river are also handled by men in the naval forces. [Source: Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department]

Long-boat races are major events held to celebrate high water in several riverside provinces. Similar to dragon boat races held in China and other Chinese-speaking areas, long-boat race also forge unity in communities, especially among crew members on the same team, who are cheered on by spectators on the river banks. Those paddling the boats have to be strictly disciplined and work as teams, to collectively lead their boats to victory. The feat cannot be achieved by any individual on his own.

As a rule, before setting out on the race course, contestants bring flowers, candles, and joss sticks or an elaborate garland to pay respect to spirits of the boat, praying for victory, followed by boat songs sung collectively by the crew, in order to boost their morale and for the enjoyment of the spectators. Another special feature of the long-boat race is the live narration of the race on shore by skilled commentators who are well-informed about the race and who are experts at adding excitement and color to the event.

Water Buffalo Races

Water buffalos races—with human riders on the buffalos— are held during the annual Buffalo Racing Festival in Chonburi. Richard Barrow wrote in his blog in 2008: “I have been going to this event for a few years now to watch the spectacle of buffaloes racing down a track with riders perched precariously on their backs. This is now the 137th buffalo racing event. Every year the races seem to be getting more popular as word starts to spread. This year was no exception with larger crowds. There were also many more foreign tourists than I have seen before. I think most probably came up from Pattaya for the day. The Buffalo Racing Festival is still not in the Lonely Planet but news of this event is obviously spreading on the Internet. The date is fixed by the phases of the moon. It usually takes place the day before the full moon in October. The full moon day is also celebrated as the end of the three month long Buddhist Retreat. [Source: Richard Barrow, thai-blogs.com October 18, 2008, *]

“Buffalo racing is not really like a day at the horse races. It takes a long time to prepare them for the start of each race. There are also many false starts which again takes time for them to get back to the start line. Even though four buffaloes and their riders are at the start line, not all of them reached the finish line. Some never even start and some riders fall off along the way. As you can see from this picture, there is no saddle for the rider and it cannot be easy for him to stay mounted like that. It looked like there weren’t enough jockeys as I spotted the same riders on different buffaloes. It is also quite easy for them to be injured and some were sent to hospital. The sun was hot and as there was a long wait between races, I only watched three or four. But, there were plenty of other things going on at the festival.” *

“In another area of the field, there was an auction going on for some buffaloes. These were really big animals. As I walked passed, the prices were going up as high as 100,000 baht. A bit further on I came across the winners for the Miss Buffalo Beauty Pageant. The buffaloes were all dressed up as well. Apparently they take part in a parade through the town though I missed that this year as I was away on a road trip to Isaan. Other events going on included cock fighting, Thai boxing, climbing a greasy pole, team takraw and slingshot. There were also the usual fairground rides for the kids and of course plenty of food to eat. If you have never seen buffalo racing then it is worth going for the novelty. Though, don’t wear your best shoes and be careful where you step. Also, take plenty of sun lotion as the sun was very strong. Most people used umbrellas.” *

Takraw

Takraw—a sport played with a rattan ball—is enjoyed by both children and adults. Described as “volleyball for the feet, “ the game is easily set up, as little space is required. Players perform aerial pirouettes, spiking the ball over the net with their feet. Only the feet and head are permitted to touch the ball.

Takraw is played in all regions of Thailand by people from all walks of life. There are takraw championships at national and international levels, especially for sepak takraw, the net version of the game, which is now included in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games. Thai players dominate the sport and takraw stars have become national heroes. Thailand won the gold medal in both men’s and women’s sepak takraw in 2002 Asian Games.

Takraw players have to be both physically and mentally fit. They have developed detailed, professional techniques. Players are acrobatic, using their feet and their legs to control the ball. The techniques are categorized into four types: firm reception, accurate service, graceful postures, and flexible kicks.

A variation has players kicking the ball into a hoop 4.5 meters above the ground, which takes on the look of “basketball with the feet,” but without a backboard. Hoop takraw is a popular takraw game in Thailand. The game is played on a circular field, roughly 60 meters in diameter. At the center of the is a goal, usually a cluster of three hoops. The object is to get the bal into the hoop without letting it hit the ground or touch the hands. Points are scored by making a goal, with extra points added of it is done with particular style or flair. The lowest number of points are scored with a simple kick. The highest points are awarded for kicking the ball behind the back with both feet together. A legendary player know as Daeng was said to have had an infinite variety of shots. Perhaps the most spectacular was when he lay down all on the ground on all fours and leap off the ground, hitting the ball in the goal with his rear end.

Sepak Takraw

Sepak Takraw is an interesting sport that you see played all over Southeast Asia. Essentially it is volleyball played without using your hands and arms. It is very exciting to watch a good player leap high into the air, flip around and spike the ball with his foot at 60 miles per hour and then fall on his head and shoulders without hurting himself.

Sepak Takraw is played with a special rattan bag in a badminton court. It is known by different names in different countries: sipak in the Philippines, takraw in Thailand and sepak raga in Malaysia. Sepak Takraw was coined in 1965 at the Southeast Asia Games by combining the Malay word for kick (“speak”) and the Thai word for ball surprisingly “ takraw”). Malaysia has lobbied to get sepak takraw accepted as an Olympic sport

The origin of Sepak Takraw is not known. Malays claim it was invented in Malaysia while Thais claim it was invented in Thailand. The game was reportedly played in royals courts in feudal Malaysia an is associated with the great Malayan hero Hang Tuah. In this version of game participants gathered in a circle and tried to keep the ball from hitting the ground. During the British colonization period, it was played mainly in villages as a s lunchtime pastime by working boys.

Competition sepak takraw is played with three players on a team and has rules similar to volleyball and badminton. Play begins with a served (kicked) and each side is allowed three hits (the same as volleyball) before it is delivered over the net to the other team. The scoring is like badminton. The first team to 15 wins.

Tak Ball: a Shocking Game Played with Stun Guns

Sinsiri Tiwutanond of Reuters wrote: “The rules are simple: throw a ball into the goal to score a point. But what makes this game unlike any other is that all the players are armed and ready with stun guns. It's Ultimate Tak Ball, the brainchild of a few hardcore sports fanatics who say it is the sport of the future and are in Bangkok for an exhibition game. [Source: Sinsiri Tiwutanond, Reuters, March 6, 2012]

Each game consists of three periods that last for 7 minutes each, with two teams of four players each. Any player in possession of the 24-inch medicine ball is open to unlimited shocking by the players on the opposite team. The stun guns pack 3 to 5 milliamps of electricity, which is only about 10 percent of the power of the taser stun guns used by police. Fired on contact with an opponent, the guns produce a twitching feeling, according to players.

"It never gets better, you just get less afraid of the stun," a smiling Damien Ryan, 24, said during a break in a match in Bangkok. "But it's one of the best feelings ever." The game was thought up by friends Leif Kellenberger, Eric Prum and Erik Wunsch, who were trying to come up with the extreme of extreme sports when the idea of stun guns popped up. Planning for the game began some four years ago.

Players on the teams in Bangkok were all originally paintball professionals who had been touring together for a while, and so were already accustomed to the agility and pain required in an extreme sport created for adrenaline junkies. The switch to Ultimate Tak Ball, or UTB as they call it, was easy. "I quit counting once I was on the ground and two people were stunning me a lot. Yeah, it felt like one continuous tase," said Ryan Moorhead, of the San Diego Spartans, recalling being shocked 10 to 15 times during a game.

The just-established league has only four teams but there have been more than 1.5 million views on its promotional video on YouTube and it has been covered by the U.S. television show "The Colbert Report". Despite the scary equipment, players maintain that the most serious injury since the sport's inception has been a player dislocating his finger when he rammed into a wall while avoiding a tackle. "People just have a preconceived notion about stun guns, the ones we use don't cause any danger. They're really low voltage," said Kellenberger.

The recent game in Bangkok had very little downtime, with players moving frantically from one end of the field to the other, a constant buzzing from the stun guns heard throughout. The crowd roared as one player got stunned and tackled while trying to maneuver the ball through the opposing defense.

Elephant Sports

The Surin Elephant Roundup in northeastern Thailand in mid-November is an internationally famous event in which over 100 elephants participate in mock elephant hunts, polo matches, mock elephant battles, tug-of-wars and demonstrations of log pulling skills. In the mock battle, warrior with spears advance on the backs of the elephants to the sound of drums while soldiers with and swords guards the animals legs. A parade of elephants outfitted for medieval warfare is also held. Over 40,000 people show up for the event at the Surin’s main stadium. Most of elephant mahouts are members of the Suay tribe, who live near the Thai-Cambodian border. There is also Thai dancing and other events. The Elephant Round up features hundreds of elephants showcasing their skills, including a man vs elephant tug-of-war and full fledged battle re-enactments.

Describing an elephant polo game in Thailand, Anthony Faiola wrote in the Washington Post, “During America's debut in the extra-wide world of elephant polo, frustrated U.S. captain Kimberly Zenz nearly screamed herself hoarse. The prime pachyderms toting the rival Italians were dominating the opening match, while Thong Kao-- Zenz's languid charger -- seemed more interested in turning the grassy polo field into an afternoon snack. But as the ball skidded dangerously close to the Italian goal posts, something suddenly seemed to stir from deep inside Thong Kao. She hurled her three-ton bulk toward that ball like Barbaro on steroids. [Source: Anthony Faiola, Washington Post, September 10, 2006]

“From the sidelines, international playboys almost choked on their gin and tonics. British aristocrats looked up from their Rolexes, cocking eyebrows with bemusement. For a moment at the King's Cup Elephant Polo Championship -- one of the circuit's Big Three -- it seemed the upstart Yanks from the Washington area might finally charge onto the scoreboard. Then something really did stir from deep inside Thong Kao. She let rip a hail of dung that left the pursuing Italians dodging for cover. And just as Zenz yanked back her mallet, Thong Kao accidentally stepped on the polo ball, squashing it into the ground and suspending play. It marked the first of many lessons for a team of rookie Americans who came to the emerald hills of the Golden Triangle this week for a crash course in one of the world's most surreal sports.” [Ibid]

Tamarine Tanasugarn:Thailand’s Best Female Tennis Player

Tamarine Tanasugarn is a professional Thai tennis player. She was born in Los Angeles, United States born on May 24, 1977, and turned professional in 1994. She has been in the top 20 in both singles and doubles. Tanasugarn's highest Women's Tennis Association (WTA) world ranking was no. 19, achieved on 13 May 2002, which is the highest ranking ever achieved for a Thai female player. She has won four singles titles and five doubles titles. She was briefly a doubles partner with Maria Sharapova, with whom she won two titles in 2003. Her highest world doubles ranking was no. 15, which she achieved on 13 September 2004. With Liezel Huber, she reached the 2004 US Open doubles quarterfinals, and at the 2011 Wimbledon Championships, she reached the women's doubles semifinal with Marina Erakovic. Her biggest success so far came in 2008, when she reached quarterfinals at Wimbledon. [Source: Wikipedia]

In her career, Tanasugarn has defeated former and current no. 1 players, including Amélie Mauresmo, Jennifer Capriati, Jelena Jankovic', and Dinara Safina. She has also beaten Australian Open and French Open champion Mary Pierce. Tanasugarn is regarded as a grass-court specialist; she has won most matches on the surface including two grass-court International titles. Tanasugarn at some point held the record of the most singles matches won on grass court among WTA active players. As of July 8th, 2013, she was second (with 84 wins) among active players, and 12th on the all-time list.

Tanasugarn is also a regular competitor for the Thailand Fed Cup team, helping the team join the World Group II in 2005 and 2006, after beating Australia and Croatia in their play-off matches.

Height:1.65 m (5 ft 5 in); Plays: Right-handed (two-handed backhand); Prize money: US$ 3,448,676; Singles Career record: 532–414; Career titles: 4 WTA, 14 ITF; Highest ranking: No. 19 (13 May 2002); Current ranking: No. 160 (29 July 2013)l Grand Slam Singles results; Australian Open: 4R (1998); French Open: 3R (2002); Wimbledon: QF (2008); US Open: 4R (2003).

Doubles Career record: 272–241; Career titles: 8 WTA, 7 ITF; Highest ranking: No. 15 (13 September 2004); Current ranking: No. 62 (29 July 2013); Grand Slam Doubles results: Australian Open: 3R (2000); French Open: 3R (2012); Wimbledon: SF (2011); US Open: QF (2004)

Asian Games: Bronze: 2010 Guangzhou; TeamBronze; 2010 Guangzhou; Mixed Doubles: Silver: 2002 Busan: Singles Silver: 1998 Bangkok: Singles. Southeast Asian Games: Gold: 2007 Nakhon Ratchasima: Doubles; Bronze: 2007 Nakhon Ratchasima: Mixed Doubles; Gold: 2009 Vietiane: Doubles Silver: 2009 Vietiane: Mixed Doubles

Paradorn Srichaphan: Thailand’s Best Male Tennis Player

Paradorn Srichaphan is a retired professional tennis player from Thailand. He was the highest ranked men's singles player from Thailand and Asia in history, reaching a career high world no. 9. He was born June 14, 1979). His nickname is "Ball".

Paradorn started his professional ATP career in 1998. He remained in the lower ranks of the professional circuit for several years. However his ranking continued to improve. After being a surprise finalist in the 2000 Hopman Cup, 2002 was a breakthrough year for him as he managed to get into the top 30 after defeating Andre Agassi in Wimbledon. In 2003 he won his first ATP-level singles title, the Hamlet Cup. He reached the fourth round in Wimbledon where he was beaten by Andy Roddick, 4–6, 6–3, 3–6, 2–6, having become the first player to defeat Rafael Nadal in a Grand Slam, He also reached the fourth round in the US Open losing to Lleyton Hewitt. By the end of the year, he was ranked World No. 11 in the ATP rankings.

Paradorn is extremely popular in Asia, especially in Thailand. He was Thailand's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games held in Athens, Greece but lost in the first round of singles to Joachim Johansson. His best Olympics performance was second round in Sydney, beating Attila Sávolt before being beaten by third-seeded Magnus Norman. Paradorn plays with big serves and powerful forehands. He uses a single-handed backhand, and is known for being a weak player on clay courts due to his lack of patience when playing points.

At the 2006 Indian Wells masters tournament, Paradorn reached the semifinals and lost against World No. 1 Roger Federer in two sets (6–2, 6–3). En route to the semifinal he beat World No. 20 Robby Ginepri in the second round, World No. 16 Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain in the third round, World No. 4 David Nalbandian in the fourth round, and World No. 25 Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the quarterfinals.

In the 2006 Wimbledon Championships, Paradorn was seeded 29th but was upset in the first round by Agustín Calleri in five sets. He did not perform well in all the events he participated in early 2007 due to wrist injury and he missed basically the whole 2007 season. As a result his ranking fell to below No. 900. After the end of the ATP Masters Series event in Miami that ended in early April 2007, Paradorn fell entirely out of the ATP rankings. He began practicing as of March 2008, however it took him until the 2009 Thailand Open to return to the ATP World Tour, playing doubles. He retired in June 2010, following a motorcycle crash that left him with two broken hands and a wrist. In June 2010, Paradorn officially announced his retirement from the ATP tour but will coach Thailand's Davis Cup team.

Paradorn is noted for his politeness on the court. At each match, he performs the wai, the traditional Thai greeting, clasping his hands together and bowing to the four corners of the stadium. The gesture is seen as thanking the fans and it has become his trademark. His success in tennis led to a spike in popularity of the game in Thailand. The Nation newspaper named him "Thai of the Year" in 2002; in 2003, Paradorn was featured on the cover of Time and featured as one of the year's "Asian heroes".

In November 2005, Paradorn spent a week as a Buddhist monk in a temple outside Bangkok. He adopted the Buddhist name Mahaviro, meaning "great and brave", wore saffron robes and shaved his head. His then girlfriend, Odette Henriette Jacqmin was present for the ceremony. Paradorn married Natalie Glebova (Miss Universe 2005) in Bangkok, Thailand, on 29 November 2007. In February 2011, Paradorn and wife, Natalie, announced their separation after three years of marriage stating the reason to be "work commitments had kept them apart."

Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in); Turned pro: 1997; Retired: 4 June 2010; Plays: Right-handed (one-handed backhand); Prize money: $3,459,655; Singles Career record: 239–193; Career titles: 5; Highest ranking: No. 9 (12 May 2003); Grand Slam Singles results: Australian Open: 4R (2004)l French Open: 3R (2002); Wimbledon: 4R (2003); US Open: 4R (2003). Other tournaments: Olympic Games: 2R (2000); Doubles: Career record: 25–61; Highest ranking: No. 79 (8 September 2003).

Golf in Thailand

Golf attracts affluent tourists to Thailand from abroad and elsewhere in Asia. The sport is loved by wealthy Asians who view it as a status symbol. Many Thai resorts cater to foreign golfers—particularly the Japanese, with more the Taiwanese, Koreans, Hong Kong Chinese and Chinese swelling the ranks every year. For the Japanese it is much cheaper to fly to foreign countries and play golf than play golf at home. Among local Thai’s golf is mainly seen as a rich man’s sport.

The first golf course in Thailand, the Royal Bangkok Sports Club, was built at the turn of the 20th century. King Rama VI played the game with his wife and had a championship course built in Hua Hin in the 1920s.

The Thailand Open has attracted the likes of Rory McIroy and Luke Donald. Before the event was held in December 2011, after Thailand was devastated by floods that killed over 600 people, Thai golfer Thawon Wirachant said: “While it might be a good idea to show the world Thailand is back to normal, the money could have been used to help the thousand s affected by the floods.” The Honda PTT LPGA is a major woman’s golf tournament.

Sukree Onsham was the first Thai golfer to play in the master. He played twice in 1970 and 1971, he didn’t make the cut either year.

Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee is a former army paratrooper who became a professional golfer after his military service was up. One of Asia’s top golfers, he has played on the American tour and was the top money winner on the Asia Tour in 2001 and 2004. Thingchai learned the game when he was in the army. He won the Wales Open at the age of 42 in June 2012. It was his fifth European Tour title and his first in mainland Europe. He participated in his first Masters in 2006.

See Activities

Golf Course Boom and Anti-Golf Movement in Thailand

Lots of golf courses have been built in Thailand in the past decade. In 1994 there were 160 golf courses in Thailand, triple the number that existed in 1985. There were plans to build another 500 more before the Asian economic crisis in 1997 dampened those plans.

At one time new golf course were opening at a rate of one very couple of weeks. Many of the course have been financed by powerful generals and police commanders who are able to avoid environmental reviews. Japanese investors have financed numerous golf courses in Thailand as well as in Malaysia, Indonesia, Hawaii and Singapore.

Sreela Kolandai, a Malaysian who founded the Anti-Golf Movement told the New York Times, Golf has become a serious environmental threat all across Asia." The golf courses are being cleared from rain forest and built on valuable agricultural land.” The courses also use up valuable sources of water and fertilizers and pesticides run off the courses and contaminate other water sources. Private golf courses have been built in national parks, wilderness sanctuaries and wetlands that provide feeding grounds for migrating birds and ducks. Some farmers have been forced to give up their land at gun point.

A study by a Thai university showed that a golf course in Thailand uses up as much water as 6,000 city dwellers. During one drought farmers were told not use water to raise a second crop while golf courses patronized by the rich and powerful continued to soak up water from government reservoirs. Defenders of the golf boom claim that displaced farmers can get better paying jobs as caddies and security guards and greenskeepers.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods is considered a native son of Thailand because his mother is half Thai and grew up in Thailand. Sshe was secretary in Bangkok when she met Wood's father, a Vietnam War American army officer, in 1968. While he was growing up Tiger only visited Thailand twice. According to Wikipedia: “Woods was born Eldrick Tont Woods in Cypress, California, to Earl (1932–2006) and Kultida (Tida) Woods (born 1944). He is the only child of their marriage, but does has two half-brothers and a half-sister, born in the 1950s, from the 18-year marriage of Earl Woods and his first wife. Earl, a retired lieutenant colonel, veteran, was of African American, Native American, and possibly Chinese ancestry. Kultida (née Punsawad) is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry. [Source: Wikipedia]

Woods said on the Oprah Winfrey Show, "Growing up, I came with us name: I'm a 'Cablinasian'" to describe his blend of Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian ancestry. Woods' first name, Eldrick, was coined by his mother because it began with "E" (for Earl) and ended with "K" (for Kultida). His middle name Tont is a traditional Thai name. He was nicknamed Tiger in honor of his father's friend Col. Vuong Dang Phong, who had also been known as Tiger.

In August 2012, Woods became the first person to earn $100 million in prize money on the PGA Tour when he finished third in the Deautsche Bank Championship in Norton Massachusetts, earning $544,000. At that time he had won 74 tournaments, including 38 which had prize for first place of over $1 million, and 14 majors. His earnings come out to an average of $362, 277 for his 277 career starts at that time. Wood is second on the careeer tournament win list behind Sam Snead who won 82 PGA tournaments and won $620,126 in his whole career, which started in 1937. His biggest check was $28,000 for a second place in Milwaukee in 1968. Woods tied Jack Nicklaus for second place with at the Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio in June 2012.

Tiger Woods in Thailand

Tiger Woods first played in Thailand in 1997, when he won the Asian Honda Classic and was greeted by large crowds. He also received a royal award. He last played in Thailand in 2000, winning the Johnnie Walker Classic. In 1997, he came to Thailand only weeks after becoming the youngest person to win the Master's golf tournament. Woods was mobbed at the airport by beautiful women chanting "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger." He attended a cocktail party hosted in his honor by the prime minister and flew to Sydney on a Thai Airlines flight that waited two hours for him because he was tied up in traffic.

On a visit to Thailand in November 2010, hen he participated in a one-day, charity skins tournament, Associated Press reported: “Tiger Woods met the prime minister of Thailan as he received VIP treatment during a short visit to his mother's home country. The charity golf tournament is part of celebrations marking King Bhumibol's 60th year on the Thai throne. Woods also made an early morning visit to pay respects to the ailing 82-year-old king, who has been lodged at a Bangkok hospital for more than a year. The golfer did not meet the king but signed a get well book at the hospital. [Source: Associated Press, November 8, 2010]

Thais adore Woods because of his Thai family connection. But the golfer displayed his American side by shaking hands with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and ignoring the leader's "wai," the traditional Thai greeting of palms pressed together with a head bow that is a sign of humility and respect. Dressed in a grey blazer and black trousers, Woods and Thailand's top player, Thongchai Jaidee, presented Abhisit with a golf club during a brief meeting at his stately office, the Government House.

The golfers handed Abhisit a check for 2.2 million baht ($73,000) from ticket sales they are donating to the victims of recent floods that left more than 100 people dead. Woods then boarded a helicopter for Chonburi, a seaside province southeast of Bangkok, where the one-day tournament was being held at the Amata Spring Country Club. Woods' stay in Bangkok was scheduled to last about 24 hours. He arrived in Bangkok after competing in the HSBC Champions in Shanghai and is scheduled to leave for Australia the next day to compete in the Australian Masters in Melbourne.

Tiger Woods’s the Buddhist

From childhood Woods was raised as a Buddhist, and actively practised this faith from childhood until well into his adult professional golf career. In a 2000 article, Woods was quoted as saying he "believes in Buddhism... Not every aspect, but most of it." In the wake of the sex scandal that made worldwide headlines in 2009, Woods attributed his deviations and infidelity to his losing track of Buddhism. He said that "Buddhism teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously I lost track of what I was taught." [Source: Wikipedia]

In February 2010, AFP reported: “Tiger Woods believes the Buddhist precepts he learned from his mother, Kultida, will help him right a life derailed by his now infamous infidelities. "I have a lot of work to do, and I intend to dedicate myself to doing it," Woods said in his first public remarks since sordid revelations of his extramarital affairs surfaced in November. "Part of following this path for me is Buddhism, which my mother taught me at a young age. "People probably don't realize it, but I was raised a Buddhist and actively practice my faith from childhood until I drifted away from it in recent years. [Source: AFP, February 20, 2010]

Woods said that 45 days of in-patient therapy had helped him realize that his life needed a spiritual element. "In therapy, I've learned the points of looking at my spiritual life and keeping in balance with my professional life. "I need to regain my balance and be centered so I can save the things that are most important to me, my marriage and my children." [Ibid]

Tiger Woods’s Mother Sticks Up for Him After His Sex Scandal

Around the same time AFP also reported: “Tiger Woods's mother lashed out at the media's portrayal of the golf superstar, saying her son had been treated like a criminal by the tabloid media. Kultida Woods was the first person Woods approached following his wrenching nationally televised apology, leaning forward to embrace her after his heartfelt statement to a select group of friends and journalists. Afterward Kultida Woods said she was proud of her son, and angrily slammed the media's coverage of the sex scandal that had engulfed him. [Source: AFP, February 21, 2010]

"You know what? I'm so proud to be his mother. Period," she said. "This thing, it teaches him, just like golf. As a human being everyone has faults, makes mistakes and sins. We all do. But, we move on when we make a mistake and learn from it. I am upset the way media treated him like he's a criminal -- he didn't kill anybody, he didn't do anything illegal. They've being carrying on from Thanksgiving until now, that's not right!" she said. "The tabloids and newspapers just killed him, held him back... To me it looked like a double standard," she said.

Tiger Woods had earlier apologized for his "selfish and irresponsible" behavior, saying he had let down his wife, friends, family and fans by committing serial infidelities. His mother agreed her son was embroiled in the biggest personal crisis he would ever face -- but would eventually prevail. "When you make a mistake you learn from it and move on, that's the way life is, that's a human being," she said. "We're not good, and he never claimed he was God. If anyone tells me to condemn him, I say look at yourself first... I would look in their eyes and tell them you're not God!"

She also said her son's decision to re-embrace Buddhist philosophy would help him on the road to redemption. "Buddhism teaches you to go deep inside your soul and look through from himself, and correct the bad thing to be a good thing," she said. "When he realized, he said okay, and went back to practice Buddhism and that will make him a much better person."

Ariya Jutanugarn

Ariya Jutanugarn (born 23 November 1995) is a Thai professional golfer who was born in Bangkok, Thailand, where she still lives. She has an older sister, Moriya, who is also a professional golfer. Their parents are father Somboon and mother Narumon and they have four older half-siblings through their father. The two sisters often play matches together and travel with their parents, who handle their business and financial affairs. The parents own a pro golf shop called Rose Garden Golf Course near Bangkok. [Source: Wikipedia]

Jutanugarn qualified for the 2007 Honda LPGA Thailand at age 11, making her the youngest player ever to qualify for an LPGA Tour event. As of early May 2013, she had played in three LPGA tournaments and four Ladies European Tour (LET) tournaments and had five top-4 finishes. While she is a pro golfer playing on a sponsor's exemption as she is not a LPGA member in 2013 because she was not granted an exemption to qualifying school to earn her LPGA Tour card. In 2012, she was winner of the American Junior Golf Association (AFGA) girl Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

Jutanugarn has an aggressive and fearless playing style. At the 2013 Honda LPGA Thailand, she led by three shots going to the final hole and lost by one shot to Korea's Inbee Park. She placed 4th one week later at the HSBC Women's Champions in Singapore. A few weeks later, she won her first professional tournament at the LET's Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco. The win put her on top of the LET Order of Merit. She led the first two days at the Kingsmill Championship in Williamsburg, Virginia in May 2013. She shot a 7-under-par on the first day.

In a practice round at the 2013 U.S. Women's Open, Ariya injured her shoulder by tumbling down an incline while chasing her sister Moriya with a water bottle. The injury required corrective surgery, which was performed in Bangkok. Amateur wins

Turned professional: 2012. Current tour(s): Ladies European Tour (joined 2013). Professional wins: 1. Number of wins by tour: Ladies European Tour: 1, Best results in LPGA Major Championships: Kraft Nabisco C'ship: T22: 2012. U.S. Women's Open: CUT: 2010, 2011.

Johnny Damon Plays for Thailand’s National Baseball Team

The baseball player Johnny Damon is another famous athlete who is part Thai. In November 2012, the former Major League star played for Thailand, his mother’s homeland in qualifications for the World Baseball Classic. Benjamin Hoffman wrote in the New York Times: “Damon spent 18 seasons playing for seven clubs, winning World Series rings with the 2004 Red Sox and the 2009 Yankees. He was last seen struggling through a tough season with the Cleveland Indians, who released him in August after he batted .222 in 207 at-bats. A two-time All-Star, Damon played for yet another team as he tried to help Thailand, his mother’s homeland, qualify for the 2013 World Baseball Classic. [Source: Benjamin Hoffman, New York Times, November 13, 2012]

Thailand, ranked 27th in the world by the International Baseball Federation, has recently been a force in the Southeast Asia Games, winning the tournament in 2007 and finishing third in 2011, making a berth in the World Baseball Classic possible. “Coming too Thailand has been liking coming home,” an official with the Amateur Basebal of Association of Thailand said. “He is like the idol of Thai baseball player. He is a good moral boost and an inspiration for the athletes to improve.”

At the end pf the tournament NBC Sports reported: “Johnny Damon‘s time playing for Thailand lasted all of two games, as the team was eliminated from the World Baseball Classic qualifying tournament last night. Thailand lost Game 1 to the Philippines and Game 2 to New Zealand, falling by a combined score of 20-4 while committing 11 errors defensively. Damon started the first game at designated hitter and the second game at first base, going 3-for-7 with a walk and three singles while grounding into a double play. Damon’s mother is Thai and despite back-to-back ugly losses he seemed happy to have played for the team, telling Denny Wu of MLB.com: “The experience was amazing. I am glad I get to come represent my mother’s country. My role for the next four years, hopefully Thailand has a chance to get back. My role is to help out as much as possible.” [Source: Aaron Gleeman, NBC Sports, November 16, 2012]

A 17th century French envoy to Siam reported seeing two of the kings acrobats using two large umbrellas to flat down from a high place.

Fishing for Arapaima

Reporting from Stuart Gillham’s fishing resort near Krabi in southern Thailand, Anthony Geoffrey wrote in The Star, “Completed in 2007, this resort boasts a 3.6ha lake with underwater features spread across it so that no one swim (fishing station) is better than another, and this has made for fair angling. Natural filtration systems and sluice systems from natural streams ensure that the level and quality of water can be maintained throughout the year. Built on the edge of a stunning national park, the resort is only 3km from Thalen Bay and 19km from the lively seafront town of Ao-nang. [Source: Anthony Geoffrey, The Star, September 26, 2009++]

“I started fishing about mid-afternoon and, within 10 minutes, had landed a 30kg red-tailed catfish on the dead bait meant for arapaima. I thought my luck was on, and I would have my arapaima — but no. I also had palm oil seeds on the second rod. The bait proved attractive to the pacu, and I landed two within the next 30 minutes. They were not big, though; only about 7kg each. Another two hours lapsed without a bite before I got a good 35kg carp. All the while, the English guy on the next swim was catching on a regular basis, much to my envy. As darkness descended (fishing is only allowed till 8pm), I packed up, showered and went for dinner. ++

“My second day started out well at 7am with a couple of catfish and a couple of carp along with a really good-sized temoleh (Jallieni barb, a protected species in Perak). Then I hit my nemesis — the dreaded freshwater stingray! I knew it was that monster from the way it stopped after taking the hook and wouldn’t budge at all. Could it be the same brute that I snagged last year which refused to surface no matter what? I was stuck with that ray for three hours before the line snapped. Thankfully, this time around, the hook slipped and the fish was gone. ++

“By mid-afternoon, I was still waiting for my first arapaima when the buzzer on the rod holder began to beep. It was slow at first, and then it went wild. The fish, when it appeared, was a good-sized arapaima. An arapaima garners instant attention from the staff, who would immediately inform Stuart or Sean by radio. Other anglers would then be told to quickly reel in their rods. The fish ran, jumped, surfaced and snorted. The fight was on! About an hour and a quarter later, the boys entered the water with a huge landing net. The fish came close — and ran again. Another 15 minutes saw it coming close to the net again. It popped its head out of the water, spat out the hook, gave a disdainful look and swam off cockily. Fish 1, Anthony 0. ++

“I was devastated. Stuart consoled me later, saying that 50 percent of arapaima escape before they are landed. “One guy came here for a day’s fishing and caught nine arapaima whereas another fished for a week and got none. But statistics show that if you fish for three days, your chances of landing one is about 80 percent,” he said. That same day saw two more English and two Malaysian anglers arriving. The two Malaysians landed a decent arapaima on their second day. Alas, it was not to be for me — but I took that as a good sign. Giving it my best Arnie posture, I said: “I’ll be back!” ++

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Jukka O. Miettinen, Asian Traditional Theater and Dance, Theatre Academy Helsinki, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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