After a long day’s trekking across the forest plot at Huai Kha Khaeng, scouting for spots to fly the drone, we arrived back at the camp. Another group had already come back and were playing boule, stretching and taking off their shirts like some bizarre ritual. I asked Nong what was happening and he replied with a grin “Takraw”.
Takraw is a game between the players and the laws of physics. You can’t use your hands and the objective is to keep the ball from landing on the ground in your side. You can use your feet, legs, body and head, which inspires the most creative bodily contortions to knock the ball back in the other side.
they kick it up
The ball itself is made of tough, flexible plastic, weaved into a ball, so that it bounces under its own tension and lasts pretty much forever. Its hard plastic, so you need to be tough to play this game. One of the guys kicked the ball straight into his own face, to the roaring amusement of everyone, but I imagine it must have hurt.
The game was going amazingly, bodies flinging themselves with ease across the court as a tantrum of hot dust clouded their feet. The game pushes completely past the limits of my own flexibility,
and sometimes theirs too.
We watched and drank ice cold beer while the points played out. The game was going really well, even after a day in the field, walking kilometres through the forest. After a few glasses of whiskey, Nong hoisted up his white shorts until they were level with his belly button and strode confidently into the court like an enormous, tattooed baby.
And then I pranced in. There was a lot of banter around the court, I watched bemused at they pointed at me and did a mime for ‘boobs’. Must have been an inside joke.
And then I actually scored a few points.
We rotated the games, playing a few and then sitting back to drink and watch the next set.
After a few more games I collapsed back onto the bench and proceeded to get pretty drunk on the continuous shots of what I think was whiskey, handed to me copiously by the loveliest, friendliest people.
The talent, hilarity, swiftness of the game and amazing people filled me with so much sheer joy that my smiling muscles ached as I stumbled off the court.