When the late afternoon approaches, and the Khao Lak weather permits, many of the young boys in the Khao Lak region will be out playing one of the most popular games in Thailand, “Sepak Takraw”. The similarities to the Western sport, volleyball, is very obvious, so the game has become known as “Thai Kick-Volleyball”. The tallying of the scores between opposing teams is similar, but there are some major differences between the two games. The most important difference is that with volleyball, only the hands can be used to hit the ball either for no more than two times to members of the same team, or immediately over the net. In the case of Thai kick-volleyball, however, the hands are not allowed to touch the ball at any time. In its place, players make use of their chest, knees or feet to pass the ball around to each other or to place it over the net. Another major difference between the two sports is that volleyball has five players per team, whereas Thai kick-volleyball has three players.
During my evening walks along the river behind my house not far from Bang Niang Beach, I often find these boys in the throes of a competitive game. With limbs seemingly flying everywhere, they play with a vigour that I nostalgically remember occupying a lot of my younger days back in Australia when I was a champion sprinter and amateur Australian rules footballer. One of the most demanding things about Thai Kick-Volleyball is that the ball is significantly smaller as compared to that used in Western volley-ball. Whereas the former game uses a spherical ball with a circumference of around 0.42 meters, the Western game employs a ball with a circumference of about 0.66 meters. Furthermore, the Seapak Takraw ball is usually made from one woven layer of a synthetic fibre, and must be comprised of 20 intersections and twelve holes. The game is definitely made for people with flexible and agile bodies. If I were to try and play the game myself, I would no doubt either shred my hamstrings into pieces or badly perturb a rather dicky right knee!
Of the many things to do in Khao Lak, one could do a lot worse than watch the young boys of Khao Lak strutting their stuff in the evenings. Apart from a couple of games going on in the street where I live in Bang Niang (turn right instead of turning left towards Chongfah Waterfall at the T-intersection where the Phanasnikom Buddhist Temple is located), there are several other courts in Khao Lak. The boys are often found playing the game wherever a clearing large enough to contain a court is available. My guess is they try playing even harder when spectators are watching!