Thailand's history stretches back centuries.
Long ago it was called Siam.
Thai kids must go to school for 12 years.
Some games and sports played in Siam are still played today.
They are called traditional games.
Schooling in Thailand
All schools are free in Thailand, and children attend from six years of age.
Some schools have two shifts - one from 7.30 a.m. to 11.30 a.m. and the other from 1.30 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. Students attend one of these half-day shifts on five or six days of the week, all year round. However, now that more schools have been built most schools do not have shifts. Some schools are very large and have students from kindergarten through secondary school.
Primary school lasts for six years, and secondary school for six years, divided into three years each of junior and senior.
There is a primary school near most rural villages. Older children from the villages travel by bus to regional secondary schools.
Students wear a school uniform. The discipline in schools is very strict. Many children learn to speak English at school.
Long ago, the only education available in Thailand was for boys, who were taught by the Buddhist monks. There was no formal education for girls in those times.
Some students go on to study at university after completing high school.
The hill tribes teach their children the traditional language and ways. Usually a village elder teaches the classes.
Read about a day in a Thai school. Talk about the ways in which it is different from your school day and school customs.
Ancient Games and Sports
There are some ancient sports and games that are still enjoyed in Thailand today. Some, like Muay Thai, are also popular in other places but some are only played in Thailand.
Thai-style boxing, or Muay Thai, originated in Ayutthaya (the ancient capital of Siam) about 500 years ago as a form of self defence and unarmed combat. It is often called 'The Science of Eight Limbs' because the boxers use hands, feet and elbows. Traditionally barefoot, nowadays their feet and hands are taped and they wear gloves.
This fast, fierce but graceful sport is Thailand's national sport. Bouts consist of five three-minute rounds separated by two-minute breaks.
Read about the history of Muay Thai:
Takraw is the name of several versions of a game using a woven rattan ball about 12 cm in diameter. The aim is to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, by players who may use their feet, knees, elbows, shoulders and heads, but not their hands. Points are scored for style, degrees of difficulty and variety of kicks.
Net takraw uses a volleyball net and follows the rules of volleyball, except that just the knees and head are used to touch the ball.
In the version called takraw lod huang, players attempt to kick the ball into a vertical netted hoop 4-5 metres above the ground.
Read more about takraw:
Kite Flying and Kite Fighting
Since ancient times, kite flying has been very popular with Thai people, from the King to the humblest people. The southwest monsoon winds blow between March and May, and is very favourable time for kite flying.
People fly extraordinary kites for their beauty and for fun. Some fly kites that make a humming noise while they fly, to call the wind and to bring good luck. People also compete in kite flying competitions.
Today kite-fighting is a popular addition to kite flying competitions. One popular form uses traditional chula and pakpao kites. Two teams are on either side of an area divided by a rope at head height. Upwind is the chula kite territory, the other side is the pakpao kite territory, and one contest can be 2-3 chula teams and 5-10 pakpao teams.
Chula kites are 'male', two and a half metres long, and five-pointed with three sets of bamboo hooks on the string for snagging a pakpao kite. A chula team consists of at least 10 men and boys.
A pakpao kite is 'female', about 90 cm long. It is a fast-moving kite with a loop under its flying line and a long tail, which it tries to catch around a chula opponent.
The aim is for chula kites to capture as many pakpao kites as possible, and for pakpao kites to bring down as many chula kites as possible. Kite fighting contests last 45 minutes. It is a contest of skill, fast thinking and of tactics.
Read about Thai kite flying and kite fighting :
Every year during the Buddhist Lent Period which occurs between September or November, long-boat races are held in a number of provinces that have large rivers running through them. They are held on days when the river tides are high.
Long-boat racing has been a tradition for over 600 years, and was originally done as a way of keeping rowers fit and trained for national defence.
In each area, the boats are usually made of a wood considered by that particular province to be special. The long-boats are hand cut and carved from large tree trunks, some able to seat up to 60 rowers, who wear the same coloured clothing.
Excited spectators cheer the fast-paced racing boats, especially as they approach the finish line. Races on the Nan River are particularly colourful because the boats are so lavishly decorated.
Read about Thai long-boat races:
This is an ancient form of a chess-like game, very popular in Thailand, where there is an annual tournament held. The board is similar to that of chess, and the pieces line up in similar fashion. All pieces capture by moving onto the square of an opponent piece and removing it from the board. Pawns have a special move for capturing a piece. The rules are complex and many games end in a draw.
Read about how to play makruk: