Sepak Takraw is a very popular sport in Southeast Asia. Every evening until sunset you can see groups of Thai men and boys kicking a woven rattan ball back and forth. Nothing unusual about that, you may think but watch a little closer and count how many times that ball hits the ground. Hardly ever.
Sometimes the game involves a net and sometimes not, depending on the facilities available and the degree of formality involved but Sepak Takraw is undoubtedly a great game to watch but a difficult one in which to participate if you're not used to it.
Sepak Takraw is played on a badminton-sized court with a hand-woven ball (the 'Sepak Takraw' pronounced 'raw' as in raw meat). Three players on each side of a five-foot high net get three chances to kick, knee, shoulder, or head the ball back to the opposing team.
Like volleyball, players try to play the ball toward the front of the net, but without using hands or arms, just like soccer. Indeed, some people describe it as 'volleyball without hands'.
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More serious games of Sepak Takraw take place inside sports stadiums in tightly fought matches but it really can be played anywhere and is the ultimate workout in terms of stretching, diving, rapid movement, eye-foot coordination and concentration. In fact, you can hone your Sepak Takraw skills all alone, in relaxed company or competitively with teams.
And the beauty of it all is that it's so cheap to play! A plastic Sepak Takraw ball will cost the equivalent to US$ 2. A rattan ball a little more.
Where to See Sepak Takraw?
In Phuket Town there are two main areas to catch a game of Sepak Takraw: At Sappan Hin in the sports centre and in the Suan Luang (King Rama IX Park) on Chao Fa Road. Truth be known, construction sites all over the island are also popular venues for impromptu, after-work games.