11 May, Laos – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’

I’d never heard of the Asian game Takraw, but by the end of today I was a firm fan. We drove out of town to a school that has a good pitch to film today’s Main Event, and the villagers set to showing us how it all works, with 2 teams of 3 going head to head on a pitch that looks pretty much like a badminton court. The aim of the game is the get the not very heavy hollow ball over the net in less than 3 touches using only your feet or head. If it hits the net or lands outside the line, that’s it, the other team wins a point. Best to 15 wins. Simple. I like simple.

It was lovely watching the kids ducking in and out of their classrooms and random dogs and chickens running about while we got to grips with it all, although I stupidly came up with a running gag that involved our exec Yvonne throwing a ball at my head, which I think she enjoyed a bit too much… After a few hours a short torrential monsoon stopped play and we headed into one of the shabby, utilitarian school rooms for a lunch very kindly cooked for us by the village. They’d pushed the boat out in Laos terms, with large bowls of rice and lamb soup and salad. Every bit of lamb – the stomach, the spine – was in there, which came as a bit of a shock to a sheltered European like myself, but I think we did a pretty good job of not causing offence as we picked our way through it. The mayor of the town then presented us with a large wooden carving, which will tax the luggage allowance on the way home.

Once we were done the weather had cleared up and it was time for Rich and I to face off. It was a close game, and we got very sweaty in the heat, but I somehow turned out to be pretty good at serving the ball (which you do with your feet – not normally my strong point) and we clinched the game a couple of points ahead. Then we drove a short distance to a farm which gives demonstrations to tourists of how to farm rice, where Rich and I shot a short piece for the compilation show.

Massages here are super cheap, so on our return to the hotel I treated myself to a sports massage, pretending I was a victorious Premier League Takraw player.

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