One of the reasons I love Asia is that most people here seem to be just as shy and reserved as I am. But it can also drive me crazy. It’s really hard to get to know people when you feel like they’re always on their best manners. And let’s be real, there have been quite a few times while living in Japan and Thailand that I’ve wanted to shake someone and tell them to STOP BEING SO POLITE AND TELL ME THE TRUTH!!
It’s frustrating. At least it was, until I discovered the perfect way to break through this cultural barrier: Go to a sports game!
Sports events are always great places to mingle with locals, even if you’re not a sports fan, but in many East and Southeast Asian countries they might also be the only place a tourist will get a chance to see locals screaming their lungs out and making no attempt to hide their emotions (even in Japan, like whoa). It’s awesome, and has almost made me enjoy sports. In fact, during my past four years abroad I’ve been to more sports games than in all of my years living in America.
There the was time Danielle and I went to a buzkashi, or goat carcass polo, match in Kyrgyzstan. It was like taking a concentrated shot of Kyrgyz culture. And I mean a shot of the hard stuff – this is a sport so violent that it was once banned by the Taliban! But while I was clutching Danielle in terror through a lot of the game, jumping around with Kyrgyz spectators in celebration and booing loudly when something went wrong (like when limbs were broken) is one of my favorite memories from Kyrgyzstan.
I’m not a huge soccer fan (though if Dan reads this, woooo Arsenal go team YAY!) but attending Chiang Mai Football Club’s home games became one of my favorite things to do in Chiang Mai. And that’s only partly because they sell lots of yummy snacks and beer served with a straw. In fact, going to watch a Chiang Mai FC game is one of my top recommendations for people who are spending some time in Chiang Mai. It really is the perfect way get off the tourist trail and see a different side of Thai culture.
So what are you waiting for?!
Um, actually you’re waiting for the games to start up again, because the team is on break at the moment. But they’ll be back in February!
Chiang Mai FC games are held at 700 Year Stadium and tickets start at 80 baht. The stadium is about a fifteen minute drive out of town – if you don’t have a motorbike then you can catch a red songthaew heading that way (they have them returning to the city after the game as well).