Petanque with the locals in Laos

There’s something about sport which transcends language, and takes you straight to the fun part of getting to know people. Petanque, one of the most popular pastimes of Laos, is accessible to all fitness levels and an ideal way to spend time with the locals as you travel around this friendly chilled out country.

What to expect from the petanque experience...

Petanque might not be the first sport that springs to mind when you think of Laos, so you may be surprised to learn that it’s a popular national pastime. Though first introduced to Laos during French colonization, petanque's popularity really took off in 2001 when a 17-year old Laotian player, Soulasith Khamvongsa, achieved gold in the South-East Asian Games.

These days, ad-hoc courts, with bright lights illuminating the gravel floor and stalls selling snacks and beer, can be found tucked away in towns throughout the country.

Much of petanque's appeal lies in the fact that anyone can enjoy a game, regardless of age or ability; you certainly don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to get involved! Why not grab a cold Beer Lao, and challenge your Selective Asia guide to a friendly game? Petanque has yet to tempt many foreign visitors to have a go, so your presence on the courts might raise a curious smile from the locals, but you will be made to feel welcome straight away.

The rules are fairly straightforward: the aim is to get your three large metal balls (or ‘boules’) closer than those of your opponent to the smaller ‘jack’, taking turns to throw. If you’re feeling confident in your ability, or appear to be on the losing team, tactical throws can knock your opponent’s ball off target.

The team whose boule is closest to the jack wins that round, with a point being scored for each boule that's closer to the jack than your opponent’s best effort. The winning team is the first to reach thirteen points. Simple! Once the winners have been declared and the games are over it’s time to eat.

Why not do as the locals do and head out for Sin Dat, the traditional Lao-style BBQ? You can take your cues from those around you as to how these meals work, but essentially you BBQ at your table on a metal domed griddle over a small charcoal stove, selecting your menu from a wide array of meat and seafood. While you enjoy your food you can discuss tactics with your fellow players and plan your next game of this gentle yet gripping sport.

Location: Throughout Laos

Duration: As long as you like!

Accommodation:

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‘You can learn a lot about people by playing a game or two with them!’

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