Yes, pickleball is in Thailand. This was my first journey to this unique and beautiful area. I was there with Daniel Moore of Pickleball Trips for their first (love those firsts) Exotic Thailand Pickleball Tour. While there, our tour was fortunate to compete in Thailand’s FIRST inaugural international pickleball tournament—yep another first! The 3-day Thailand Open Pickleball Tournament took place in the beach city of Hua Hin. Wow, our sport is really growing. As I travel, I’m constantly amazed where pickleball surfaces. With us were a group of enthusiastic and adventurous pickleball players for nine days of fun and adventure. It’s said that the best time to visit Thailand is during their dry season, November through April, as the temperatures are cooler and you can expect picture-perfect days for your outdoor adventures.
Tournament players came from numerous Thailand provinces, Singapore, USA, Canada, England, Scotland, and Denmark. The tournament consisted of 84 doubles teams and 32 singles players. The youngest player was 20 years old from Bangkok and oldest was 76 from Texas, USA. Tournament director and friend Elaine Shallcross did a fabulous job organizing and running her first big tournament. Elaine has called Hua Hin home for most of the last 7 years. As I was reminded, tournament directors work hard putting in countless hours for the love of the sport allowing players to compete on a big stage. In this case, many Asia players got their first experience in a pickleball tournament, and they did great!
Following the tournament, our tour explored Bangkok, Hua Hin, and Chiang Mai. The days were packed full of exploration, discovery, pickleball, new foods and meeting new friends. I even had time for a few Thai massages, so good! The best part is that they are so inexpensive compared to US prices (about 10% of the cost) Yes, you can afford to be pampered several times or even daily! Other highlights included:
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
Here we did a great hike along the coastal park before ascending to a great beach on the other side. Some made the arduous hike up an even steeper trek to visit the Phraya Nakhon Cave while others had time to swim and relax. Then, we ate again before taking a boat ride in a traditional Thai boat back to our starting point. Good times!
Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School
Under the careful watch and direction of our cooking teacher, I was a master in the kitchen, ha! The menu included Thai coconut soup, pad thai with shrimp, Green curry with chicken and topped off with dessert—Mangos with sticky rice, OMG, all so good!! Prior to cooking, we took a walk through their gardens to learn first-hand about the plants and herbs we would be using.
Elephant Sanctuary Experience
This day trip was better than I ever imagined. It started off with a hike through a Karen village, lunch and a dip at a waterfall, a bamboo raft ride down a river and then the encore! The group got up close with the elephants. After feeding them buckets of bananas we walked side by side around the park finishing in the river to bathe them. And yes, they surprise bathed us with trunks full of water. The elephants were well treated and trained. They understood numerous voice commands, could kiss (with the end of their trunk) and among other things hug and smile for the camera.
Night Bazaars and Markets
Festive food stands lined side by side as far as the eyes could see. So many choices and I did try many of them, but because I am a bit of a wimp with spicy food, I said: “little, little spicy” and they would smile and oblige, thank goodness! “Thai spicy” is a whole new level of HOT. The markets were packed with tourists and locals alike and went on late into the evening. And did I mention the food was great and cheap? If you venture into a truly Thai market void of tourists, you can eat like a king for just a few dollars.
Pickleball in Thailand
There are several places to play. In Chiang Mai, they play at the Muang Chiang Mai Stadium sports complex. In Hua Hin, there is pickleball at the True Arena and in Bangkok at Santisuk College. For more details just search “Thailand Pickleball.”