In recent blogs we’ve made reference to the influence of the French in various parts of Asia – specifically in Vietnam with their adoption of the European-style coffee culture. That got us thinking about the intriguing ways foreign settlers in recent centuries have sculpted the social fabric of various Asian countries, and we discovered another fascinating idiosyncrasy, this time in Laos.
One of the most popular sports in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, pétanque is a sport that was introduced to Southeast Asia by the French. Occupying Gallic visitors brought the game with them and the past-time soon caught on, but local passion for pétanque was said to really ignite when Laotian Soulasith Khamvongsa took gold at the Southeast Asian Games in 2001, aged just 17, which was only the second time in Lao’s history that they had they had claimed a gold in the games. Since then, the sport has really boomed, and you can find people playing pétanque in almost every town around the country.
One of the inclusive aspects of pétanque, also known as ‘boules’, is that it’s a game that can be played by anyone, male or female, young or old, of any standard of fitness, and on (almost) any type of surface, with only a small playing area required.
The game begins by throwing out a ‘jack’ (also called cochonnet) into the playing area. Then players take it in turns to try to get their balls closest to the jack. Play continues until each player has thrown all their balls, upon which time the proximity of all the spheres is measured from the jack. The team that’s landed a boule closest to the jack is the winner, and they score points for each ball they landed that is closer than the nearest opposition ball. After points are collated, the play then kicks-off again, by throwing out the jack.
Games can be played by teams (doubles or three vs. three) or single players, and hitting opposition player’s balls out of the scoring zone is not only part of the game, it’s heartily encouraged. The game concludes when one player (or team) reaches 13 points.
Suitable for all, it’s no wonder that pétanque is so popular in the social and family-oriented towns and villages of Laos. If you fancy a game of pétanque while you’re on holiday in Laos, email our Travel Specialist Nouane in Vientiane who will be happy to help!