Sunday, March 8, 2009

Songbird Competition In Bangkok, Thailand


No footage found.

Having lived in Thailand for over 13 years I’ve seen some sights that are certainly unusual, at least from my western perspective, but today I was surprised by a sight from our rooftop pool in Bangkok as I looked down to a vacant space just up the street from our building. There I could see a large group of people spread around looking at what looked like clotheslines with some sort of little boxes hanging from them. That was the most I could make out at the distance I was but when my wife took a look (she’s Thai) she informed me that what I was looking at was a “bird show,” as she put it.

I was intrigued by the sight so after we were done swimming I took my two young daughters with me and went to see what all the fuss was about. What I was found was actually a competition for bird-owners who had all paid 300 baht (about $9) to enter their birds in the hopes that theirs would be judged to have the best voice. There were over 200 birds entered into the competition and the little boxes I thought I saw from my roof were actually their cages hung from wires attached to poles that had been erected around this vacant lot just for the day.

The birds were all one species, nok bai lot, and I couldn’t get a decent translation into English – there may not be one at all – and they were small different-colored songbirds. To my ears it was basically a cacophony of sounds but the judges, who walked around with clipboards and took notes, apparently are seasoned professionals who know what these tiny birds should sound like and are capable of judging which sound the most authentic to the species. The winner stood to win a trophy and 10,000 baht – equal to many monthly salaries in Thailand – as well as the chance to advance to some sort of upper level competition that would cover a wider area of the country.

This completion in my neighborhood was one of five that was happening in Bangkok on this day and eventually a national competition will be held in the town of Nakorn Pathom during the Songkran holiday period during April 13-15. According to the people we talked to, there are about 100,000 people nationwide who participate in these competitions. Whose bird eventually won? We didn’t stick around for the finale. It was hot and the sound of 200 birds chirping got to be a bit much after a while but it was another interesting little aspect of Thai life that I had never experienced before.

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