Polo is arguably the oldest recorded team sport in known history, with the first matches being played in Persia over 2,500 years ago. Initially thought to have been created by competing tribes of Central Asia, it was quickly taken up as a training method for the King’s elite cavalry. These matches could resemble a battle with up to 100 men to a side.
As mounted armies swept back and forth across this part of the world, conquering and re-conquering, polo was adopted as the most noble of pastimes by the Kings and Emperors, Shahs and Sultans, Khans and Caliphs of the ancient Persians, Arabs, Mughals, Mongols and Chinese. It was for this reason it became known across the lands as “the game of kings”.
Polo continues, as it has done for so long, to represent the pinnacle of sport, and reaffirms the special bond between horse and rider. The feeling of many of its players are epitomized by a famous verse inscribed on a stone tablet next to a polo ground in Gilgit, Pakistan: “Let others play at other things. The king of games is still the game of kings.”
American Actor Sylvester Stallone once said that playing polo is like trying to play golf during an earthquake. I don’t think he would have found it any easier playing polo on sand, as they did on Saturday April 1st in front of the InterContinental Hua Hin Resort.
On a beautiful sunny day, the 8th annual Asian Beach Polo Championship took place, once again benefitting the Nabha Foundation under the initiative of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha.
As in years past, this year’s event was organized by His Excellency Mr. Suwat Liptapanlop, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, Mr. Harald Link, Chairman of B.Grimm Group and the President of the Thailand Equestrian Federation, Khun Nunthenee Tanner, M.D. of LBG Limited and also regarded as Thailand’s first female polo player and Miss Proudputh Liptapanlop, Executive Director of Proud Real Estate Co., Ltd, the main sponsor.
Dr. Harald Link, was the first person to initiate playing beach polo in Thailand and had this to say, “This Asian Beach Polo tournament reflects the potential of Thailand in hosting international beach polo events as well as promote Hua Hin and the kingdom tourism among tourists and spectators. Proceeds from the event go to the Nabha Foundation under the initiative of HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha to support the under privileges to live in social harmony. For this beach polo event, a small polo rubber ball was used in place of a regular polo ball to suit the surface of the field which is on the sandy beach. However, the rules and regulations are still based on international standard. This year, there were 3 international teams participating in the competition; the Thai Polo Team led by Nara Ketusingha, Secretary General Thailand Equestrian Federation, Germany Team and Belgium Team. The final saw Thailand facing Germany to win HRH Princess Bajrakitiyabha trophy.”
For many Hua Hin residents, the Asian Beach Polo Championship has become a yearly tradition and the highlight of Hua Hin’s social scene. It is also a very popular happening for Bangkok’s High Society crowd with plenty of the rich and famous in attendance. Just a few included, Adisak – Siriporn Panupong, Monlada Pongpanit, Uraiporn Chalermsaphayakorn, Chayada-Kritphol Svetanandana, Ploychompu Umpujh, Melanie Sirachindabhirom, Pimlaor – Pimpan Pokaiudom, Suppamas-Jirapha Laksanawisit & Nasha Jungkankul.
The full day of fun started at noon with the gates opening, the food and drinks being served and the socializing beginning amongst friends new and old. At 1pm the familiar site of the horse parade heading down the beach towards the podium was enjoyed followed by the welcoming speeches.
New to this year’s event was barrel racing, which was more than entertaining as it looked like it was also new to the horses participating. The ponies were plucked from the beach horses who are used to taking tourists up and down the beach, in a straight line, whereas racing around barrels was an entirely new concept.
The Polo final was moved up in time due to a rising tide and saw the Thailand team facing Germany. In the first Chukka Thailand was strong, dominating Germany. It didn’t help either that Thailand had an extra half point as a handicap. The 2nd Chukka saw a much closer match and by the final 3rd Chukka it was Germany who dominated and took the Championship with a score of Germany 6, to Thailand’s 4.5 points.
Later in the day the very popular horse racing contest and the beach fashion show took place. This year saw leading Thai celebrities transforming the beach into a runway with models clad in Ralph Lauren.
A “Victorian Night” was the theme for the evening portion of the program which was hosted at the InterContinental’s Blu Port Wing Ballroom. The Victorian theme reflected the luxury lifestyle that is in line with the sport of beach polo, popular among the elites, along with ballet and dance performances. The evening ended with the auctioning of artistic custom made polo mallets and a carved statue of a horse which saw the Nabha Foundation as the benefactor.
The Asian Beach Polo Championship is one of the really fun annual events in Hua Hin. If you didn’t make it this year, be sure and put it on your social calendar for 2018.