There are no better words to describe my afternoon at the Queen’s Cup Pink Polo match at Thai Polo and Equestrian Club than simply ‘lovely’. I have lived in Thailand for over 7 years and I would go so far as to say this was probably the loveliest afternoon I’ve ever had here. A bold statement to be sure, but after reflecting on my time there, I’m not shy to say it. On top of that, the whole thing was a fundraiser for the Queen Sirikit Breast Cancer Research Foundation. I would like to recount my experience in a hopefully entertaining article, but before getting to it, I’d like to let everyone know that the next major Polo Event is April 18 in Hua Hin, so mark your calendars as it’s open to the public.
I was graciously invited to the tournament by the Thai Polo and Equestrian Club’s co-owner, Mrs. Nunthinee Tanner who is widely regarded as Thailand’s first female polo player. Now retired from the sport, she has redirected her efforts towards putting Thailand on the map as a major player in the equestrian world. Pink Polo is a women’s only tournament which, under Khun Nunthinee’s leadership, has grown to be one of the most prestigious women’s Polo events in the world. Before going, I knew that I was in for something special, but since I have never been to a polo match, I really didn’t know what to expect. Having attended this event, I’m pretty confident that I will be hard pressed to find another polo event with such a wonderful atmosphere; that is, unless Khun Nunthinee is in charge.
I am not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination. Two solid colours, one of which is neutral, and some earrings is about as crazy as I get. When I think of polo spectators, I think of fancy hats, beautiful dresses and sharp linen suits. There was certainly no shortage of any of these, but I managed to find, what I considered to be a beautifully patterned floral dress to fit in with the pink theme. The $6 market dress flowed beautifully all the way down to my feet and I felt like some kind of ethereal being… for a moment, until the gentle breeze that blew across the polo field all day nearly turned me into something X-rated. Limitation of the dress, noted. On the plus side, the weather was spectacular. The crystal-clear blue sky against the pink shades of the guests, white sponsor tent village and the vibrant green of the field was a visual treat.
Upon arrival, there were two McLaren cars parked near the path draped with women, in much more fashionable dresses than mine, taking photos. Just across the entry path from the cars were all the horses waiting for their time to shine. Something about the juxtaposition of the supercars against the graceful yet powerful creatures appealed to me. I contributed my donation at the registration booth in order to enter the grounds and I got a couple of Pink Polo souvenirs right off the bat.
The first event of the day was a buffet lunch served from 12-2. When I think of buffet lunch for a large event, I don’t expect much but as soon as I smelled the aromas wafting from the food tent, I knew I was wrong. My first stop was to the Thammachart Seafood table. I had the pleasure of interviewing the CEO of the company a few months back for Expat Life so it was nice to see a familiar face. The attention to detail of his display made me want to eat everything, but I knew I had to save room to try a little bit of all the delicacies on offer. I felt like a bee hopping around all the stations taking a little of this and a little of that. I finally made it to my table and on top of the mouthwatering food I had collected, I had fantastic company. I can’t say I added much to the conversation at first because I had so many foods to try, but my table mates were quite interesting: a British UK representative to the UN and his writer wife, the Editor at Large for Expat Life, a Thai professor at Chula and her restauranteur husband and me, a teacher cum writer cum business owner cum risky dress wearer. We certainly came from a diverse background.
After lunch I did some exploring of the club grounds and wandered around the sponsorship tent village. The grounds at Thai Polo and Equestrian Club are immaculately kept. The sponsorship tents were all welcoming and offered all sorts of free samples and enthusiastic explanations of what they had to offer. I didn’t buy a yacht that day, but I did sign up for a great money transfer app called DeeMoney, drank some wine and got a magnet made at the photo booth.
It seemed as though the event had reached critical mass just in time for the entertainment festivities to start. First was a local bagpipe marching band. Who knew there was a Thai youth bagpiping band? It was a nice treat and reminded me of home (no I’m not Scottish but we Americans do enjoy a good bagpipe band). Next was possibly the most comical event of the day. The Thai Yorkshire Terrier Club parade. I got a real kick out of this, something about those little dogs makes me laugh every time. I hope I’m not offending any Yorkie fans, but I just think they are the funniest looking little mops. Everyone had a great time watching these glossy pups strut their stuff down the grass runway with their owners. Even the other co-owner of the Club, Mr. Harald Link, joined in on the fun. Next was the fashion show on horseback. I think I’ve been to maybe one fashion show in my life and it was certainly not on horseback. Khun Nunthinee joined in on this one and led the parade of beautiful women and beautiful horses.
Then it was finally time for the main event! The ladies had been competing for a couple days prior in order to seed them for Saturday’s final event. The first game was Thai Polo against Ethiopian Airlines for third and fourth place. I have never seen any kind of equestrian event so I was really clueless about what would ensue. I could surmise that the teams have to hit the ball into the goal to score points but that’s about as far as I could guess. Luckily for me, Daryl Yeap from Malaysia (playing for Ethiopian Airlines) cheerfully explained the basics to me. I must admit, even for not knowing what was going on, it’s an exciting sport to watch. When the players really get on a breakaway, it’s pretty exciting. One thing I found particularly interesting is that every 3.5 minutes (which is actually drawn out to be longer than that), they switched their horses. This is unique in Thailand because of the hot weather; the horses need more rest. It was a really close game with Thai Polo emerging victorious and taking third place overall. Ethiopian Airlines put up a good fight to make for a nail-biter of a match and finished fourth overall.
While waiting for the championship match, more food! Afternoon tea was served as the finals kicked off. All sorts of pink treats and mini sandwiches were up for grabs. Strawberries, red velvet cupcakes, pink Thai desserts, pink cakes and cookies were what kids dream of. Oh, who am I kidding, it’s also what I dream of. They were small, it’s ok, I can have 6. The competition for the Queen’s Cup was between La Familia and Marengo. The competition was heated with lots of exciting breakaways and even a fall but in the end, La Familia took home the cup. The ladies were all smiles at the prizegiving and the biggest success of all was the record-breaking sum of money that was raised for women’s health.
I left the event just thinking to myself, wow what a truly lovely afternoon. There’s just no better way to describe it. And the good news is, as I mentioned, the next event will be the Thai polo season championships, Beach Polo, held April 18 in Hua Hin. It’s open to the public and supports another worthy cause, education. I can’t wait, but I’ll be sure to do some more strategic dress shopping in preparation for the season closer.