Myanmar, like most Asian countries, has a deep love for football. They proudly cheer on their men’s and women’s national teams and the younger generation follow the English Premier League. But the country’s two traditional sports- Chinlone and Lethwei- remain popular amongst people of all ages.

Chinlone can be played anywhere, anytime and this is one of the reasons it is so popular. A simple ball (actually chinlone translates in to round basket) woven of strips of rattan is the only equipment needed. Players stand in a circle and, using only their feet, knees, head and chest, pass the ball around with the goal of keeping it off the ground for as long as possible. The sport features more than 200 ‘moves’ for passing the ball. It is common to see groups of friends gathering in the early evening to play chinlone in the street or in front of their house. It is also a popular activity during Myanmar’s festivals and large competitions are sometimes arranged at pagodas.

Lethwei is a martial-art form similar to kickboxing. Lethwei is widely recognized as one of the toughest martial arts as it has fewer rules meaning that fighters can not only use punches and kicks but can also use their knees and heads. Fighters do not wear any protective gear except thin gloves over their hands. In traditional lethwei fights, the winner is declared after drawing blood three times or being knocked unconscious. The sport has been played for centuries but only recently were official rules put into place. As mixed-martial arts has gained popularity in other parts of the world, the interest in lethwei has grown and more and more people are playing.

The Wheel Travel can design a tailor-made Myanmar holiday that includes a visit to a lethwei gym or to see a chinlone match. These are great ways to experience local life- ask your guide or sales executive for more details.