This is a part of Thai culture that I still don't fully understand and if I think about it, really makes me laugh. I will try and explain it the best I can. If you drive around a super Thai town, especially southern Thailand, you will notice men driving with one arm and in the other arm they are carrying a bird cage with a cover over it to make sure there is less wind hitting the bird. And it isn't like it is a rare occurrence. If I left my house right now I would see one in less than 20 minutes. There are birds everywhere. Why? Because Thai men buy them, train them, then put them in bird singing competitions around town. Obviously.
These competitions tend to be on the weekend, different cities have different events so maybe one month Phuket has a competition, then Hat Yai then Nakhon has one. Entry fees differ from one hundred baht, to five hundred baht to probably more than one thousand baht for bigger events. The winners can get anywhere from five thousand baht to I honestly don't know how high the prize can be, I'd bet they get close to a hundred thousand baht. How much would it cost to buy a decent bird? One million baht. (Hey, you want to go on a vacation? Sorry can't, all my money is tied up in birds right now...)
Cages can cost you a few hundred baht to thousands of baht. Only male birds can be entered. Women can buy their own bird and train it but from what I understand, women aren't overly interested in the purchasing and training of small birds. I have no clue why then don't....
OK, so once you drive your bird to the competition, you try and find the best spot for your bird. Thai people are pretty superstitious so they probably try and get the same place every time. They also want to position their bird next to an inferior bird to make theirs sound better. From what I understand, it isn't how beautiful your bird is, it is how beautiful they sing. The competition I went to had 3 judges, they blow a whistle and are trying to listen to a specific bird. After about 15 seconds, they mark something down underneath the cage of that bird. The funniest thing about this is that once the whistle blows, the owner of a bird will start to make noises and try to make their bird sing. Sort of like if you wanted a cat or a dog to come into the house, that is the kind of noise they are making to make their small little bird sing. If their bird doesn't sing and the whistle blows, they get all mad and frustrated. Imagine, an older tattooed up old Thai man, driving around town with a bird in his arm, training his bird to sing beautifully then entering him in a competition to try and impress and beat his fellow friends.
Such a bizarre hobby to me. I think a big reason they do it is just to pass the time, gives them something to look forward to and share with their friends. It was nice seeing a bunch of older Thai men, taking care of their birds, laughing with each other, trying to get their birds to sing.
A few things I don't understand about bird singing is how do these judges get their jobs and aren't they highly likely to be bribed into letting a certain bird win? I also don't get what is considered singing beautifully? Apparently it is good if they sing in a certain pattern or if they are continuously singing. I found out another reason why you would see birds being driven around town is because if you have a valuable bird, you wouldn't leave it at your home because someone would steal your bird!
I found someone who describes this better than me. If you want to read it go here:
“It can be coins or sports or politics or horses or music or
faith... the saddest people I've ever met in life are the ones
who don't care deeply about anything at all. Passion and
satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any
happiness is only temporary, because there's nothing to
make it last.” Nicholas Sparks