Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mahjong On A Thai Beach... And Elsewhere

This pick-up game lasted almost all day on a beach in Pattaya

I'm far from the best Mahjong player I know - a country mile removed from it, truth be known - but it's something I'm getting to know, bit by bit.  

The game's origination is hazy at best, but many seem to agree it began in China during the Ming dynasty, somewhere between 1368 and 1644.  That means it's been played by a wide range of people, from casual aficionados to rabid fanatics of the 136-tile game for a good 500 years or so, and it seems to be gaining in popularity again the past decade.

While there is a solitaire version, it's normally played by three or four players - more commonly by four, like the quartet up top today that I watched play for a while one morning on a beach in Thailand.

The tiles used to be made from ivory, but thankfully now almost all are made from plastic, although more costly sets made from bone are still available. A Thai friend asked me bring him a higher-quality set a few years back, so I can tell you from experience that even nicer plastic tile sets (his came in a leather case) can be pricey. My set here at home is a far simpler plastic set. I figure all you really need is a basic set, the ability to form a strategy... and some luck!

Not much of a post for a Friday - and a day late, to boot - but I have family and friends in town this weekend and next, and mahjong may well be one of the items on the agenda.

Consider this to be a placeholder until I try again on Monday.  I'm going to have a fantastic weekend... may yours be as enjoyable.

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