Buriram Kite Festival , Buriram is one of the largest provinces of Isan, the northeastern region of Thailand. Isan covers a very large portion of the land (twice as big as Austria) and the local population, whose main income source is agriculture, is rather poor. The vast area and relatively few attractions – which requires traveling long distances – means that Isan is no popular tourist destination. The province and its capital – which also carries the name Buriram (city of happiness) – are in the southern part of Isan, while to the southeast, Buriram borders with Cambodia. In the past, Khmer kings ruled over the region, and since the 19th century, it is under Thai rule.
Every year on December, at the end of the harvest season, when the strong winds blow across the region, the annual Buriram Kite Festival takes place. During the event, there is a kite contest as well as colorful kite parades, folk performances, shows, booths displaying local products and as usual, a lot of food.
The Buriram Kite Festival competition engages locals who come from the surrounding districts and villages. They compete in making and flying “aek” kites, a traditional kite of the Northeastern people, named after the distinct sound they produce as they fly. In order to partake, every kite should be at least 2.5 meters long, and the referees who determine the winners, consider various factors such as the kite design and shape, the sound it makes, the way it flies and its accurate landing inside a circle.
On December 2011, me and my good friend Elik decided to partake in the Buriram Kite Festival , travel to explore the region, visit Prasat Phanom Rung and other sites along the way. Thus, in one of the Saturdays, we woke up early and headed towards Buriram – some 6 hours away from Bangkok (by car). In one of our stops for gas and coffee, we came across a nice bikers’ group who was heading to Khao Yai National Park. Other than that, there was nothing special along the way, as the view was rather monotonous, which
made the long ride tedious and boring. We did see typical local trucks as we drove – with open pullout engine which can be easily transferred to a plow (or any other farm implement in need of an engine), which is an interesting innovation/improvisation.
Our first destination was Prasat Phanom Rung, a lovely Khmer temple complex, the largest in Thailand, set on the rim of an extinct volcano. To learn more about the temple, you can visit my article on the place, which covers a great experience in itself.
In the late noon, we arrived at Amphoe Huai Rat, where the Buriram Kite Festival was held, just a few km. from the city of Buriram. The festival area featured decorated vehicles with little displays on, singing performances, dance and folklore shows, local products displays, lighted kites and colorful hot-air balloons, and of-course – lots and lots of food. Many locals attended the event, numerous families with children and toddlers, elegantly and traditionally dressed, caring baskets of foods and grill equipment.
We were a little surprised to learn that we were the only foreigners around, which excited and intrigued the locals. Countless people approached us and many families welcomed us to join their parties and enjoy their meals. Even the local TV reporter found much interest in the two foreigners and asked to interview us – which we happily agreed to do. Moreover, we took the opportunity to greet everyone with ‘Sawat-dee Pi Mai’, thus wishing them a happy new year. In the accompanying picture, you can see my friend Elik and the local TV reporter.
We spent the night at Buriram, and the next day returned to the festival area to watch the competition. I was invited to sit with the referees and together observed the contest which was both interesting and impressive.
Flying such big kites (2.5 meters long each) is hardly a simple task. It takes more than 10 people to make the kite fly and accurately land in a circle marked in advance. Building, flying and landing the kites require a significant team effort. Ultimately, apart from a few crashes here and there, the clear majority of kites flew successfully, in a spectacular, delightful sight to witness. From several conversations held on site, I’ve learned that building such a kite costs some 7,000 baht, and the money is received from local sponsors. The competition takes a few hours and the judging isn’t very harsh.
Teams which failed in the first attempt approach the referees and get their second chance. Ultimately, the winning team was announced, and in my opinion, the choice was certainly justified.
After the competition concluded, we said goodbye to our lovely hosts, and headed back to Bangkok. On our way, we stopped in another Khmer temple, called Prasat Hin Pimai. As it is located an hour’s drive away from Khorat, we took the opportunity to visit the city as well. Farther along the way to Bangkok, we stooped at Chok Chai Farm – the big meat and dairy farm, whose products can be found in the best supermarkets. The place offers great ice cream, excellent stake-houses, tours inside the farm and ATV routes around it – all covered in a separate article.
In the accompanying presentation, you can find all the other pictures from our trip and visit to the festival, including a few pictures of Buriram and Khorat.