Kite-fighting



The Thailand may be the only country where kite-flying has been turned in to a sport. The rules used today were formulated in 1905 under the auspices of King Chulalongkorn.
The kites used are called the chula (male) and the pak-pao (female). The chula is, of course, large, stronger and has a thicker string. It is star-shaped, measuring about five feet across. The pak-pao is much smaller, square, with a long tail. It has barbs to catch the chula and a loop to lasso over the points of the star-shaped kite.
The object of the game is for the pak-pao to snare the chula and force it to the ground. The chula can win by causing the pak-pao to lose control, perhaps by tangling the string and pulling it into chula territory. The fighting manoeuvers require physical strength, lightning reactions, and much practice. Contests are held from mid-February until May or June in the sky above Sanam Luang or the Phramane Ground, near the Grand Palace, in Bangkok. Reclining chairs are available for spectators.

Each spring, especially in March, Thais fill the skies with a dazzling array of kites. All over the country rival teams compete against each other in fierce displays of aerial combat. One of the best places to see these dogfights is in the skies over Sanam Luang. Other times of the year Sanam Luang is the site of the Royal Plowing ceremony, which kicks off rice-planting season and His Majesty the King's birthday celebrations. But in March the park is festooned with colorful kites diving and feinting, trying to snare their rivals.
The serious competitions begin at about 4pm each day. Winches are set up on either side of a dividing line. On one side are the chulas and the pak-paos fly from the other side of the the line and are diamond-shaped, smaller and more agile due to their long tails. The male kites try to ensnare the female and pull her across the line, while the female uses greater speed and maneuverability to escape her opponent and force, or lead, him into the ground.
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