BANGKOK–Thailand’s kite flying enthusiasts celebrated the 232nd anniversary of Bangkok’s founding in spectacular fashion Monday by launching thousands of colorful kites above the city’s Grand Palace.
Prinya Sukchit, a well-known kite maker,says the spectacle is a way of rekindling interest in kite-flying. Once a popular pastime in the kingdom, kite-flying has fallen away in recent years as more youths have taken up hobbies like video games and surfing the Internet, he says.
Political protests that have taken over many public spaces in Bangkok have also prevented people from engaging in the sport.
The city’s premier kite flying location is Sanam Luang, an oval-shaped piece of land in front of the Grand Palace. But access to some parts of the open field has been restricted by authorities, who’ve also banned activities like playing football and public demonstrations.
The ban follows months of antigovernment protests, some of which have led to clashes between supporters and foes of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her influential brother and former leader, Thaksin Shinawatra.
“The kite-flying scene isn’t as lively as before because of all the uproar,” said Mr. Prinya, 65, who aims to lure a new generation of Thais to the sport by dressing up in traditional costumes and building exotic peacock or box-shaped kites, as well as Thailand’s famous fighting flyers.
Traditionally, Thailand’s kite-flying season coincides with the hottest time of the year, the months from March to May. The heat produces thermal winds that enable kite flyers to propel their creations high above the temple spires of downtown Bangkok.
Among the various contests taking place on Monday was a kind of aerial courtship between a star-shaped “male” kite and a diamond-shaped “female.” The way it works is that the male kite will nudge against the female in the air and try to snag her. The female, meanwhile, tries to evade the male’s advances and unbalance it, sending it tumbling to the ground.
Other kites on display during the kite-flying festival, which began Saturday and ends Monday, were adorned with Buddhist imagery or assembled in the form of stacked boxes and other intricate shapes. Organizers plan to give away 232 heart-shaped kites during the three-day celebration.
For some attendees just picking up their kites again after years watching them gather dust, the experience has proven rejuvenating.
“I felt like I was a little boy again,” said 28-year-old Jaruk Saratip, a civil servantwho visited Sanam Luang Saturday with his younger brother. “I haven’t flown a kite for several years and this reminds of the old days when the sky was packed with colorful kites.
Others shared that sentiment, with some Thais saying they were keen to put kite-flying back on the list of things to do in Bangkok.
“I’m very excited and having fun today,” said Naphasorn Siryaphan, who was flying a snake-shaped kite in the center of Sanam Luang. She recalled seeing lots of kite stalls in the area when she was a child coming home from school.
“If it’s possible, I’d like to see kite-flying back in Sanam Luang,” she said.
Mr. Prinya aims to use a corner of Sanam Luang to do exactly that. His plan is to establish a kite bank, where a hundred kites will be available to passersby looking to dust-off their kite-flying skills.
“I’m very happy and impressed to see kites flying again over Sanam Luang,” he said. “And this time they’re here for good.”