In Summers, between March, April and sometimes May, the southernly wind sweeps across the broad expance of Bangkok's Phra Mane Ground or Sanam Luang. It is time to enjoy kite fighting. Regularly, major contestants of the kite fighting are:

"Pakpao" the female kite, two and a half feet long diamond-shaped and dexterous, capering on the wind flaunting her starched cloth tail.
"Chula" the male kite, five to seven feet (or more) in length, star-shaped with five points swinging pendulously as he heaves his great bulk against the wind's force.

There's a thrill in watching your particular kite wheel and veer.,loop and zoom; the string transmits to your fingers the soft vibrations of its frame and paper in the wind.

We Thais make this sort of "ordinary" kite - in a hundred different forms: owls, fish, faces, serpents etc. and their sizes range from a few inches to twenty-five feet. These provide fun.

The case with the "Pakpao and Chula" is different: they are symbols of a national sport - played and patronised by the Kings of Thailand for centuries. A sport which attracts, today, the earnest attention of thousands of spectators who flock to the Phra Meru (Phramane) Ground each afternoon.

The tournament area is divided into two sections. Up-wind, in the direction of the Grand Palace, is the area reserved for the "Chula" kite teams: south of the dividing line, a length of stout thin rope supported by bamboo poles - is the "Pakpao" domain. By tournament rules a minimum of two "Chula" and four "Pakpao" teams must be entered ready for competition.

A "Chula" team consists of the Captain, a handler or two - the men who actually fly the kites - and a team of lads who run with the string when the captain gives orders which are usually sounded on a whistle.

The "Chula" kite's battle - equipment includes a number of Champahs - strips of split bamboo formed into grappling - hooks; these are spaced along the string at intervals specified in the rules; there may be a minimum of three or a maximum of five champahs depending on the size of the kite. "Chula" kites may enter in either one of two divisions - Large or Small.

Dainty diamond "Pakpao" uses her long starched cloth tail as a snare together with a formidable semi-circular string loop hanging from the string that files her. But speed and agility are her main weapons of offense and defence.

There are said to be fifty rules governing the contests between "Pakpao" and "Chula" teams; these must be rigidly adhered to. One of them requires giant "Chula" to keep within a corridor of attack allocated to it within "Pakpao" territory.

Contests are often timed and "Chula" makes his sorties into "Pakpao" land in an effort to entangle, and force down in his territory a maximum number of "Pakpao" attackers. This does not mean that his ponderous power permits him to capture several "Pakpao" in a single sortie - though he often does.

The rules allow a maximum of two "Pakpao" to each sortie, for which feat "Chula" receives a credit of twenty points: should he bring back three, the sortie is termed a draw - but the third "Pakpao" attacker is liable to a fine.

It must not be thought that "Chula" is always the winner. Pretty "Pakpao" is a doughty fighter and when two make a combined attack on "Chula" he frequently crashes in "Pakpao" domain, but to be ensnared in a single "Pakpao's" loop, or thrown off - balance by her starched tail, is sufficient cause for "Chula" downfall.

"Chula's" Captain strain his eyes to detect and anticipate "Pakpao's" every movement in attack; he whistles softly and the string runs swiftly out to help "Chula" evade a "Pakpao" dive. Suddenly, the Champahs grapple and hold - fast "Pakpao's" string; a piercing whistle galvanizes "Chula's" team into grunting, sweating action as the line races through the guide pulley and under the roller bench as "Chula" soars skywards with "Pakpao" straining, scratching, clawing at the air.

The struggle's over. The official bets are paid. Points are credited. "Pakpao" returns home to rise again. "Chula's" Captain initiates another sortie. And so on.


Firstly, the ground is divided into two sections demarcated by a fence or a line of string. The windward section belongs to the Chula (Star - kite). The leeward section belongs to the Pakpao (tail-kite).

The space for the Chula to play about in the air is also divided into channels, each Chula will only manipulate within its Channel which also is demarcated by two red flags flying on the boundary.

As to the Pakpao, there is a white flag flying a little away from the boundary which marks that the line - holder must not come up beyond the flags or he will be too near the boundary. But when in action he may come up beyond this point. At the extreme end of the Pakpao boundary, there is another white flag to mark that the line - holder shall not go to manipulate his kite beyond this point or he will be too far away from the Chula.

Secondly : flags of the color of any Chula kite, if hoisted in any Pakpao kite's field, would mean no - contest between that Chula and the Pakpao kite. The same procedure will be done on the semaphore. In such a case, kites have to be brought down.

On - lookers should observe that;
1. Where the Chula entangles the Pakpao so that the Pakpao kite line is shorter from the point of entanglement than Chula or Pakpao kite has entangled her own tail, or the loop of the Pakpao is entangled in the cashed (Champah), or pakpao kite goes through the triangular line of the Chula kite, in such cases, if the Chula is able to run and to land in its own boundary, it is then the winner.

2. In contest action either Chula or Pakpao kite is damaged such as broken wing, broken leg, busted sound string , having holes till it causes the kite to spin or having bigger hole than regulated size, In such cases if the Chula (star or male kite) can land within its boundary, it is the winner, but if it falls within the Pakpao (female or tail - kite) boundary, it loses.

3. Chula is caught in the Pakpao loop, if it lands safely in its boundary, it wins; if landing in Pakpao boundary, it loses.

4. If Pakpao kite line goes through the Chula kite triangular line or binds round it without being caught in the catches (Champah), and Chula kite lands within its boundary, it is the winner. If it falls within the Pakpao boundary, there must be in existence of Pakpao string together with Pakpao body or tail, then it is considered as a draw.

5. In case Pakpao body is lost but the tail remains on the Chula line or the tail is lost but the body remains, the Chula kite is still considered a winner.

6. If Pakpao kite's tails are entangled while the Chula kite carries away towards its boundary and the Pakpao kite revives, the Chula must continue the contesting action by prolonging its line again. In case it has already carried the looted Pakpao kite into its boundary then the pakpao revives. The case is then a draw.

7. Chula kite can contest against Pakpao only one or two at a time.

8. If Chula kite, after being entangled with Pakpao, breaks away with Pakpao kite, it is then considered as losing the match.


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© 1995 Tourism Authority of Thailand