ว่าวธีออสกับงานว่าวไทยและว่าวนานาชาติ ครั้งที่ 9
The 9th Thailand International Kite Festival

บินสูง
High Flyer
kites
วันเสาร์-อาทิตย์ 11-12 มีนาคม 2549
Saturday-Sunday 11-12 March 2006



Article from OUTLOOK, Bangkok Post, Monday, April 3, 2006.

"My everyday job is to make everything look nice," said Ron Spaulding, chairman of M&C Saatchi, Thailand. An award-winning advertising executive by profession, he is, by passion, a kite expert.

After finishing his studies in the US, Spaulding worked as a freelance art director and designer in Sweden for 10 years. Then, one cold December day, he received a message from an advertising friend in Thailand, who asked if he would like to come to work in Bangkok.

"I thought: One, two, three ... yes! I didn't go to four - it was so easy because there was two meters of snow in front of my house."

That decision was made in 1975, more than 30 years ago. It proved to be lasting as he has remained here in the tropics after all these years.

According to Spaulding, three things keep him going. First, to design advertising materials - the never-ending challenge of coming up with something new. Second, being with his family. Third, to design, build and fly kites.

"To fly with the wind is to let my heart and mind fly free. I've been fortunate enough to fly kites with my friends in the skies of Thailand and with international masters in far corners of the world," he said.

While some people appreciate kites because they represent engineering and design challenges to make them fly well, Spaulding looks at them and see pieces of art arising from colorful cultures. Spaulding woke up to the beauty of kites when he was 25 years old and went to a local kite festival in Stockholm, Sweden. After that, he started to fly kites, making one of his own that looked like a bird.

After he landed in Thailand, he started to immerse himself in the local kite scene. He met many kite fliers and learned about Thai kites from different regions. What impressed him most were the Chula and Pakpao kites common among people in the Central Plains region.

He enthusiastically explained that the Chula and Pakpao kites are based on a combination of features from Indonesian, Malayan and Chinese kites. Flown together, the Chula kite must be completely controllable so that it can catch the straying Pakpao kite and bring it back to its own territory. The Chula has to be big, powerful, light and delicate, able to go left, right, up and down on demand.

"The longer I stay in Thailand, the more I learn abou Thai and Asian kites. In the 1980s, the Western world didn't know about Thai kites because nobody was talking about them," Spaulding said.

He subsequently co-organized the first international kite festival in Thailand. He also inititated the Thai Kite Herritage Group, a team of Chula-Pakpao kite fliers that venture overseas to let the world see for themselves the pride of Thai kites.

He first met members of the future group at the Singapore Asian Kite Festival back in 1986. They were standing at the end of the flying field with their big star-shaped Chula and small, diamond-shaped Pakpao kites on the ground.

"I walked down to say hello to the men and asked them why they weren't flying their kites," he recalled. The demoralised fliers told him that nobody was paying attention to them - no one wanted to watch their kites.

After some discussion, Spaulding learned that most kite watchers prefer beautiful, well-decorated pieces, whereas the Thai Chula and Pakpao kites were simple white paper on fragile bamboo structures. They were not kites designed for aesthetics: they were competition machines.

Having learned that, he went to the microphone and explained to the spectators about the Chula and Pakpao competition, that it was more or less a battle in the sky.

Three years later, he went back to the same festival with the group. He had put together a show team with some brochures about Thailand's kite tradition, culture and history. Donning elaborate traditional costumes, the Thai team walked onto the field with the kites and offered a demonstration. Spaulding was on the microphone narrating the Chula-Pakpao competition in English.

"I noticed that everybody had stopped to watch our demonstration. Thailand looked very good and became a highlight of the festival," Spaulding said proudly.

So what happens during a Chula-Pakpao battle? According to Spaulding, there is a rope dividing the territories of the male Chula and the female Pakpao kites. Once the competition starts, fliers send the big Chula kite up into the sky and fly it down into the Pakpao's territory. He has to catch her and drag her back to his area. When he succeeds, he scores a point.

The Pakpao team will try to do the same -- to catch the Chula when he comes into their territory. They catch him by putting their tail, or lasso, around him and pulling him down to the ground. When they succeed, they also score a point. The tempo is fast, like a basketball game.

In 1990, Seri Wangpaijit, then governer of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, told Spaulding there should be an international kite festival in Thailand. Spaulding then helped organise one at Sanam Luang.

Spaulding's job was to invite high-profile kite fliers from around the world to attend the festival. The results were very positive, Spaulding said. After Thailand invited kite masters to come here, they, in turn, invited the Thai team to attend their own festivals.

"It was a win-win situation for all." Spaulding noted.

Spaulding receives calls from the international media when they want to know about Thai kites. He is proud to speak to the world about this unique cultural heritage of Thailand.

He has a few worries, however. According to him, it used to be easy to get together a team of 30 people to fly kites at Sanam Luang. Times have changed, though, along with people's preferences in terms of pasttimes and cultural heritage. Young people work in offices, study or are tied up with the other activities that the modern world has to offer. It's hard to gather a team of people together to compete with kites.

Another major concern is that the old masters who make these wonderful kites are getting older.

When Spaulding started the Thai Kite Heritage Group, he conducted research to identify the difficulties confronting the old masters and their struggle to keep the tradition alive. One big problem was a lack of prestige. For example, there is more acceptance and esteem for people who play football, especially among those who are still young. He found that it was difficult for these old men to connect with members of the younger generations.

The Thai Kite Heritage Group, with its identity and shows abroad, brought back a bit of pride to the old masters. Youngsters look at them with greater admiration and are more eager to participate. Indeed, through media and international exposure, youngsteers have learned that there is something special about these elders.

"My love of kites told me that this was a unique culture that I should help to preserve. What I am proud of is that I started from just a little seed of an idea -- to present Thailand in a good way -- and it grew into so much more."

Every year, the competition of Chula and Pakpao kites is held on the grounds of Sanam Luang. The airborne battles take place every day from the middle of March to the middle of April. At the end of the kite-flying period, the winning teams are awarded a royal trophy.

"Kites are in my heart. I'm always happy when flying kites." Spaulding said.

He added that he asks himself all the time: How can the Chula-Pakpao competition survive in the modern world?

It can't, no unless it has a combination of government support, the appreciation of the outside world and dedication from the kite fliers and makers themselves. As an individual, perhaps international exposure is the one area I can contribute to the most.

"As a foreigner in Thailand, it's not my job to change anything. Thailand can do what it does best. My contribution can be to take one beautiful piece of Thai culture to the rest of the world as an ambassador," he said.

A kite ambassador, that is.

For this award winning advertising executive from Sweden, flying kites in the friendly skies of Thailand has become a much-cherished passion

Story by SUTANGRUT SUBUNRUK




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Writer : Dr.Pitan Singhasaneh