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Wing Kwai - Thailand's Most Awaited Annual Buffalo Racing Festival

Buffalo is the iconic symbol for Thailand’s agriculture and the rural life of the people of Thailand. The Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand also called the ‘Wing Kwai’ Chonburi buffalo racing is one of the most iconic and exciting festivals for the people of Thailand and especially for Chonburi which is located 80 kilometres to the south-east of Bangkok. The festive atmosphere is a significant boost to the Chonburi economy, and this unique event is a sheer joy to watch as it provides entertainment to both the tourists and the villagers. BBC and CNN have also covered this festival as one of the must-see events in the world.   

Buffalo Racing Festival Chonburi - 2019 Date 

Wing Kwai is an annual festival that takes place after the end of the rainy season in Chonburi. It is expected to take place on October 13 2019. In Thailand, this festival is organised according to the lunar calendar. The festival is held on the day before the full moon night of the 11th Lunar month at the end of Buddhist Lent. The duration of the festival is around two weeks. Generally, the festival falls in October, but variation might occur for the specific timing of the festival.

Venue Details of the Buffalo Racing Festival

It takes place in front of the city hall in front of the Chonburi City Municipality Office.

About Wing Kwai - History & Traditions 

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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The Buffalo Racing festival is about 140 years old and is more like a tradition for the people of Thailand. The essence of the festival is all about gratitude from the farmers. It is a mark of respect and appreciation to the Buffaloes for their hard work in the field. This festival can be traced back to the time when farmers from the villages would meet together to sell their harvest. The Buffaloes were used to carry the farmer’s load. While spending good time with friends and businesspeople, the farmers would often conduct friendly races amongst themselves. Those race practices have now turned into an annual festival for the farmers of Chonburi. The annual Buffalo Race is a serious matter for farmers belonging to the villages near the city. 

What Happens at the Buffalo Racing Festival

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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Buffaloes of Thailand is considered to be a slow and lumbering beast, but visitors would be surprised to see the speed and agility of the Buffaloes during the race.
  • The buffaloes that take part in the race receive special care which includes an exclusive diet and daily massage. These racing buffaloes would be trained, especially so that they can participate in the racing event.
  • The race jockey would first have to undergo specialised training for the event participation.
  • The jockey would have to sit on the bare back of the buffalo with a whip and a rein.
  • The race track is around 100 m and would be muddy.
  • The race tests the coordination between the rider and his buffalo. It would also measure the speed of the buffalo and the eligibility of jockey.
  • All buffaloes that take part in the race are divided into three categories, namely large, medium and small, based on their size.
  • The jockey would have to hold tight so that they don’t fall from the buffalo’s back. 
  • The award ceremony would include prizes for the fastest buffalo and the best-decorated buffaloes. Local people and tourist would make gambling bet on buffaloes which take part in the race. This is one of the joy people would derive from this festival.

Other Events at the Festival

There are many variations which are included in the racing event. Other than the main racing event, other competition such as wrestling also takes place during this festival. Other events would consist of Miss Farmer Beauty Contest, Buffalo beauty contest, and funny Buffalo Dress Contest. There would also be special events that would test the agility, speed, and stability of the buffaloes. Tourists would also be able to enjoy the Thai folk music concerts that take place during this event. There are various rides for kids and visitors would also get to enjoy the authentic Thai food, sweet and savoury delicacies in the festival. They would be able to taste the rustic and delicious food and also experience the love of the villagers.

Highlights of the Buffalo Racing Festival

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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The prime focus of this festival is the Buffaloes. The festival begins at the Wat Yai Intharam where Buddhist monks would perform a religious ceremony which is known as “Tedmahachart.” The farmers would prepare a cart beautifully to present to a monk. The farmers would offer rice, coconut, betel nut, sugar cane, and banana.  Farmers would come to the temple to seek the blessing of the monks for well beings of the family and the Buffaloes.

The parade to the temple would consist of several people and 13 buffaloes. After the ceremony, buffaloes would be taken, and then they are prepared for the race. Their farmer would challenge and would host small challenges among each other. Braveheart tourists are also welcomed to take part in these types of small scale competitions.

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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The traditional rule of the race is that the jockey would have to finish the race sitting on the back of the buffaloes. If the jockey would fall from the back of the buffalo, then he is disqualified from the competition. The spectators enjoy the sight of the jockey trying hold on the back of the buffalo. After the award ceremony, the champion would parade around the town showing his buffalo to the people of the city.

How to Reach Chonburi Town

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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This festival takes place near the main town of Chonburi city. To reach this place, the visitors would have to take northern and eastern bus terminal from Bangkok. The maximum time the bus would take is about 2 hours and the minimum fare would be around THB 120. Tourist from Pattaya would be able to reach the city within one to two hours as several buses run between the two cities. The fare would be about THB 40 for the bus fare. 

Tips to Enjoy the Buffalo Racing Festival Experience

Buffalo Racing Festival of Thailand
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As mentioned above, this festival attracts a lot of traffic from all over the world. For properly enjoying the experience of the festival the tourist would have to follow some of the tips and advice mentioned below. 

  • As one of the famous festival of the country, travellers would have to be mentally prepared to face massive traffic jam. Lots of tourists would come to visit the city, which would increase the number of vehicles plying on the road.
  • Travellers are advised to book their hotel rooms in advance, as you would not able to find any room during the festival season.
  • In Thailand, monks are highly respected. So, travellers are advised to be careful regarding his or her behaviour when visiting the temple.
  • When you are attending the festival be careful regarding the surroundings. Make sure that you are aware of your belongings. It is advised to carry all necessary identity documentation and the card of the hotel they are staying.
  • Travellers are recommended to dress up suitably. In Thailand, wearing revealing clothes are termed as inappropriate. Thus tourists can wear comfortable clothes only up to a limit.
  • It is advised to learn basic greeting in the native language of the country. Basic greeting would help the traveller in making useful contacts and getting information about any local product or place you want to visit. These gestures would also allow the traveller to become more interactive with local people of the city.
Thus, if you are visiting Thailand in October, then Chonburi’s Buffalo Racing Festival would be a fantastic experience for you. They would welcome traveller, irrespective of countries to take participation in their festival. For travellers who dislike dust and muddy fields, this would not be their type of festival. But if you are seeking thrill and adventure as well as want to taste the authentic experience of Thai culture, be sure to visit the Chonburi’s Buffalo Racing Festival.

This post was published by Rachana Jain