Probably one of the most amazing festivals in Thailand has to be the Buffalo Racing in Chonburi. It is also one of the oldest running festivals as the banners in Chonburi City proclaimed it to be the 138th year that this has been held. Picture this. Five buffaloes with skinny Thai men riding bare back. Both sides of the course is crowded with locals and tourists who cheer on the buffaloes and riders who race to the far end. You may think that it is more exciting to stand at the finish line to watch the buffaloes coming charging towards you. But really, most of the action is at the other end at the starting point.
This isn’t anything like a horse race. These buffaloes are not very cooperative. There were many false starts which delayed each race. Sometimes the buffaloes would race riderless to the far end only having to be brought back to try again. Some races there were four or five false starts. There was one time when the announcers thought we were finally about to start the race when one buffalo decided he would do his own thing. The announcer then said in Thai something like “You kwai”. When someone is being stupid or they have done a stupid thing, then you call them a “kwai” which is Thai for buffalo. It always makes people laugh.
This festival goes on for a few days in the area around City Hall in Chonburi. The buffalo races take place every year on the day before the end of Ok Phansa which is the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat. Besides the races, you will also find many stalls and games similar to what you can see at a temple fair. There was also cock fighting, sea boxing, hoop takraw, climbing the greasy pole and also a buffalo beauty pageant! Every year there seems to be more and more foreigners going despite the fact that you won’t find this festival promoted in any guidebook.
We will be posting dates and information about next years events on our ThailandQA Forums and also at our festival blogs at www.ThaiFestivalBlogs.com. I also have some videos of the racing which I will post soon on the forums along with more of my pictures.