Yesterday I went out to Chonburi to watch the buffalo races ( wing kwai )which are held every year as part of the town’s Buffalo Festival. Thai farmers have used buffalo on their farms for centuries, and although many have switched to the “iron buffaloes” nowadays they still hold a sentimental place in the Thai psyche so the city of Chonburi holds this festival to commemorate/cash in every year.
The highlight is the buffalo racing, when they race down a 130 metre course with their jok-kees riding bareback …and bare footed and bare headed. They are not as fast as racehorses, but they get up a fair bit of speed none the less. The riders don’t try to pull them up once they cross the finish line, they just jump off at full speed.
The buffalo usually stop once rid of the rider on their backs, but some went charging on and caused the crowd to scatter. A couple even went right out onto the road outside ! The racing buffalo are not worked on the farm, but are specially bred for racing. The farm buffaloes get to compete in the buffalo beauty competition, and for the funniest costume.
Also there is a competition for best decorated buffalo cart, pole climbing competitions where you have to climb up a bamboo pole to grab money from near the top, a fun fair for the kids, and of course lots of shopping and food available.
Chonburi is about 90 minutes by bus from Ekkamai bus station in Bangkok, 68 baht fare each way. Heading there the bus will go into town, then turn off the main Sukhumwit Rd and go down some side streets, stopping a couple of times. When it turns back onto Sukhumwit road it’s time to get off, near the Forum plaza mall. The races are held near City Hall, a walkable distance or just grab a motosai. Going back to Bangkok the bus starts from a side street near where you would have got off, but it would not be obvious if there is no bus parked outside, no obvious signs for the ticket office.