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Ray's World Adventures 1997

Thailand International Kite Festival

Bangkok, Thailand

Some times I look up from a beach or flying field and for a moment wonder: "Where am I ?" Can you imagine over 25 sponsored trips 20 of them out side of Canada plus a lot of local commitments, demonstrations in parks and school grounds, and several TV spots. One must ask: "When will this madness end?" - "Never I hope!"

Sometimes I never even bothered to unpack as I was off again the very next day to another sponsored trip. Just consuming the different foods of all these countries, staying in so many different hotels from a 5 star to a hostel, food from steak and lobster to the "God what the hell is this !" and "Hope it tastes better than it looks !", which in many cases it does not. I never thought in my life I would go to bed craving and dreaming about a Mac Donald's hamburger and French fries.

Oh - and the most weird of all things "Sanitary Requirements!" I mean when you got to go you got to go, right? You open the door and for a moment you are in shock, because the is no toilet as we are accustomed to. Just a hole in the floor! The first time I felt like a second war aircraft bomber: "Steady-y-y, Steady - y-y little to the right, a hair to the left, hold it right there, Bombs away! Dam missed !" And there's a 3 foot hose with an on and off nozzle on the end instead of paper, and the water feels cold as ice. The first time I used it, it was such a shock I must have jumped 6 feet or more. And how do you explain going back to the flying field like you have just taken a shower with your clothes on. In other countries they have toilets but no seats, another cold fact! Oh how I longed to be back in the bush in Australia. All you had to do was take a shovel with you into the bush: "No Hose - No Mess - No Problems!"

But I would not change this year's experiences for anything, the good things that happened far outweighed the inconveniences, that's for sure. The only sad thing was when I got home I had to be re-toilet trained. My wife did not like the idea of me dragging in the garden hose each morning!! and insisted that I put the toilet bowl back.

My first stop and the first competition to be held in North America is the Hawaii Challenge for which I have already done an article. After that is Malaysia, with visits to Hong Kong and Singapore, have also been covered in previous articles. This in itself is more travel than most people have done in a life time, but for me it did not stop there. For it was off to Thailand!

The Thailand International Kite Festival is held every two years and organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand held in Bangkok. No one loves kites or a kite festival more then the Thais. They call it "Sunuk" which means "Having Fun" and every festive occasion in Thailand is celebrated in great style, as was shown in the 1997 International Kite Festival.

Ron Spaulding and the Thai Kite Heritage Group did a fantastic job of organizing and catering to every whim of all the 128 invited guests from 14 countries from around the World. Great accommodations, comfortable transportation to and from the flying fields and for all the sightseeing tours that were specially arranged during our stay and gave us all a wonderful opportunity to see so much more of the Kingdom and discover for ourselves why Thailand is considered Asia's most exotic country. They call it the land of smiles and they got that right for indeed it is. Every one greets you with a smile.

By now you have all read from kite magazines all about the festival, so I will not go into that, but I must say a few words on how great it is to be able to perform along with all the out standing flyers from around the world. As always it's a great pleasure for me sharing the arena with the renowned Bay Area Sundowners. This year they gave me the honor of being their 7th Team member. In all my 18 years as a sport kite flyer I have never met a Team that works so well together as they do. It is all for one and one for all, we have worked together for many years in many different countries and they are always there ready to help. They are indeed great kite ambassadors and thrill the crowds with their fantastic kite train Ballets.

And talking about crowds, Thailand was mind boggling, over 300,000 spectators on the Saturday, and well over 400,000 on the Sunday. What a thrill to perform in front of so many people! Yes indeed, you better have your act together or there is a lot of disappointed people out there. It was a major job to leave the park each day. We could not do it without a police escort taking us back to the hotel. As all the spectators brought out their kites after we left the flying field every inch of the sky was full of kites of all sizes and color. It was shoulder to shoulder kite flying in the parks, along the streets it was an awesome sight, to see so many happy people. Thank you Thailand for this unique and wonderful experience.

Bangkok is a large, sprawling city with a charm of its own combining the past and present, with huge vendor markets that sell everything from a sewing needle to a full grown Elephant. Just to browse around these markets was an experience in itself. The Thai capital preserves its culture in such sights as the Grand Palace and historic temples, after shopping in a huge modern shopping center and you are back in the street again, you are taken back by the beauty of this pure Oriental wonder. There is one thing I learned while in Bangkok. Never ever will I cry about the traffic in Vancouver. Nothing in all my worldly travels compares with the traffic in Bangkok, it is rush hour all day. It is every man for himself. Can you imagine 5 on a motorcycle, one child on the gas tank then the father, two more children and then the mother hanging on for grim death. And when there is a traffic stop they go on the sidewalk until they can find an empty spot on the road again, unbelievable!

I would like to thank the sponsors "The Tourism Authority of Thailand" and the "Thai Kite Heritage Group" for their sponsorship which allowed me to be part of their International Kite Festival. But most of all thank you for giving me this opportunity to visit your beautiful country, meet the people and enjoy the Thai culture, I truly understand why it is called the land of "SMILES".

Thank you for listening.

Ray.




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