October: Chonburi Festival

Every province in Thailand has a festival at some point during the year. These are frequently off the main tourist circuit, and these celebrations offer a peek into local life, festival style. October brings one of our favorite festivals, the Chonburi Buffalo Races.

Chonburi, the provincial capital of Chonburi Province, is a mere 100 km (70 miles) from Bangkok on the road to Pattaya, making it a breeze to get to. This festival celebrates the most useful of Thai farm animals, the water buffalo.

Upon arriving at the festival, water buffaloes greeted my friend and me in the most unusual way. Buffaloes are not unusual in a farming town, but these hordes of bovine were decked out in outrageous costumes, all part of the buffalo fashion contest we’d later witness. To be truthful, several of the beasts reminded me of some Sydney drag queens…

We wandered among the markets and game stalls watching people enjoy themselves. A shoot-the-cans game looked fun, so we aimed and won. Our prize, a can of tuna, go figure.

The Thai boxing show, featuring two kids who couldn’t have been more than 8 years old, was hilarious. I guess you have to toughen up early in Thailand.

Another game, similar to basketball but using only feet, involved netting a rattan sphere into hoops strung about 20 feet above the ground. It looked impossibly difficult, although the Thai players handled it with ease.

After lunching on some tasty local delicacies, we settled in for the highlight, the buffalo races. Brave jockeys ride the animals bareback, slapping them with a switch as they race down the track. It’s exhilarating – you can actually feel the earth rumble under your feet as the beasts stampede by. We decided on a spot for the best photographs by placing ourselves directly on the finish line. It was terrifying as the buffaloes thundered past.

After a great day at the races, we took a few glamor shots with the winner of the beautiful buffalo contest before returning to Bangkok. If you’re here at the end of October, don’t miss this unique event.