The Bali Kite Festival is an annual event held just north of Sanur beach at Padang Galak. During the dry season the wind picks up and enables the Balinese to enjoy one of their favourite national hobbies. It also has religious meaning as the intention of flying the kites is to send a message to the Hindu Gods to ask for good crops and harvests.
The kites are all hand-made and are flown competitively by teams from many villages. There are hundreds of teams, each representing their village with a flag and a team logo.
There are three types of traditional kites flown. The Bebean (fish-shaped), Janggan (bird-shaped) and Pecukan (leaf-shaped) giant kites. They are about 4 metres wide and 10 metres long and it takes about a team of 10 adults to fly them and they are transported to Padang Galak on the back of a truck.
The traditional Janggan kite has a large wide flowing cloth tail that can be up to 100 metres long. Red, black and white are the traditional colours used during the competition. There are many heats, followed by finals. Each team is judged on the best launch, best landing and the longest flying time. The Janggan kite has a head made out of a dragon or a bird. The kites have rubber strings attached to them (a hummer) which vibrate and make a loud noise during flight. The louder the better for the competitions.
The Bebean kites are fish-shaped and quite unstable in the air. As a spectator it’s quite dangerous to be underneath in the competition zone, as they can come crashing down quite quickly. When flown well, they look beautiful, as they always move right-left-right as if they are swimming.
The launching of the Bebean kites is a crazy, chaotic, dangerous sight to behold. The kites launch very quickly and teams run in all directions to try and keep their kites airborne. Only older men and young boys are involved in kite flying. I’ve never seen a girl flying a kite here in Bali.
The crowd was huge and the field, adjacent to the beach, very dry and dusty. There was probably around 6-10 thousand people there, I’m guessing. The size of these kites is only limited by the size of Bali’s roads. I’m sure if the roads were bigger here, these kites would undoubtedly be double the size. It’s truly a spectacle to see.