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Kite fighting is popular throughout Asia, but I have seen it most in Thailand during their summer (March through May), when the sky over Sanam Luang in Bangkok is filled with kites.

Kite fighting is a sport in which kites engage in aerial combat. In Thailand it involves a "male" kite chula and a "female" kite pakpao. The chula is larger, about five to seven feet in length, and star shaped. Along its string at strategic intervals are three to five bamboo grappling hooks which are the kite's weapons. The pakpao is diamond-shaped and about two or three feet in length, with barbs on its string, a starched tail and a loop hanging from the string to catch the chula star's points. Besides these weapons, the pakpao is faster and more maneuverable than the chula, perhaps "her" greatest advantage. Each kite is flown by a team.

Each kite team has a home section of a field, with the chula section typically upwind and pakpao downwind. During a match there are three kites aloft, one chula and two pakpao. The objective of the fight is for one side's kite to fly into the other's territory and ground the other's kite. It takes strength and skill to do this, and it's an impressive spectacle fraught, I hardly need add, with sexual symbolism.

I've seen a less formal and more homespun method of kite fighting in Malaysia and Bali. A section of the kite's control line(s) is rolled in glue and then in ground glass. This creates a cutting edge that is used to sever the opponent's line and down their kite.

The kids usually play with simpler kites than the Thai sport models: sturdy bamboo frames and brightly-colored lacquered paper, usually in a diamond shape with two control lines for maneuverability.

The kids I've seen are far too young to be thinking about sexual symbolism or whatnot; they're just having fun with aerodynamics, tuning their kites, and trying to take home the other kid's. Kinda like hotrodders racing for pink slips.

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