Sanur is gearing up for its annual “Bali Kite Festival” or “Sanur Kite Festival” held in mid-July. Unfortunately we will miss it but we are already getting a taste of the passion Balinese have for kites and kiting.

Dragon kite overhead
Dragon kite overhead

(see slideshow below)

Each day we watch from our balcony as dozens of kites are flown around us. From the simple kite of our childhood to complex forms such as owls and dragons they get larger, more numerous and complex each day as kiters practice for the big event.

While we were out on a motorbike yesterday approaching Sanur from the south Stephen caught sight of some large kites being flown down by a beach. We took the motorbike down the nearest lane to discover the place swarming with crews flying enormous kites and throngs of onlookers.

We got up close as one crew prepared to launch a 4 meter dragon kite with a tail of about 60 meters. A dozen or more men and boys huddled around completing various tasks of assembly. The framework, entirely of bamboo is cleverly fitted together to give a strong yet lightweight frame that can be assembled and disassembled for storage and transport. Many kites being flown were of similar dragon designs. Once the body was assembled the crew attached the head assembly, an intricate and highly decorative dragon complete with filigreed headdress, feathers and fur and breathing carved fire from its fanged mouth.

The designing, making and flying of these monsters is a team effort by whole villages and as you might guess has religious significance as well. One of the last steps in assembling the dragon was to attach a 2 meter strap across the width of the kite; it was tensioned by a long strand of flexible bamboo and fastened into place by an ingenious collection of bamboo, string and masking tape. The strap is a noise-maker, one above and another below the frame. Once the kite is airborne the straps vibrate giving an eery drumming noise meant to frighten evil spirits.

Several crews were flying these nearly identical dragons with varying degrees of success. Getting them off the ground is the difficult part but once aloft they are magnificent and the strong winds tend to keep them there. We don’t think we have seen everything yet, we expect them to get even larger and more varied in design. It was fun nevertheless to see the enthusiasm as these cooperative activities took place.

Numerous dragon kites in the air
Bamboo framework is assembled on the ground
Kite is lifted to make attachments on underside
Elaborate head assembly with bamboo framework is attached to body. Note detail of head decoration
Finally straps are attached. Tension will cause them to vibrate creating an eerie sound
The tail has been attached as the crew prepares for launch. Note strap across top and another crew readying their kite behind
Kite with long tail being launched
Several nearly identical dragon kites in the air
Aspiring kite flyers. Note string wrapped around water bottle
Dragon kite overhead
Dragon kite overhead