One Pakpao

When a friend and I were in Thailand, we took a tuk-tuk to the public landing next door to the Oriental Hotel, caught a water bus up to the royal palace landing, and walked through the market that surrounds that water bus and taxi landing, on our way to visit the temple of the emerald Buddha, past the restaurants and noodle shops, the butchers and fishmongers, shooing any fly that came near, out into the open produce market, plants and fruit and mushrooms of all kinds and plants and sticks and leaves, then every kind of household need, then the soda vendors and ice cream stands and junk toys, and as we reached the street, we noticed a couple of kids with tiny kites flying on strings a few feet long, and as we walked up toward the royal palace, we saw more, then a vendor selling them, the gold covered roofs of the palace and the temples shining above the palace wall, another vendor selling all kinds of kites, then off in the distance some small kites, plain and all alike, flying really high in the sky, more kids with little kites, a teener with a bigger one, and just as we saw a larger kite appear over the trees we came alongside the park opposite the palace where there were ten thousand people and two thousand kites, all kinds and sizes, and we forgot the (fantastic) temple and palace and went into the park and heard an amplified voice and people of all ages talking and flying kites and eating and drinking and vendors selling kites and drinks and food and every kind of kite, and a raised and covered stage with some dignitaries there and stunningly beautiful women in cloth of gold sitting in fancy chairs and a man with a microphone talking earnestly in a language we could not understand, but the crowd had their backs to him, we didn't know if they were listening or could even understand the language he spoke, and the crowd was looking up at the sky in the direction of the small kites off in the distance and the one large one we had seen fly up, now diving and soaring, and we walked through the crowd and then we saw one of the teams, all in their white uniforms with red sashes tied around their waist, the crowd there keeping back to give them room, the young man, the second apprentice, took the heavy string, two teenagers picked up the kite, large, bright, colored, the second apprentice ran, and they ran with him until the large kite took sail, he got it well up and then the first apprentice took over and flew the kite high into the sky and down the length of the park, to where the several smaller plain kites flew, the master took over, he maneuvered the kite through and around the small kites, until his kite was near one of them, the man talking into the microphone, the crowd looking up, the master pulled and jerked his string and let it go slack and pulled again and the large kite dipped and danced and flew and the master made his kite wrap its string around and around the string of the small kite, and he played it, diving and soaring, until the crushed glass glued on a portion of the string of his kite cut the small kiteís string, the master whistled, instantly the fat man sat down on the stool with the pulley inside it, the strong man with the belt on hooked the pulley he held across the kite string and started running backwards, the man with the microphone shouting now, four older kids formed a chain and the front one grabbed the strong man's belt and they all ran pulling on the strong man as he ran backwards with the kite string through the pulley he held, the second apprentice took the end of the string, which came through the pulley under the stool where the fat man was sitting and ran after the strong man, a small child grabbed the string behind the second apprentice and ran after him, then another, and another, until four small children were pulling on the end of the string, as the fifth took hold the first dropped the string, and ran back toward the fat man sitting on the stool, by the time the sixth was running, the first grabbed the string again as it was coming around the pulley under the fat manís stool and ran again, after the sixth, all running after the strong man, by then the second had peeled off and was running back, and, now way beyond the last small child, the teenagers on the team were running with the second apprentice pulling the string: the second apprentice and his team running with the end of the string, six children pulling it around the pulley under the stool, the fat man sitting on the stool, the strong man with the pulley and belt running, four older kids pulling him along, the string through the pulley he held, the first apprentice taking the string from the old man, the master, and guiding the kite as it came back, keeping it off the ground, the master watching, the first apprentice has to keep keep the kite from touching the ground, everyone is running, the man with the microphone is shouting, everyone is looking up as the kite comes closer, except the mothers who are cheering on the children, everyone runs faster, using the block and tackle to pull the kite fast, the apprentice has to keep a-hold of the small kite, not let it get loose, and keep it off the ground, too, and keep the big kite off the ground, not letting it touch the ground until it reaches him, and it does, it reaches him without touching the ground, everyone stops, except the fat man, who keeps sitting on the stool, the old man, the master kite warrior, takes the big kite in one hand and the string of the small kite in the other; neither kite has touched the ground:

   one pakpao for the chula.



© '98 jm