Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival
As with many Thai festivals, the Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival takes place at different times in different years. Specifically this festival is linked to the end of Awk Phansa; the Buddhist Lent.
It almost always takes place in October, though. In 2016 it ran from 15th – 21st October. For 2017 it’s tentatively scheduled to begin on October 5th.
Horseracing is so old-hat. Once you’ve taken in this festival, you’ll realize that buffalo racing is the true sport of kings.
Over the course of a week, as the rainy season draws to a close, locals from across Chonburi province gather to mount their buffalos and compete against each other, cheered on by crowds of spectators. There are three classes of buffalos – small, medium and large – and they race along a course of 100m.
This festival features more than just racing, however. Other buffalo-themed contests include ‘Most Healthy Buffalo’ and the ‘Buffalo Fashion Contest’. How does a beautiful buffalo differ from a normal one? Head to Chonburi to find out!
There are also musical performances each evening, more food stalls that you can shake a buffalo tail at, and the inevitable beauty contest; the lucky lady who wins each year is crowned ‘Miss Buffalo’.
The Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival has been ongoing as an organized event for over 140 years, and buffalo racing has taken place in the area for much longer than that. The event was originally conceived to show thanks and appreciation to the water buffalos, which the farmers of agricultural Chonburi province depend upon for so much of the year.
The event also serves a financial purpose. Pattaya is obviously very popular with tourists, but the rest of Chonburi province doesn’t get nearly as many visitors. The Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival puts the province, and particularly the city of Chonburi itself, on the map throughout its duration. Visitors pour in, from across Thailand and from abroad. It’s estimated that millions of baht each year are generated from the festival alone.
Chonburi province is located a little to the southeast of Bangkok, and the city of Chonburi is in the north of the province.
As you can imagine, with it being so close to the capital, getting to Chonburi is quick and easy. Buses leave extremely frequently from Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal (Ekamai), and take around 2 hours to arrive. You can also grab a taxi to take you there but also keep in mind how you are going to get back if you want to return to Bangkok. Getting there from nearby Pattaya is even quicker; just hop on a bus at the city’s Northern Bus Station or private rent a local songthaew.
The Chonburi Buffalo Racing Festival itself takes place near City Hall in Chonburi, which is near the sea and is easily reached by local transportation.
TIP: If you want the ease of traveling by taxi from Bangkok for the day, getting there will almost be easier than getting back. bear in mind you may get a few initial refusals by taxi drivers but keep persisting. Your options are to negotiate a ‘return price’ where the taxi waits for you or alternatively head into Pattaya and use any number of the taxi booths you’ll find to arrange for a taxi to return you to Bangkok. Normally the taxi will be paid at the end when they return you but there may be a request to pay upfront in case you don’t return. It won’t necessarily equal 1/2 as there may be a factor included for waiting – best to negotiate a one-way fare and then discuss return price after that. The best compromise would be to pay the normal trip price to go down and pay the balance when returned to Bangkok. If you do agree for the taxi to wait, don’t be too surprised if your taxi isn’t there when you return as they will most likely have received a much better offer and getting upset isn’t going to change anything.