Mar 20 2013
Sarawak is a strange pick and mix of contradictions, from its massively industrialised coastal cities to its sparsely populated rural villages with barely any electricity. Therefore, it should not be entirely surprising that Sarawak hosts the Borneo International Kite Festival despite there being almost no kite-flying culture in Sarawak or even in the rest of Borneo.
The festival is located on a rare patch of green space in the industrial behemoth of a town that is Bintulu, known for its natural gas factories rather than its leisurely love of kites. Still, every year since 2005, competitive kite flyers have come here to showcase their tremendous skill in return for a chance at winning over-sized shiny trophies and the respect of their peers.
Yet the festival is not just about the cut-throat world of stunt flying — it’s also about the aesthetics of the kites. All along the side of the flying arena fly ornamental kites in all shapes, colours and sizes. If you arrive at the festival with a good wind, you’ll be blown away (ed: boomtish!) by the sheer number of kites flying, their tethers hidden so it looks as if they’re levitating.
The whole thing is free and is usually held on the last weekend of September over two days. It doesn’t really matter what time you arrive, as long as you have some daylight left. There are stunt kite demos all throughout the day and if you miss these, there are always the massive show kites to admire. Try not to get in the way of the lines!
Bintulu has a domestic airport and it also has good bus links between Kuching and Miri. But don’t expect much in the way outside of the kite festival — unfortunately, Bintulu looks and feels a lot like industrialised 1960s Hong Kong, gangsters and all. We wouldn’t recommend lingering for too long but if you do stay the night we would suggest AA Inn, which is about a five-minute walk from the kite space.
Simalajau National Park is about a 30-minute taxi ride away from the centre of Bintulu and is well worth incorporating into any trip here.
Borneo International Kite Festival
T: (086) 332 011 (secretariat)
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