Warm welcome reels in kite flyers to Pasir Gudang


A foreign participant teaching a local kite enthusiast how to fly a rotating kite at the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival. — Filepic

KITES in various shapes and sizes dancing in the wind, marked the return of Johor’s popular kite festival in Pasir Gudang.

In its 26th edition taking place from Feb 28 to March 3, the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival returns with vibrant displays and captivating performances while showcasing sheer skill from across the globe.

Playing out against the stunning backdrop of Bukit Layang-Layang, the event welcomes participants from diverse backgrounds to share and present a dazzling array of kites and flying techniques.

From Malaysia’s iconic wau bulan to intricate Chinese dragon kites, the festival is a mesmerising display of shapes, sizes and themes that has kept visitors captivated and coming back for more.

The exhilarating kite flying competition is where skilled participants show their talent in precision flying and mid-air battle which are among the highlights.

Precision flying is a test of finesse and control while kite battles inject an element of thrill as participants engage in aerial manoeuvres to outshine competitors.

Besides the competitions, there are interactive activities and kite-making workshops as well as food and drinks to enjoy.

Festival continues growing

Malaysian Kite Flyers Council president Datuk A. Rahim Nin said that in a bid to appeal to a wider audience, the council teamed up with associations from Satun in Thailand and Kabong in Sarawak to host three international kite festivals consecutively.

“The associations agreed to share the cost of organising the kite festivals,” he said in reference to the 43rd Satun International Kite Festival and Kabong International Kite Festival.

Rahim (middle) speaking to some of the children attending the first day of the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival.Rahim (middle) speaking to some of the children attending the first day of the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival.

“International participants took part in the 43rd Satun International Kite Festival from Feb 23 until Feb 25.

“They are in Pasir Gudang from Feb 28 until March 3 before continuing on to Kabong from March 5 until March 10.”

Rahim said 130 international participants from 39 countries had signed up for this year’s event in Johor themed “Dynamic Culture”, compared to 109 from 40 countries last year.

Retired civil servant Lee Poi Long, 81, is happy to see that the festival has evolved since its inception in 1984.

Lee, who previously worked with South East Johor Development Authority (Kejora), said it gave him great pride to have been working alongside the festival’s founders then.

Lee: The Pasir Gudang kite festival is one of the most anticipated events among participants.Lee: The Pasir Gudang kite festival is one of the most anticipated events among participants.

“We were tasked with creating an event to attract tourists to Desaru, Kota Tinggi.

“The idea back then was to host a kite and lantern festival but we were unable to hold both these activities together.

“At the same time, former Johor Corporation chief executive officer Tan Sri Muhammad Ali Hashim wanted us to create an activity for Pasir Gudang residents because most people, back then, worked in factories and went home.

“With the help of the Singapore Kite Association, we kicked off the kite festival with seven countries including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and New Zealand,” said Lee.

However, the festival was put on hold during the economic crisis in 1997 and 1998 and Covid-19 pandemic.

Lee, who is experienced in making Japanese rokkaku kites, said the festival was one of the most anticipated events among international participants to date.

“If you go to any international kite festival outside of Johor, you will see people wearing the Pasir Gudang festival shirt. They love coming here,” he said.

“They are attracted to our hospitality as we provide food, lodging and volunteers to help them during the competition.

“The participants are also taken on a tour around Johor before journeying to the next destination.”

Parents and children spending time during the school holidays to fly kites at Bukit Layang Layang in Pasir Gudang, Johor. — THOMAS YONG/The StarParents and children spending time during the school holidays to fly kites at Bukit Layang Layang in Pasir Gudang, Johor. — THOMAS YONG/The Star

Locals keep coming back

Zulanizan Suja, better known as Wak, is a familiar face on the circuit after having taken part in a wau-making competition back in 2001.

“I like making kites because it transports me back to my childhood. Back then, I did not know how to make a kite but my curiosity has benefitted me as it is now a profession.

“One of my most memorable achievements was when I was crowned champion in wau- making as well as in the flying competition in 2013 and 2014.

“Since then, I have slowed down a bit to focus on kite-making workshops,” he said, adding that he could also make rokkaku kites and power kites that were flown using a buggy.

Zulanizan, 55, said he learnt the art of making wau from a Kelantanese man.

Zulanizan says his love for kites has taken him to France, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.Zulanizan says his love for kites has taken him to France, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

“From there, I met people from other states and this has influenced my crafting and creative skills.

“My focus now is on creating wau designs called sobek, such as wau bulan, wau kucing, wau jalabudi and wau merak.

“But since I am from Johor, I mostly make wau merak,” he said, adding that he had been tasked to create wau logos for private companies, educational institutions and government agencies.

Zulanizan said his love for kites had taken him to France, Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia.

“This job requires a deep love and interest in the arts as well as a willingness to learn new things,” he added.

According to kite enthusiast, Datin Norzilah Salleh, 55, this year’s Pasir Gudang festival was livelier because it coincided with the school holidays.

“The crowd on the first day was huge compared to previous years where people would start turning up only towards the end of the festival,” she noted.

“Every year, there is something different to see. Since this is a once-a-year event, people do not want to miss out and they come here to have fun with their families.”

Norzilah, a former kite maker, said kite flying should always be prioritised as a day for friends and family to escape from their busy lifestyle.

“Kite flying should also not be limited to one place in Pasir Gudang.

“We should open up more locations in other districts so that more people can participate and nurture future local kite talents,” she said.

Another kite enthusiast Dave A. Madhavan has witnessed the changes in kites being flown over the span of 25 years.

The 64-year-old former radio announcer is hoping the Malaysian Kite Flyers Council and Johor Kite Association emulate Weifang, China, which is known as the City of Kites.

“I started my journey with the festival in 1995 when I was hired as an emcee.

“Over the years, the event has taken me to Vietnam besides Bintulu and Kabong in Sarawak.

“Some of the memorable moments I have are of foreign participants flying a dugong-shaped kite to spread awareness about some of the protected animals in our country,” said Dave who has learned to differentiate between local and foreign kites.

He said kites were made using bamboo back then but now kite-makers use fibre rods for frames while some rely on drones.

“The festival is a good thing and I hope to see Pasir Gudang becoming known as a place to fly kites,” said Dave who is also this year’s emcee.

He said the highlight of his career was being recognised as best announcer by Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi at last year’s event.

“My aim is to train the next announcer to replace me so that this festival will continue to be celebrated and enjoyed in the future,” he added.

A cheetah and centipedes are among giant local kites taking to the skies on the first day of the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival in Johor.A cheetah and centipedes are among giant local kites taking to the skies on the first day of the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival in Johor.

Foreign participants

Warm hospitality and the beautiful landscape in Pasir Gudang are the main reasons foreign participants head to Malaysia for the annual Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival.

Gli Aquiloni di Edo, 70, from Milan, Italy, who has been participating in the event for 12 years, eagerly awaits the invitation from the Malaysian Kite Flyers Council.

Edo is known for his circular kites at Pasir Gudang and other events.Edo is known for his circular kites at Pasir Gudang and other events.

“My specialty is circular kites, which is one of the most iconic kites at the Pasir Gudang festival as well as other international kite events.

“Pasir Gudang is a must-go venue for me because the organiser are experienced in handling large kites, and I love the multiracial background of Malaysians.

“I also like Bukit Layang-Layang due to the vast green space and strong wind,” he said, adding that he was looking forward to the sunny weather as well.

Dingwerth is hoping to fly his frog kites in Pasir Gudang daily.Dingwerth is hoping to fly his frog kites in Pasir Gudang daily.

Sharing the same sentiments is German Bernhard Dingwerth, 60, who enjoys the different kite cultures presented at the festival.

“This is my 10th time here. My first visit was in 2006.

“Coming here has always been a treat because it is like meeting and gathering with my big family, even if all of us have already met at other international kite events.

“This year, I brought my frog kites and I hope to fly them every day,” he said, adding that he would also be taking part in a kite festival in Italy later this year.

Yao is using two of his special kites for stunt performances.Yao is using two of his special kites for stunt performances.

Meanwhile, Yao Qing Shan, 54, from China, said visitors could expect to see two stunt kite performances since the highlight was on sports kites this year.

“I brought my double-line and four-line kites this year. These kites are special to me as I have been using them to perform for the past 20 years at all international kite events.

“Stunt kites are quite unique as they can be flown without strong winds and flown indoors,” he said, adding that it was his 10th time participating in the Pasir Gudang World Kite Festival.

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