Traditional games of Southeast Asia

Kite Flying
November 13, 2007, 1:31 pm
Filed under: Indonesia, Kite flying, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam


Traditional kite is also known as wau due to the similarity of its shape to the Arabic letter that is pronounced as ‘wow’. In the past, after post-harvesting season, wau were played by farmers on leveled ground. Although there are many different shapes of the wau, the most popular one is the Wau Bulan or Moon Kites where the tail of the kite is curved in the shape of a crescent moon. 

What is it made of: The frame is made of bamboo which measures up to 2.5 to 3 meters long. 

How to play:

The wau can be used for kite-fighting where the opponents try to bring down their rivals’ kites by cutting the strings. The string of the wau is coated with glass powder to provide the “cutting edge”. Although skills are important in maneuvering the kite or wau, the wind condition also influences the playing of the game.    

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Traditional Vietnamese kites are known as dieu sao, with eight ovoid wings attached, plus 5 bamboo flutes in graduated sizes mounted to make a pleasing drone when kite is flown.

How the kite is made: A typical adult’s kite has four parts: the body, the steering string, the flying string and flutes. Well polished outer bamboo stalk is used for the frame of the kite. Bamboo straps are shaped into a crescent, two to three metres long and one metre wide. The frame is then covered with cotton cloth or glued paper.

The steering string dictates the direction of the flight and prevents the kite from breaking in strong winds. It also helps to balance the kite if one side is heavier than the other. The flying string, from 100m to 150m is also made of bamboo whereby it is made soft and flexible through boiling it in water or traditional Chinese medication.

Flutes are made through careful carvings of flute mouths whereby sounds of birds, music or gong can be produced as desired.

How to play:

Normally, the most well decorated kite with the most unique flute melodies wins. Kite-fighting competition is held in Quang Yen Townlet (Quang Ninh Province) whereby the design of the kite does not matter. Whoever’s kite that hits or destroys other kites wins. 

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It is also known as Kolyahan ng Sarangola meaning kite fight. It is among the old games played in Philippines. Boys and girls aged seven and above play this game during the summer.  Number of players: Two teams How to play: The game is played by teams using either a big kite (gorion) or a small kite. Teams attempt to destroy opponent’s kite while minimizing the damages to their own kite. 


Layang-layang or kite flying is a popular game among the children in Indonesia. Kites used are of two different types, either to be used just for flying whereby a tail is attached to provide balance, or for fighting.

How the kite is made:

Fighting kites are made of light bamboo and waxed paper. Strings attached to the kites are often coated with soaked in a solution of crushed glass boiled with ka, chemicals and dye. This ensures that crushed glass will grip onto the strings.

How the string is tied to the kite will affect the control the player has on the kite. When two strings are far apart to the kite frame, the kite will be heavier but this allows better control over the kite. When two strings are close to the frame, the kite will be lighter at the expense of better control.

How to play:

To win the game, players attempt to destroy the opponents’ kites by cutting them loose. The objective of the game is to try and cut the opponents’ kite loose.