Buffalo Racing in Thailand you must see.

In the back country of Chonburi Thailand, villagers come together with their land-working buffalos and compete in a crazy type of drag race to see which is the fastest. The stakes are high; the buffalo are not like horses, the riders, hang atop these 2 ton beasts by the nape of their necks for dear life, as there is no way to control, or stop, the animals once they start to run. The only way they stop is by running the entire course into a large body of water, and the riders hope against all odds that the animals don’ t crash into each other, or buck them off, which happens often.

It’s extremely dangerous but a great source of fun and pride for the locals, who love to bet on the beasts, and hold huge competitions with food and drink rounding out the experience. If you get the chance to see one of these amazing events you definitely should, they are riveting. Filmed by our very own Roberto Serrini (@serrini) while on location for a film … more of his drone films are at http://www.nycdroner.com

Stay tuned for a NEW VID EACH DAY as we travel round the world to find the weirdest-wildest-best-nicest-goodest-sweetest-dopest stuff for you to get inspired by and get your a$$ off the couch.

Much love, the TC.
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thai rodeo. buffalo racing?

One day earlier this year I got a little phone call from a man by the name of Joel Soisson.

“Hi. This is Joel Soisson.”

Who the hell was Joel Soisson? Well, if you know how to Google (or click a hyperlink you lazy bum) you would quickly find out he is the producer of such films as Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (starring a super young Keanu Reeves and Billy Joe Armstrong), Dracula 2000 (which is like classic Dracula with computers) and my personal favorite, Piranha 3DD (Staring Doc Brown, strippers as lifeguards, and yes, double D was not a typo).

Well long story short the convo went like “hey, you want to come to this remote, back-country part of Thailand no one goes to and do some aerial filming for our new movie, “The Buffalo Rider”?”

Yes Joel, I would. 

And I did:

What an amazing thing to not only film, but see. This was the real deal; villagers and townsfolk came from all over. The head of the region sat on a little makeshift stage wearing his best shirt. There were shiny plastic trophies, pleanty of Ya Dong drinking, and lots of people cheering on small boys hanging on for dear life to a charging 2 ton water buffalo.

The track, muddy and wet, was more of a slip and slide then a racetrack. At the end, a shallow lake.

How do you steer a water buffalo? You don’t. How do you slow it down? You don’t. How do you stop it? You jump off.

The video will show you what I saw. Exciting, dangerous, and fast, this is a rodeo that only the country that invented Red Bull could invent. As for the color treatment, for all you film nerds, I had an itch to learn DaVinci Resolve which is an amazing program, and decided to put their qualifier and keyer to the test. I don’t think there is a better film grading program out there, and it’s free people. 

See other little aerial films at my site http://www.robertoserrini.com/filter/drone/Drone-Aerial-Cinematography

Rs

Thai Buffalo Racing final.Still004

itsawrap!

On a compressed schedule and a whirlwind 5 days straight droning, my part in “The Buffalo Rider” has wrapped. Besides the lovely Thai countryside of Chon Buri, I had the pleasure to do some amazing shooting at a remote Buddhist temple, A vast pineapple field, and even a local school, where I flew through a classroom of kids, out a window, and tracked behind two escaping students through a taro field. Life really is like a video game sometimes; you have to make each level a little more difficult or it gets a bit… boring;)

 

All my love to Joel and the amazing crew – they continue shooting for the rest of the month, and I look forward to some real cinema magic when the film gets completed. As for me, it’s time to get down to Bangkok, for a different kinda adventure, with my girl Miranda Kendrick from the jolly ol’ UK, coming out to be my “assistant” on the shoot … more like a “partner in crime” then an “assistant” me thinks.

Tally Ho!

Rs

 

 

thailand loves cocaine…

Well, I should say Thailand loves Kratom, which is their version:

kratom leaf. Better then your cup of joe.
kratom leaf. Better then your cup of joe.

At least I found out why the crew moved so fast. We would start the day this way, chewing on this bitter little leaf like you would sip your morning latte. It’s nothing too crazy; I mean, no one was having a craving for strippers or heavy techno dance music, but it definitely gets you focused and on track. All in all a better and more natural substitute to Adderall. Funny thing is that it is illegal, and has been so for round 70 years because it’s sale was interfering with the Thai governments tax revenue from opium.

But why stop there. Thailand, as you may or may not know, is home to everyone’s favorite liquid cocaine, RED BULL. Ray, our resident German, was only happy to explain to me the interesting story behind Red Bull’s success. The story goes that it was created in 1975 by a chap named Chaleo Yoovidhaya (rolls right off the tongue) and originally called Krating Daeng, which sounds like something that happens in you shorts after a long hike through a swamp. One day an Austrian dude named Dietrich Mateschitz (seriously whats with the names here), who I can see wearing a piano neck tie and really loving MTV Party To Go Volume 2 mix of Missing by Everything But The Girl (you love it, you know you do) basically bought the recipe off Chaleo and gave douchebags around the world a liquid mascot.

Of course, being Thailand, Red Bull is super different then its western counterpart, and yes, you put it in beer.

red bull and beer

You’re welcome New Jersey.

 

and we’re off… buffalo racing.

Ah the illustrious world of buffalo racing. The pageantry. The jockeys with their sponsored banners and uniforms. All the pomp and circumstance that rivals even the Kentucky Derby.

Nah. Just kidding.

Buffalo Racing it turns out is about as country as you can get. It’s a mixture between drag racing and rodeo if stock cars had horns and we’re extremely pissed off. What I found personally interesting was the way Thai people from the city view Buffalo Racing. They think it’s backwater, hillbilly stuff. And to their credit, it is. Most of the actors in the film are from Bangkok, and they not only talk different then the locals here, but are noticeably whiter and very much on purpose. They cover themselves completely when they are not on camera. Then, they add a large amount of whitening to their already white skin. While westerners long for the bronzed skin that comes with a healthy tan, here it is anything but wanted. “White is right” said one of the kids on set, which sounded very, very strange to my ear. (on a side note, there is such a thing as “Nazi Chic” in Thailand that kinda blew my mind. I thought Juicy Couture sweatpants was the abomination of my fashion world… this definitely takes the cake.)

So this world is absolutely bizarro which makes it fantastically interesting. The buffalo are huge beasts that go extremely fast. Imagine a half ton of muscle and horn flying down a slippery mud runway at 30 mph… with you on the its back. What’s more is that it’s usually kids that race. They sit on the very back of the beast, hold on to a thin rope that is looped through the animal’s nose, and whip the shit out of them as they fly 100 yards toward a finish line. It’s not so much racing as controlled disaster. It’s riveting.

To stop the animal they… don’t. They simply jump off. That should give you an idea of what kinda control they have. Basically they run into a large body of water which slows them down, and then two dudes put their hands up and hope they stop.

DSC00215

They are beautiful animals. Before seeing them Joel the director had said how amazed he was with them, how much more expressive they were then other animals, say a dog or horse. They have these eyes, and can totally emote through them. You can see when they are happy, hungry, playful, or pissed off. It really is impressive. They owners love them as well and treat them like part of the family. They constantly bathe them. Constantly. It is amazing to watch the animal squint in pleasure as cool water is poured on him in the hot sun.

Oh yeah. It’s friggin’ hot. Really hot. Like 100 degrees hot. The palms of my hands got sunburnt. Luckily production was ready for it, and even had a bottle with my name on it ready to go at all times.

ahhhh.
ahhhh.

As for the production team, wow. I’ve never seen guys work so hard. They were amazing, rocking and rolling, making it happen. They set up dolly track in minutes, hardly ever was a word even spoken. Shooting on a RED as well in this heat could have been an issue, but not for these champs. None of the “not my job” attitude here; if it had to be done, it got done, regardless if you were the DP or an PA. It was a pleasure working with them.

I love sets like these. This is what I consider real filmmaking. The reason I got into filmmaking was because I get so bored doing just one task. I love the variety, the combination of talent it takes to make something really fuse together. So when I was asked to put down the drone and step in as the buffalo I was honored.

 

Considering how hot it was, how much there was to shoot, and the fact that we weren’t using set animals, the day went off without a hitch. Lotsa people came down to watch; there was even a sorta tailgate culture where young guys would bring out their freshly washed supped up kit cars with homemade spoilers to impress local girls. Lotsa food trucks and drinking as well, along with your lively betting under the stands.

Hired as an aerial cinematographer I had my work cut out for me. These muscle rockets were fast, unpredictable, and on the whole, did not like the wasp-like whine of my drone. That being said I think it’s been one of my favorite things I’ve shot to date. Flying and shooting with a drone can be a lot of fun; it excels at landscapes and cityscapes, and for the most part anyone can make such scenes look amazing with the right gear and experience. Moving objects, and more specifically, large running animals in a race with small humans on their back was definitely more of a challenge, and one that was ultimately more rewarding then chasing a car or flying over a ridge of a mountain. To watch in slow motion as you track along side of them careening into a lake of sunlit painted water was quite a nice moment. It’s times like these I wish I charged more.

Rs

 

day one. (send help.)

And so … it begins.

I met Joel right outside of customs at the Bangkok airport. I never formally met Joel, and frankly, didn’t really know much about what I was getting into. It sounded exotic, dangerous, and most of all, fun, so I was 90% there. As long as I had a place to stay and could do my job properly, I’d be living the dream. Joel seemed on the ball, an honest guy, and most of all, excited. People who are excited about what they are doing, no matter if you’re a garbage man or a tax attorney, make me happy. Passion is universal.

me and joel, my new best friend.
me and joel, my new best friend.

We jumped into a really nice transport van driven by Song, who spoke no english but pointed like a champ. So we’re driving. And driving. And driving. And finally, we “arrive” although if you saw the place you would have doubts you were anywhere let alone where you were supposed to be. We’re camped out in a place called Chon Buri, a South East dry district in Thailand. Dry because there is about a two days less rain than other places in Thailand, not because they don’t drink alcohol there. They drink. In lot’s of different ways, but I’ll get to that later.

Chon Buri It’s basically no where which makes it kinda amazing. While it lacks almost complete existence, it is home to one thing; Buffalo Racing.

bufalo buck'n

While it doesn’t take much to convince me to get on a plane and come fly a drone around, Buffalo Racing definitely perked up my ears, mainly because I had never heard of it before. Ever. And while it might seem pretentious, that is pretty odd to me. I mean, I love the internet. I love blogs. And for something as exquisitely exotic and certifiably crazy as buffalo racing to never even ping on my internet radar was quite amazing.

Kwai Keng, or Buffalo Racing, has been around in this “formal” incarnation for about 150 years. Originally a way for rice farmers to let off some steam (and make a little side cash on their luck) the event has become a big back alley festivity that brings a good chunk of people in to watch, race, and bet. We’re not talking Madison Square Garden numbers, but definitely WNBA numbers.  For the purposes of the shoot, they organized a special race to take place, as the real races happen in the Fall at harvest time. I immediately understood one of the benefits of shooting in Thailand, where you could have an annual event happen 6 months early, and people not only don’t charge you for it, but are happy to move it for you. We would be shooting over the next following days, and I was definitely looking forward to see what madness this event would bring.

Racing aside, we eventually made it to our “hotel”. It’s kinda an apartment complex that just exists there on the road. There isn’t much around; a little sad market that sells some sundries, and lots of chips and beer. Next to it is a little “restaurant”; basically a wok, and a few tables. Everything is new; like just built. Like paint still wet. But like Stalin built it. There is no style or decor, it’s just basic. Basic of basic. Cave with an outlet is kinda what we’re dealing with here people.

“I made sure you have the best room in the place,” said Joel, extremely proud and excited, “it has a television and air-conditioning.”

the room

Thanks Joel.

This place is hilarious. The bed, was pretty much on the floor. The furniture was all new, so new it had the protective wrapper on it still. My closet had the plastic wrapping on the hanger bar, but lacked hangers, which I thought was just the right touch. The TV (a 13 incher CRT job, remember those 1989?) had a miraculous 216 channels on it. Seriously. I counted. They were all either in Thai, Chinese, or Hindu. 189 of them were K-Pop/Music Videos that played the same 5 music videos.

At the very least, I thought, the bed was nice and big. I then tossed my phone on it and it broke. It broke. Cracked. Placing my hand on it cautiously I quickly realized that it was basically a piece of plywood with a vinyl cover.

IMG_1394

Brand new mind you, which kinda blew my mind. I mean, someone had to design this. There was piping around the edges, and it was made well. Someone had to actually say, “ok, so we’re sleeping on the floor. I need a solution for making that more comfortable. Wait, got it. We’ll take some wood and wrap it in vinyl and raise it 6 inches off the ground.” then another guys is like “brilliant Ted, but what if, and just walk with me a minute, we put white piping around the edge. You know, to class it up a bit?” And then they had a martini lunch celebrating their new product, “the mattress”.

I was pretty much in awe, until I saw the “bathroom”.

bathroom

The shower had a knob where water came out. You get just water temperature. Whatever temperature the water is at that time is the temperature of your shower. The funny thing is that at the hottest part of the day the water, which you would love to be cool, is at its hottest. Irony. In the end I had to respect the uniqueness of this bathroom; there aren’t many places you can bathe and take a shit at the same time. Pretty much the Ganges and here.

And it may sound really strange, but, I was extremely happy. I live in Manhattan. I have a sweet apartment, with running hot and cold water, cable, internet, and a city where anything you want from sex to a slice of pizza is available 24/7. Living like that can make you forget what you are made of, who you are, and what is really the value of comfort. So an experience like this I look at with hungry eyes, happy for the chance of discomfort, and the mandated focus on the reason I’m here in the first place. Let’s just hope that holds up for a month. I mean I’m not crazy.

After getting comfortable in my room, I headed down to met some of the “crew”. Another producer named Ray who was German, but had been living out in Thailand long enough to look like he’d been living out in Thailand. Ray had a comically thick German accent and loved to make off-colored Nazi references. It was like Mel Brooks knew I was going on trip and sent me a gift. Another nice kid named Weiss from South Africa that loved animals and loved hunting; a combination I always find interesting. He knew everything that could hurt, poison or kill you in Thailand and wasn’t shy to point it out to you at every turn. These guys were red and leathery with piercing light eyes. They looked like they worked on the docks, and knew what the business end of a knife was used for. Another glorious example of how the film industry takes all kinds.

The "hotel restaurant"
The “hotel restaurant”

Along with Joel we sat outside, shared a bowl of noodles, and drank several very cold beers in the afternoon heat. We discussed the film, traveling, meats we liked to eat, and places we liked to visit. We watched a massive thunderstorm roll in, over us, and out the other side leaving again a beautiful day.

ray
The German, Ray, Leo beer, L&M unfiltered, and crisps … aka … dinner.

While life here seemed slow and relaxed, it sure seem to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Eventually, after trying all the chip flavors in the shop (“Mexicans” was my favorite, go figure) We rolled out to dinner, at the shopping mall about 10 minutes away.

A giant TESCO in the middle of no where. Inside the Tesco there were other shops, anything you could imagine; barber shops, cell phones, dentist. It was like a small town. This is what I imagine the post apocalyptic future will be like; irradiated jungle badlands for miles, with a giant climate controlled warehouse filled with a village of commerce defying the nature surrounding it. This place was frightening with its variety; they even had a Swansons and Dairy Queen. As long as I can get my Blizzard on I’m good. There is something I hate about these places, mainly, it’s a parasite culture in a foreign place, but there is something miraculous about it as well, like taking the lowest level of art and raising it to museum quality. It makes me think of Charles Bukowski and Robert Moses at an S&M party. There is something perfectly mind-blowing about a perfectly short, brown Thai man in a red and white soda-counter stripped shirt saying in perfectly broken English “Welcome to Swanson’s” in the middle of a desolate jungle province.

The "Nightcap".
The “Nightcap”.

Back at the hotel I had a ceremonial Alka-Seltza and put on GnR’s “Welcome to the Jungle”. I peered out the window into the darkness. No street lights, no stars. Just jungle black. What would tomorrow bring, who knows. As for now it is late, and time to sleep on my wood plank.

Rs