Daily Archives: October 8, 2009

Boat Racing at Phra Pradaeng

Long-boat racing is a traditional festival that is usually held towards the end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat. These races happen all over the country. Some of the biggest take place at Ayutthaya, Phichit, Phitsanulok and Narathiwat. They also have boat racing at Phra Pradaeng in Samut Prakan where boat races have been taking place for over 100 years. In the olden days, that district had no roads and everyone moved around by boat. The local people in Phra Pradaeng would then get together for celebrations to mark the end of the rainy season on the fourth day after the full moon in October.

The annual boat racing in Phra Pradaeng takes place from 8-10th October 2009. They are racing boats in front of the District Office on the mighty Chao Phraya River. We went there this afternoon for the opening ceremony which was led by Mr. Surachai Khanasa, the Governor of Samut Prakan. The trophies for the competition were donated by Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. These were paraded through the town first on a float together with a portrait of the Princess.

This picture shows the local dignitaries who came to watch the boat racing in the VIP enclosure at the finishing line. In addition to the Governor, there was also the City Mayor of Phra Pradaeng and the Chief of Police for Samut Prakan. I came here to watch the boat racing last year but it is not necessarily the best place to watch. We did have running commentary for each of the races but the start line was so far away that we could hardly see what was going on. Then, if there was one team that was an easy winner they would slow down towards the end so that it wasn’t always very dramatic for us.

However, the first race was certainly very dramatic. It was a race between two teams wearing red shirts and yellow shirts. This obviously caused quite a few jokes as the two main street protesters from the last year or so have also been wearing red and yellow. It was neck and neck for a while but the red team pulled ahead and crossed the finishing line first. However, the rough tidal water of the Chao Phraya River proved too much for the yellow team. I saw a few of them jump in the water at first but didn’t really think much of it. I thought they just wanted a swim. But then the boat started going down and down until it sank completely. One of the rowers was injured and had to be rushed to hospital.

I watched the racing in the VIP enclosure for a while and then walked up the waterfront to where all the local people were watching. To be honest, it wasn’t as exciting watching this race as it was the boat races in Bang Phli last week. This is mainly because the course was not only longer but the river was obviously a lot wider. As a consequence we were further away from the action. You needed a really good long lens to take any pictures. There was also a long period between races as it seemed to take a long time for them to get ready. I am not sure why they didn’t get the next racers ready straight away.

The next boat races in Samut Prakan will take place in front of Phra Samut Chedi on Monday 12th October 2009. We will be there taking pictures and video and I will post them here at www.thai-blogs.com and over at www.paknam.com. We have posted more pictures of today’s boat races over at the Samut Prakan Forums.

Phra Samut Chedi Worshipping Ceremony

Mr. Surachai Khanasa, the Governor of Samut Prakan Province, took part in a ceremony this morning to announce to the Gods and Angles in Heaven that they will be holding the annual Worship Fair for Phra Samut Chedi. During the ceremony, they also sought good luck for the period of the Temple Fair which will take place for eleven days between 9th and 20th October 2009. They prayed for no rain and also for it to be incident free. They offered food and drinks to the Gods. The ceremony was presided over by a Brahman priest.

Ironically, due to a combination of high river levels and a high tide, the City Hall Plaza, where the ceremony took place, was under nearly a foot of water. The Governor and other government officials had to wade through the water wearing Wellington Boots. This picture shows the ceremony taking place in front of the statue for King Rama V.

After the ceremony was finished, we all boarded a cross-river ferry to go to Phra Samut Chedi on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. In this picture, you can see the new Governor of Samut Prakan Province together with his wife and daughter.

The red cloth that is normally wrapped around the Chedi has already been removed as you can see from this photograph. It is looking quite bare without the cloth. Now you can see that the temple badly needs whitewashing. However, this cannot be done without permission from the Fine Arts Department in Bangkok. A new red cloth will be wrapped around the Chedi tomorrow on the first day of the Temple Fair.

Waiting for us on the other side, in front of Phra Samut Chedi, was another generous spread of food and drinks for the Gods. A similar ceremony took place here. At the end, the best dishes were offered to the Governor and then local people were allowed to take the remainder of the food.

Mr. Surachai Khanasa and his wife then went inside the chapel to pay homage to the Buddha image. The principal image is a standing Buddha with his arms outstretched as if he is holding back the waves.

Next, the Governor went to the European style building to pay homage to the statue of King Rama II. The building of this temple was the idea of this King though he died before work could be started. It was finished by his son. The temple was originally on an island in the Chao Phraya River.

The Governor finished by inspecting the area around the temple where everyone will come tomorrow for the ceremony to wrap the red cloth around the Chedi. The parade starts at Paknam with a ceremony at 7 a.m. The cloth will then go to Phra Pradaeng by boat for another parade before going to Phra Samut Chedi for the final sacred ceremony. Guest of honour this year is Chavarat Charnvirakul, the Interior Minister. He was briefly Prime Minister of Thailand last year. I will be posting a report of the parade and ceremony here at www.thai-blogs.com and www.paknam.com tomorrow.

We are posting information and maps about the Temple Fair at the Samut Prakan Forums. We are posting pictures and videos there every day for the next eleven days.

Sunshine in the Wide Country

A Gallery by Kittisak Butdeewong

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity recently, for the second time, to assist a good friend of mine, artist, Kittisak Butdeewong with most of the Thai>English language preparations for his latest gallery. Kittisak, hailing from the north-eastern rural province of Mukdahan and of Lao descent, spent the best part of two years compiling more than 100 pieces of work for the gallery entitled ‘Sunshine in the Wide Country’. And to get a ‘feel’ for the paintings, spent 6 months of that as a practitioner of Buddhist teachings (Dhamma) in an upcountry monastery.

Following on from his previous gallery at Chulalongkorn University, In the Heart of Nature in 2007, Kittisak has again decided to emphasize his fondness for rural Thailand. Sunshine in the Wide Country is a collection of watercolor paintings, in accordance with his own style, which intends to record the nature and ways of the countryside.

A true country lad by birth, Kittisak says that he has never got used to living in urban Thailand and had this to say at his previous gallery “Everyday, on waking up in my urban home, I long to turn in the direction of the Thai countryside but like yourself, I have to adhere to the responsibilities of worldly duties. Life in the concrete jungle is one of materialism, desire and suffering”.

As part of the gallery, nationally renowned poet Prof. Siwakarn Patoomasoot will be putting on his own poetry exhibition also reflecting on the Thai countryside and the laws of nature.

Kittisak Butdeewong is a graduate of painting sculpture and painting art from Silpakorn University and a former art instructor at Suphanburi College of Fine Arts. Sunshine in the Wide Country is his forth solo exhibition. In near future, he hopes to relocate to the rural mountainous northern province of Chiang Rai.

Open to the public, Sunshine in the Wide Country will be held at Jamjuree Art Gallery, Chulalongkorn University, 10-27 October, open Mon-Fri 10am – 7pm and Sat-Sun 12-6pm.