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.