Friday, November 12, 2010

Going to the Regatta


Long Boat Racing Teams Practicing the Day Before Competing In Kumphawapi
For the past two or three weeks there have been banners across the streets of Kumphawapi and large billboards outside of the town announcing a great festival from 12 November 2553 to 14 November 2553.  I have lived in Thailand long enough to understand that the year 2553 of the Buddhist era corresponds to the Western year of 2010.

Last year we had passed through town during the last day of the festival but I had not brought my camera gear with me.  I missed out on documenting the long boat regatta.  As we crossed the bridge over the flood plain I could see boats competing.  I vowed to not miss out this year.

Water Festivals and more specifically long boat racing is very popular in Southeast Asia.  Last month there was a large event, "Boun Naam" or "Vientiane Boat Racing Festival" north of Udonthani in the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR) or what is commonly referred to as "Laos" in the West.  Long boat racing in LPDR is not limited to the capital city of Vientiane.  There is a boat racing festival in the former royal capital of Luang Prabang in September.  Long Boat racing also is held during the "Wat Phou Festival" in Champassak during February.

Not to outdone by her neighbors, Cambodia has a very large Water Festival during November 20 to 22 this year, in Phnom Penh.  Up to a million people people will be lining the banks of the Mekong River to witness the boat races there.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has boat racing.

Here in Thailand there are long boat races throughout the Kingdom in April, September, October and November.


The Royal Flag for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindorn

This weekend's races in Kumphawapi will be a grand event.  Besides many Thai National Flags decorating the town and venue, there were many flags for HRH Princess Maha Chakri Siridorn.  Apparently she will be presiding over the opening ceremonies tomorrow 13 November.  I learned this the hard way today.

We drove to Kumphawapi early this morning despite Duang's and her daughter's statements that the rqacing was not until Saturday.  I was under the impression that if the banner said 12 November 2553 to 14 November 2553 it meant racing on all three days.  It really didn't matter all that much because we have to go to Kumphawapi to get to Tahsang Village to visit the family.  I told Duang that if there was nothing going on we would drive out to Tahsang Village and visit the family.


Two Boats Practicing For Saturday's and Sunday's Competition
 Well there was plenty going on in Kumphawapi - everyone was busy setting up bleachers, pavilions, temporary restrooms, viewing stands, refreshment stands, and vendor booths - but no real racing.  I suspect that there will be a concert tonight so that could be why "12 November" was on the banners.

Our visit to the venue was not a waste of time.  I was able to scout out locations and determine the sun's location for morning shots.  Having visited the site, we also developed a strategy for the best route to take into town, where we hope to park and how far we think we will have to walk.  In light of our knowledge tonight that the Royal Princess will be in attendance - we are way ahead of the game.

After Their Practice Run A Team Turns At the Bridge
There will be 30 boats competing for a 30,000 Baht prize ($1,000 USD).  There are male teams as well as female teams from around Thailand.  I heard of boats coming from Ubon Ratchathani which is 6 hours away by road.  I was unable to find out if the winning male team gets the 30,000 baht prize and the winning female team also receives 30,000 Baht.  I guess that is why you show up - to find these things out.  It makes life more interesting at times when you don't know the answers, realize that you don't know, and accept that it really doesn't matter all that much.  What is important is to make the most of your opportunities, and enjoy yourself.

We enjoyed our visit to the sight.  There were three boats practicing on the water.  I am hesitant to call it a river.  It looks like a river but a month ago I had my doubts as to how there could be boat races.  The area is actually a flood plain with a narrow stream running through it.  A month ago the stream was filled and clogged with green vines similar to kudzu in Florida.  Today there was a broad expanse of water and hardly a sign of vegetation in the water.  I asked Duang if people had cut and removed the vegetation.  She said no that it all been covered by the water.  This time I listened and believed her.

At these events there are always many booths and stalls that sell potted plants and flowers.  When we arrived in town this morning the vendors were busy setting up their stalls along the street bordering the park where we take Peelawat to see the monkeys.  The stalls are constructed out of metal scaffolding with corrugated metal sheeting for roofs and plastic mesh fabric for walls.  Duang and I were happy but the monkeys were not.  The resident monkeys were definitely upset with the incursion as well as disruption to their territory.  There were several monkeys on top of the sheet metal roofs bouncing up and down as well as hitting the metal with their fists; making a heck of a noise in obvious signs of displeasure - sort of like Peelawat was doing the other day with his plastic tractor when he saw his 3 year old cousin sitting on my knee.  He glared at me and banged the toy up and down on the floor in a highly animated manner as he yelled "Ahlhen Ahlhen, May Ow! " (Allen Allen, No!)  Funny how 21 month olds are so much like monkeys - and just as cute.  I yelled at the monkeys in Thai to calm down which caused the vendors to laugh and the monkeys to run away.

After scouting out the area we drove out to Tahsang Village and had a nice visit.  Peelawat and Kwan were busy playing in the dirt with three very young puppies to keep them distracted. Toddlers and puppies - does it get much cuter?

Tomorrow we will go back to the regatta.  With Royalty being present there may be some challenges but we are up to them.  If worse comes to worse there is always Tahsang Village to visit and the next day of racing with such a highly honored guest.  No matter what i expect it to be interesting - another day here in Isaan.

Long Boat with Rooster Tail Flying

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