It was 7.30 in the morning in an already buzzing Bangkok. I was at a pier watching the colourful long-tail boats darting along the river, weaving in and out of the paths of the larger vessels. After only a few minutes a boat pulled up to the jetty, and the waiting throng boarded. There was an excited babble of voices, and I could make out speech from the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, China, Japan, various languages from the countries in SE Asia, and of course English.
The waterway was the mighty Chaophraya River in Bangkok, and we were all headed off to participate in – or simply to enjoy – the spectacle of the first ever King’s Cup Elephant Boat Race and River Festival. The excitement and anticipation of the passengers on the boat for what was to come
The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, a charity founded by John Roberts, is one such. Amongst other things, it is currently caring for more than 20 elephants rescued from Thailand’s crowded city streets, working with the mahouts’families to build financial independence, funding research on how elephants can help children with autism, and protecting an
John further enthused, ‘Thailand has around 3,500 non-wild elephants, and ways need to be found to look after them, as well. There isn’t enough wild to put them back into, so a well-planned tourism activity, at a well-run, caring facility such as ours is a great way to do that – the elephants get to walk around as a group, meet new friends and they lead a rich and varied elephant life. And our guests get to learn about elephants and a little of what it is like to live with them. The elephants enjoy it: there seems to be a modern misconception that captive elephants live entirely in misery and fear no matter how you look after them. I have to say that in 16 years of living among elephants I have seen no evidence of this – I would never seek to bring a wild elephant into captivity, but I’m entirely comfortable with bringing any elephant I find that has been mistreated into my camp. They have a good life in it.’
So, on the morning of 29th
There were giant marquees and tents, there were food outlets galore, there were fantastically designed and furnished places to sit and enjoy a cool drink, sponsored by some of the world’s most
The elephant boat race competition is similar to dragon boat racing, except instead of a decorative dragon’s head at the forefront, it’s that of an elephant. There are 20 paddlers to a team, plus one ‘cox’ who beats frantically on a war drum and encourages his guys to up their game. This year the teams walked to their vessels from a team tent with tall standing fans to keep them cool before their exertions.
They ventured down a ramp onto floating pink pontoons, before boarding their boats, and heading off to the start line. There were four boats racing per heat, out of a pool of 12 teams from Thailand, The Philippines, and China. All the teams had their own corporate sponsors. On the first
Final leaderboard for 2019 King’s Cup Elephant Boat Race
- Yutthakarnnawa (Royal Thai Navy Seals) – Chang Mineral Water
- Pradu Thong Goddess (Royal Thai Navy) – JW Blue Label
- Institute of Physical Education – Mercedes Benz
- Nonthaburi – Avani Hotels & Resorts
- Singburi – Casillero del Diablo
- Pradu Ngern Goddess (Royal Thai Navy) – Price Waterhouse Coopers
- PhetNava – Keith & Kim
- Samutprakarn – Veuve Clicquot
- Nakornsithammarat – EGAT ( Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand)
- Porn Phra Kaew – Bangkok Bank
- Dongguan Sheen Fine Club, China – CITI
- Pilipinas Orient Dragon – Anantara Hotels
But the Elephant Boat Races were not the only attraction for sports enthusiasts. While the teams had been battling it out on the river on-land entertainment had included an indoor rowing tournament, open to all on Friday 29th, and dedicated sportsmen and women competed for the Asian Indoor Rowing Championships on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st. These guys were professional athletes, and the commitment to their sport was clear to see. As was their desire to win. Due to the terrific power they had to exert during their rowing stints on the static rowing machines, the machines had been set up in an air-conditioned marquee, with tiered seating for the spectators. With scores watching from the outside, too. The competitors for the Asian Indoor Rowing Championships consisted of teams from nine countries – Bahrain, Chinese Taipei, India, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. Each digital heat consisted of eight rowers giving it their all across a distance of 2km, with both female and male competitors vying for the coveted Asia Cup trophies. The winner of the individual women’s Asia Cup was Yi-ting Huang from Chinese Taipei and Parminder Singh from India took the men’s championship.
In the team events, India came out on top with 7 gold, 5 silver, and 1 bronze; second