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Cowboys & Indians – Bikers in Thailand

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

A lot of rubber is burned on the asphalt, when the great hordes of Thai bikers converge on Ayutthaya once a year for the Cowboy and Indian party. No TAT (Tourist Authority of Thailand) in sight, to promote such an event – it isn’t geared as a show-off to tourists in bulk and also not a profit generator for anybody, just for the bikers and their fans. Wheelies are performed here by the boys and girls on their steel horses, clad in black leather or other outfits. The fun begins at sundown and involves a quarter of the city near the bus station, that is usually dedicated to Karaoke-bars and Massage-parlors.

Riders came from near and far, big customized bikes are their trademark. Every new arrival is beeing greeted with cheers and kisses from the Squaws and Cowgirls.:kiss

The prices to participate are unbelievably low, they really lure big bikers from a large radius on the roadmaps to Ayutthaya for this event. The 300 Baht (under 10 US-$) inlude all night food and drinks. Alcoholic beverages (firewater) are not excluded!:P

Besides a great buffet, there are several BBQs on-site and live music from local bands. Country music goes well with the crowd and the mood is great.

Some Indians showed up with their chief dress-ups, others in warrior garb. About 100 followed the call to the ancient capital of Thailand. For the price of a single drink in Bangkok’s clubs, you can eat all you want here, get drunk (some did, they camped out for the night later) and play games or dance. I call this fun-maximizing and skip the expensive Bangkok clubs again anytime for this.

Some of the squaws were hard to resist ;(, but my number one squaw was naturally coming along and she demonstrated later in the tomahawk-toss, that axes and tomahawks were nothing new to her (she trailed the later winner of the ladycup throughout the whole contest, only by very small margins).

Their Northamerican brothers would have been proud of their Thai tribesmen, the firewater did flow freely all night. Except for the long gun shooting, the Indians sacked the Cowboys badly in every type of contest.

All of the Karaoke girls were then invited to join and quit their job for the day, most followed much to the dismay of their pimps and customers, we all had a great time.

The long gun contest was dominated by a female cowgirl, who was celebrated wildly by the crowd. This great looking gal would have made every western show in the states a hit, as she had a great aim and wonderful party spirit. She shot 3 times a burning candle on top of a bottle in 50 m distance in a way, that the candle tumbled into the small amount of gasoline inside the Kratingdaeng (Red Bull, original formula) bottle and lit it up in a fireball. Calamity Jane couldn’t have done that better. She used a 30-30 lever action Winchester for that with no scope! She also took a victorious first place in the shotgun contest on paper silhouettes.

A lot of beauty was to be seen here and everyone had so much fun, many trophies were awarded later. The event organizers scored big with the guests, as almost no one ended up empty handed.

Cherokee, Navahos, Apache and Chippewah, many known Indian tribes and nations were present, at least their traditional costumes, all hand made and great looking.

This Iroquois warrior was the champ in lasso and cow wrestling contests, he also won the practical joker pedestal, when he lost his hip-cloth accidently and walked naked through the camp to get a replacement dress.

I was definitively underdressed here, but a welcomed guest at the event. They told me, that they never had a foreigner traveling here with his steel horse before. This happened quite a few times before, that I was greeted as the first long nosed pale-face at a regular happening, festival or event. It pays for me to not go with the tourist and expat hordes and hang around with my local buddies occasionally, I get to see and witness so much more.

We will sure be back here in Ayutthaya to smoke a peace-pipe and have a ton of fun, but then I will dig out my Stetson and the boots and will surely book a local teepee for the night, so I can participate in the firewater fun.;)

Dragon (Swan) Boat Races – Bang Sai, Ayutthaya

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

© Frank P. Schneidewind


The famous Dragon Boat paddlers are serious athletes in Southeastasia. This discipline requires countless hours of hard training by the paddlers, expert shipbuilders and carpenters and a lot of honor is at stake, as every country in Southeastasia wants to win the tournaments for their respective nations. Navy Cadets of the Royal Thai Navy are pictured here, they qualified in national tournaments throughout the country for a spot in the famous international competitions, such as this one. Dragon Boat Races are very Popular in Hong Kong and Malaysia, their history is supposedly 6.000 years old and is based on ancient Chinese naval warfare tactics.

Thailand as the host was allowed two entries, all other nations (2009 = 15) came with their qualified teams. The venue is held once yearly at at the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province on the Chaopaya River. Several other Dragon Boat  style races dot the country, this event has nationwide TV coverage and six figure prizes! A heap of cash money is being shelled out to the winning teams, the event is scheduled for two days, the winning team takes 300.000 Baht home. Here, 15 teams did compete with 22 paddlers each, making this called a Swan Boat Race. No admission is being charges and subsidized prices for beer and free show entertainment does draw crowds! For show purposes they have a couple of so called Long Boats with up to 100 paddlers each.

That is little, if compared to the big races in Hong Kong, Malaysia or elsewhere. The sport is governed by the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF), the worldwide body for the dragon boat sport. Thailand’s flagship event was created as a Swan Boat Race, so the TAT can govern it all itself, I presume. TAT created this event in the years following 1986, the first international team showed up 10 years ago.

But let’s focus on the event itself, the boats are made from teakwood and other tropical hardwoods, the paddles or oars are pretty simple and not curved. Prayer before start is an obligation to Thais, flowers, flags and ribbons decorate the vessel. Paddlers sit in pairs, each one operating to one side, very small room is given.

The race itself takes place on the mighty river, where this section of it is dedicated for the paddlers. You need a good zoom lens on your cam and a tripod to shoot the race-action well.

Thai TV has such equipment, they cover this event yearly on Channel 11, an army owned broadcasting unit. Visitors aren’t  too many, they are scattered on the spacious grounds.

VIP’s are catered for in a special lounge on a balcony, overseeing the activities on the water. Politicians, eager for their pictures in the media will hand over the prizes later. Some military brass and police bosses appear occasionally.


As the sun sets, youngsters surface out of nowhere and confiscate the racing pier for their watergames full of fun. The vessels can be viewed and inspected close-up now. In the backdrop you can spot the empty rice barges, whose big steel hulls protect the venue from other commercial ships on the river.

The stern of each “Swan” boat has a carving, resembling a dragon much more than a swan, but if TAT tells me, this is a swan – I have no reason to doubt that! The colorful boat decorations can be seen up close here.


The paddles can be seen in detail here, the blades were dipped in blue paint and displayed a spay painted “Thailand” script each.


The Thai teams usually are booked for all big prizes, as real athletic Dragon Boat competition from Malaysia or China obviously is not a part of this. They have a beer happy gang from Freemantle in Australia instead and even other international competitors (Taiwan, Philippines, USA etc.) without a real chance for the dough.


The “international competitors” seemed more to come here for the fun only,.America’s oldest  and active participant was a septogenerian Greatgranddad, still rowing strong:

Sexy dancers perform meanwhile on a stage in the lawn of the grounds, the huge grounds appear empty, because nobody seems to be interested in this type of entertainment, a few dozen sit scattered on the lawn and relax. I feel sorry for the girls as the do a nice performance, but their trademark smiles fade quick, when they exit the stage. 3 or 4 photographers take notice of them, everyone seems to hang out for the so called superstars and the winners announcement and stage presentation.

The “super stars” are usually some soap opera or karaoke folks, which have a local significance maybe – but their stage shows seemed rather boring to me, I liked the sexy dancers during the phases “in between” much better!


Dance groups also included some historically dressed girls, photo opportunities by the score here!

Brassiers must have had their origin in ancient Thailand, although todays models seem to be more comfortable and not exactly made to be worn over shirts or garments.

The sponsors, as in many TAT activities, were providers of alcoholic beverages, such as beer. The super rich providers of alcoholic beverages aren’t allowed to funnel their budgets into the media anymore (according to Thai law), so they allocate budgets to the TAT now to sponsor all kinds of events and online contests, such as the ill-gotten UTE joke, with their rule bending and faking in so called public votes.

Beer is being sold here well below store prices, which draws a certain crowd of people. Families can have water in bottles, a sodapop or Coca-Cola is not available.


Flowers for all athletes and free coconut with their delicious juice, mountains of them were served.

Another rather senior paddler from overseas enjoyed the music and dances at this farewell show.

The Team from Freemantle came with their own Crocodile Dundee

The grounds at Bang Sai are well prepared for any type of venue, their park and signs light up after dark.

With hundreds of paddlers attending the farewell dinner on the lawn later, there is finally a crowd for the performers on stage. Every team is being called up stage to receive their farewell gift, a nice photo of their team to decorate the walls of their boat house meeting rooms. Dances are common and commenced into the wee hours.

Another TAT inspired event to showcase the superiority of Thai athletes in a nice packaging, but too transparent to have any impact. Artificial tie-ins to historical boat sports are fed to the media, some even believe this and broadcast it uncritically. It is however a fun filled event for the teams, doesn’t draw any crowds worth speaking of, but provides a nicely choreographed show, a lot of sexy dancers and sweaty paddlers plus a well prepared venue for many. Be one of the few and get your impressions yourself, it’s worth the short drive to Bang Sai. As long as TAT doesn’t rip the foreigners off with dual pricing here, I am happy to promote this scenario as a great photo opportunity for tourists, happening to be in Thailand during shows like this.