Thailand is synonymous with the longtail boat, elegant and colourful hand-carved wooden boats that have been used for fishing on the Andaman Sea for centuries.
The longtail gets its name from the long pole used to connect the propeller to the motor, usually taken straight from a car or truck. The simple design makes the boat easy to steer and gives it its unique appearance.
However, the growing popularity of speedboats in southern Thailand makes the future of the longtail boat uncertain.
Thai tour company Andaman Camp & Cruise has started promoting the longtail boat by encouraging visitors to the Krabi region to try out one of its traditional boats. The owners, Australian-born Elizabeth and Thai-native Sun, think one of the best ways to preserve the boat’s heritage is through tourism and highlighting the century-old tradition of the boat.
No two longtail boats are ever the same, as every builder constructs the boat by hand using local wood and his own distinctive style. Building techniques are handed down from father to son and as such the craftsmen don’t worry about detailed plans.
The boats are then decorated with colourful ribbons tied to the front – a relic of ancient times when animism was the main belief in the region. The colours are designed to appease the spirits of the seas which will ensure that boat and crew have safe passage and good fishing. The boats are solid and seaworthy, and give a smooth ride even in rough weather.
Speedboats are gaining popularity in southern Thailand, because they are faster and do not need to be painstakingly created from natural materials by local craftsmen. Andaman Camp & Cruise fear that the long tradition of building, maintaining and driving the boats will soon disappear, and once they are gone, that this knowledge will be lost forever.
Andaman Camp & Cruise specialise in offering longtail boat tours in Krabi, as well as personalised tours of the whole Andaman Sea region of southern Thailand.