The Noy-Ithilith boat from That Luang village narrowly beat a crew from Choum village to become kings of the Mekong yesterday, their third victory after previously raising the trophy in 2008 and 2009.

The final race was a close call, though Noy-Itthilit maintained the lead from the start, crossing the finishing line just one length ahead of their disappointed rivals.

Yet another highly successful Vientiane Boat Racing Festival saw longboat crews powering down the Mekong in front of thousands of cheering spectators, including President Choummaly Sayasone, former Politburo Member and former Prime Minister Sisavath Keobounphanh, Vientiane Mayor Soukanh Mahalath, Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Prof. Dr Bosengkham Vongdara, and other high ranking government officials.

Noy-Itthilit’s trophy was well deserved, and the triumphant crew was rewarded with a prize of 15 million kip. The Choum village boat in second place went home with 10 million kip. The third placed Luang Prabang boat received six million kip, while Thapha village in fourth place won four million kip.

In the final race of the women’s traditional boat category, Had Siew beat Chanthabouly to the finishing post, while Thapha took third place and Saendin came in fourth. The cash prizes were the same as for the men’s category, but the women had to be satisfied with a trophy made of one kilogramme of silver, while the men’s trophy weighed in at 3kg.

The sports boat category was won by Lam Motor, with the crew taking home a trophy and five million kip. In second place was Noget who won three million kip, third placed Kheuay Suanmon received two million kip, and in fourth place Koummarn received one million kip.

Thapha village won the modified boat category and walked away with 15 million kip. Second place went to the Ministry of Public Security with the crew receiving 10 million kip, third placed Thinphia won six million kip and, in fourth place, Xaifong Neua village won four million kip.

On the same day, boat crews from Xayaboury, Khammuan, Savannakhet and Champassak provinces turned out in solidarity and also paddled down the Mekong in Vientiane, to add spice to the occasion and to inspire young people to preserve the nationwide tradition of boat racing.

A representative of the Noy-Itthilit team, Ms Sengthong Sidala, said “Our crew has taken part in several other boat races around Vientiane in the last two months, aiming to firm up their teamwork and strengthen their muscles, so that we wouldn’t feel intimidated by our opponents.”

The crew attributed their win not to luck, but to hours of strenuous practice in a bid to outpace their toughest opponents.

The boat races featured three categories. The traditional longboat class comprised 16 boats crewed by men and five crewed by women. Another six teams competed in sport boats, in two groups.

The section of the Mekong in front of Vat Chan hosts the largest boat racing festival in Laos. This much-anticipated event takes place on the day after the end of Buddhist Lent. The festival draws people from all over Laos to visit their relatives in the capital and renew friendships.

This year’s festival featured a mass of stalls along Fa Ngum Road and across the whole 14 hectares of Chao Anouvong Park. Every day the park and nearby streets were packed with exuberant crowds shopping at the lively street fair, which took over the area from October 27-31. Booths sold goods made in Laos, as well as merchandise from Thailand, Vietnam and China.

Festival-goers also relished the traditional snacks on offer, such as grilled chicken, khao lam (sweetened sticky rice packed into bamboo tubes) and, of course, papaya salad. But some visitors felt this year’s festival lacked the down home atmosphere it had 10 years ago, when the crowds were smaller and there were more local handicrafts and agricultural products on offer.

Source: Vientiane Times
November 01, 2012