Long Boat Hospital, Wat Suwannaratchahong
Long Boat Hospital, Wat Suwannaratchahong is the first and only boat hospital remaining in the Central Region of Thailand that was found and overseen by Phra Athikan Somsak Suwanno, abbot of Wat Suwannaratchahong, who is adept at repairing boats with the assistance from the villagers who have expertise in boat maintenance and repair. It is considered to be Thailand’s riverine heritage and local wisdom, as well as preservation of a national culture. Most of the boats that are repaired are long-tail boats that are used in the long-boat race festivals. Phra Athikan Somsak Suwanno has been familiar with long-boat races since he was young; moreover, he was a former oarsman. Through the many years, he has learned how to fix, improve and build a boat. Having an idea that damaged boats should have a place for repair and be returned in service, he then took the old boats in the temple to fix and had them well maintained. Phra Athikan is good at repairing all types of damage by peeling, chopping or reassembling to make the long boats beautiful, have good shapes, and a fast ride. The long-boat race culture has been inherited since the time of Luangta Phoem, a former abbot of Wat Suwannaratchahong. The competition entries of the temple have been supported and succeeded several times as evidenced by receiving the trophy from Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, a former Thai Prime Minister, which was considered to be the highest honour in that era. He decorated the Sonsuwan boat and entered it into the races nationwide under the name of Wat Suwannaratchahong. It received the royal trophy 5 times; as a result, the temple has become widely known. Many boats from all over the country have been brought for repair and adjustment through the whole year. Once the boat repair is finished, the owner would have to bring the whole crew to have a rowing test before taking it back. If the test is not satisfactory, the crew have to rehearse several times until the result is appropriate according to Phra Athikan saying that it is not only a good boat, as good rowing is also taken into consideration. Therefore, the boats that left this hospital usually won the competition. The boat hospital has been divided into 2 areas: a repair area and a boathouse or boat museum serving as a learning center about the long-tail boat race and history of the famous long-tail boats. as well as a place for long-tail boat preservation and a museum collecting various kinds of preserved boats; such as, passenger boats and rice barges, which were a means of transportation of the people in the old days who commuted via water. The small boat models were built for next generations to study. It is open daily between 8.30 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. For more information, please contact Wat Suwannaratchahong, 10 Moo. 5, Tambon Ongkharak, Tel. 08 1018 6485.