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Longtail boat launch in Ao Nang

Longtail boat ceremony, Ao Nang
Lost in translation: the banner for the ceremony
As the opener to the Berk Fah Festival, which kicks off this evening on Nopparat Thara Beach, the Ao Nang Longtail Club held its annual boat blessing ceremony in Ao Nang today.

Longtail boat ceremony, Ao Nang
The boats lined up along the beach
Attended by council grandees from the sub-district and province, as well as a constellation of local business owners and a few bemused, early-rising tourists, the event highlighted the importance of the longtail boat in the local culture, both traditionally as a fishing vessel, and now as the main means of transport for visitors to the local islands.

Longtail boat ceremony, Ao Nang
The boats were specially decorated for the occasion
There were performances by local schools before the boats were blessed and new strips of fabric wrapped around the prow for good luck. The boatmen then headed off to Phra Nang Cave Beach in Railay, each carrying a young man and woman, to pay their respects to the cave spirit who, according to an Ao Nang legend, is believed to watch over all boats that sail in these waters.

With more than 400 boats now plying the area for custom, we hope the spirit will also see fit to bless the boatmen with enough income in this high season to buy mufflers for their engines, so that tourists can read their books in peace on Ao Nang and Railay beaches :)