HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Chonburi buffalo races draw record crowds

Swimmers brave choppy conditions to complete 4-kilometer Rotary Cross Bay Charity Swim

Emily Preston-swims into the heart of Pattaya

Chonburi buffalo races draw record crowds

Superstition or ancient wisdom - the Thai buffalo is a source of pride

Ariyawat Nuamsawat

Held on October 27, this year’s 133rd Chonburi Buffalo Racing competition drew a record crowd of locals and foreign tourists.

This annual event is a long-held tradition in the province. As much loved for its action, color and sometimes hilarious outcomes, the races pay tribute to the animals and athletic riders who participate in friendly, but vigorous rivalry. The races are always held one day before the end of Buddhist Lent.

In the old days, Chonburi farmers brought their buffalos to race at the Yai Indharam Temple in Chonburi. They believed that the race could make their buffalos healthy and free from disease.

During years the race wasn’t held, farmers noted more of their buffalos died from disease. This may seem like superstition to readers, but the farmers aren’t taking any chances and want the tradition to be preserved. Plus it’s a great favorite with tourists and city folk who look forward to this action-packed event.

This year’s activities were organized by the government and private sector in a move to support and preserve this age-old tradition. The event was held on the grounds in front of Chonburi City Hall and the Chonburi District Field Office. Opening ceremonies were presided over by Minister of Tourism and Sports Sontaya Khunplome.

The racing buffalos were divided into classes, midget, medium and large. Besides the races, a Miss Farmer beauty pageant was held and other contests for the animals included ‘best dressed buffalo’ in which the animals were adorned in colorful and amusing costumes, and ‘the healthiest buffalo’.

Hordes of spectators braved the hot sun and many participated in 13 fun caravan events including the caravan of sermons, caravan of culture, caravan of Chonburi motto, caravan of the female farmers, caravan of beauty and comic costumes, and other caravans from offices and private departments.

The Miss Farmer beauty contest drew oohs and aahs from the crowd. Other traditional sports competitions included a tug-of-war, greased pole climbing, slingshot target practice, boxing, and hoop-style takraw - games which are uniquely Thai, which left spectators gasping with awe and laughter.

The fastest buffalo for the midget class was “Chao Thong” of Wong from Phanat Nikom. The winner for the small class was “Chao Rung” of Nopporn from Phanat Nikom. In the large class it was “Chao Den” of Sommit from Chonburi. The winner’s owner received 3,000 baht and a certificate. Buffalos had to settle for a cold shower and bragging rites amongst their bovine brethren.

This year the judges used a digital camera just in case racers arrived at the finish line neck and neck. No injuries were reported from within the crowds, although in the past it has not been uncommon for a racing buffalo to lose its mount and veer off course, sending spectators fleeing for safety.

Minister of Tourism and Sports Sontaya Khunplome presided over the opening ceremonies.

You look maaaaarvelous - this buffalo is dressed in her best beauty costume.

There was a rare sighting of a two-headed buffalant at this year’s festival.

Going my way, sailor?

Minister of Tourism and Sports Sontaya Khunplome rode this fine float in the parade.

This young woman, perhaps wearing slightly too much makeup, was promoting Nongmon rice baked in a bamboo cylinder - a tasty treat on a hot day.

Giving water to the buffalo to quench its thirst.

Miss Farmer beauty contestants were pedaled through the streets on tricycles.

Heading down the home stretch...

The greatest buffalo race in Thailand.

Yee ha!

A mighty steed indeed.

Hold on tight, we’re going for a ride.

Cooling down the mighty beasts with cool water after the race.

Swimmers brave choppy conditions to complete 4-kilometer Rotary Cross Bay Charity Swim

‘Swimathon’ proceeds go to help needy children

Suchada Tupchai

Eight doughty swimmers last week braved choppy waters to complete an exhausting 4 kilometer Rotary Cross Bay Charity Swim, from South Pattaya pier to the Dusit shoreline, to raise money for charity.

The Bold and the Beautiful – (front row l-r) Peter Rettke, Terry Hall, Glyn Davies, and Emily Preston (Standing l-r) Bruce McDermott, Simon Simms, David Garred and Harrie Schuurmans.

The intrepid octet, David Garred, Simon Simms, Bruce McDermott, Harrie Schuurmans, Peter Rettke, Glyn Davies, Terry Hall and Emily Preston made the cross bay swim under the vigilant eyes of the Pattaya Sea Rescue Unit.

Emily fights through heavy seas and the elements to earn her place in the Pattaya history book.

One of the women swimmers, Emily Preston, has been swimming since the age of three and is the 25th ranked swimmer in the UK. Emily told Pattaya Mail that the reason she participated in the cross bay swim was, “I wanted to help the charity ... I do a lot (of a swimming) with school, and I like to help the orphans, too. I love to swim.”

‘You did it mum’ Terry Hall is greeted back on shore by her two lovely and proud children.

Emily swims 12 kilometers every day as part of her training, but, “I’ve never swam in the sea before,” Emily said.

Simon Simms, who came up with the idea said, “The Rotary Club of Jomtien Pattaya has been very helpful; with the whole club behind us it has turned out to be a success. When you’re (swimming) for charity it’s much easier. It feels like you’re doing it for a cause … and the Ban Jing Jai is a good one.”

None the worse for wear, the brave swimmers gloat in their new found glory. 

Simon Simms

At the end of the day, over 90,000 baht had been raised for charity.

Simon added that the event wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the support if the Pattaya Tourist Police and the Sea Rescue team. “Safety was paramount and they really did a great job.”

Apichart Puechphan, Pattaya deputy municipal clerk, presided over the start of the swim. The event, held on October 31, was co-organized by the Rotary Club of Jomtien Pattaya, under the direction of Rotarian Thor Halland and Past President Peter Malhotra, and in conjunction with Pattaya City Sea Rescue Unit and the Pattaya Tourist Police.

Glyn Davies

Before commencing the swim, Mana Saengsukdee, Pattaya Sea Rescue supervisor informed the swimmers on the route they were to take, and briefed everyone, including his team, on important safety issues.

Pol. Sen. Sgt. Maj. Tawin Boonwananamchareon from Pattaya Tourist police provided further details on the course so the swimmers would not stray from the route. He also reassured them that the water police were close by should they get into difficulty.

Emily Preston

Thor Halland said, “Today’s event came about due the Rotary Club of Jomtien Pattaya’s commitment to helping society. It is a primary part of the club’s philosophy and today’s swim is for the underprivileged children of our society and more specifically the children at the Ban Jing Jai. Today’s activity is also part of boosting Pattaya’s sporting and tourism image.

“The Rotary Cross Bay Charity Swim received a great deal of support from many organizations, including the Pattaya Sea Rescue Unit for supplying the boats and jet skis to watch over the swimmers, Pattaya Tourist police, Pattaya City and many others who saw the importance of the event in aid of underprivileged children,” Halland said.

David Garred

Apichart Puechphan, Pattaya deputy municipal clerk, before setting the swimmers on their journey said, “Pattaya is growing and developing rapidly, especially in the tourism and sports areas. This development has been well noted by both government and private enterprise as they cooperate in organizing activities, such as today’s event. The charity swimathon was brought about by the dedication and organization of Simon Simms, Thor Halland and the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya. Their aim is to aid the children from the Ban Jing Jai in Soi Nernplubwan. The Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya organizes activities to raise funds for those in need. Today sees them joined by 8 dedicated people who will undergo this task. I believe that these 8 people in this event will not only help children and the community, but also boost Pattaya’s burgeoning sports and tourism image, as well as further cooperation between Thais and foreign nationals in Pattaya.”

Peter Rettke

Following the formalities Apichart then blew the whistle, setting the swimmers on their way across 4 kilometers of sea north to the Dusit.

As the swimmers made their way out from the beach at Bali Hai pier, the wind picked up and the waves began to swell. Undeterred by the choppy conditions, the intrepid swimmers continued out into the bay under the watchful eyes of the Pattaya Sea Rescue teams.

Bruce McDermott

Five meters offshore it was veteran swimmer Simon Simms leading the pack, closely followed by 16 year old Emily Preston and Glyn Davies. As they continued, water police and rescue teams kept boats away from the group while pointing the way north.

Well into the hour-plus swim, young Emily Preston pushed ahead of the seasoned swimmers with strong and constant strokes, and as the pack spread out over time, the tail end swimmers began shifting slightly off course, only to be guided back in by support boats.

Chanyuth Hengtrakul, (centre) advisor to the Minister of Tourism and Sports and President Judy Hoppe (3rd left) congratulate the magnificent swimmers.

Two kilometers into the swim Emily was still in the lead, but a wrong turn pushed her back into third place behind Simon and Glyn from the UK. In the final 500 meters, Glyn picked up the pace to come home first with a time of 1 hour 16 minute and 8 seconds, followed by Simon and Emily.

The swimmers take off across the bay, closely guarded by the rescue boats.

Terry Hall, the other woman to take part, hit the beach at around 3.30 p.m. to be greeted by her very proud children. With all swimmers safely back on dry land, the party on the Dusit Resort’s beachfront began.

Chanyuth Hengtrakul and Judy Hoppe present a certificate of appreciation to Stefan Heintze, Resident Manager of the Dusit Resort for their generosity in hosting the ‘post swim’ party.

Chanyuth Hengtrakul, advisor to the Tourism and Sports Minister later presented certificates of appreciation and achievement to the swimmers and event sponsors. Chanyuth was heard saying that he hoped the event would go on to become a major one in Pattaya’s sporting calendar, as it not only promotes swimming in Pattaya but helps the underprivileged in the community.

(l-r) Chanyuth Hengtrakul, Judy Hoppe, Bert Elson and Don Maclachlan enjoying the beach activities.

Judy Hoppe, president of the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya presented Chanyuth with a gift of appreciation for his support of the event.

Greg Campbell (right) gives an ‘on the spot’ donation to Simon Simms towards the good cause.

The beach party was attended by family and friends of the swimmers, and continued on as the sun set over Pattaya Bay. Much fun was had by all.

As always, events such as this would not be successful without the generous support from sponsors. In this inaugural event, sponsorships came in from Terry and Adam of the Queen Vic, Alex and Nid from the Lucky Time Bar, Vic and Bert form the Queen Victoria Inn, Danny and Tik of the Sweethearts Bar, Denis of OK Coral, Spike and Steve from Crazy Eddies, Liz McDermott, Alan Bishop, Paul Smith, Fosters Lager, Tonmai Printing Co. Ltd., Fusion Garments, and Pattaya Mail. Many more donations are still coming in. All proceeds will be used to care for the 52 children in the Ban Jing Jai orphanage.

Daniel Wilkinson, Mana Sanksookdee, (Chief of Pattaya City Sea Rescue) Khun Apichart Puechpan and Thor Halland pose with the rescue unit before the start of the marathon swim.

Spectators lined the shores of the Dusit Resort cheering the swimmers on.

Not to be missed, the Fosters Beer stand was busy all afternoon quenching the thirst of spectators and swimmers alike.

Members of the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya wave merrily, proud of a job well done.

Emily Preston-swims into the heart of Pattaya

Emily talks about her swimming career

“My swimming career began at the age of three on our first assignment with Foster Wheeler in Pattaya. On my 4th birthday, I was training in the 25m pool at Thai Garden Resort. There I had a coach that had me swim up and down everyday.

Emily receives a citation from Chanyuth Hengtrakul, Advisor to the Minister of Tourism and Sports and President Judy Hoppe of the Rotary Club of Jomtien-Pattaya, certifying that she participated in and successfully completed the Rotary Cross Bay Charity Swim on October 31 2004.

I returned to England at the age of five. There I achieved a record, which is still standing today, for being the youngest child to make it out of the young children’s teaching program. I continued swimming in England for another year, doing life-saving with thirteen-year-olds!

Emily Preston-‘girl with a golden heart’

My dad’s work, Foster Wheeler, causes our family to travel quite a bit. The next assignment was in Beijing. While living there, I did not swim for two years. Our family then returned to England, where I went into year 5 at school. I swam with the school there and did various school galas.

I was spotted at one particular gala and asked to try out for the Reading Swimming Club, the town’s swim club. I continued my swimming at the club for four years, each year moving up squads and increasing training. I reached the point of swimming eight to ten times a week, swimming an average of twelve thousand meters a day, with morning and evening sessions.

Robert has every right to be very proud of his gifted daughter.

I was swimming very competitively with competitions almost every weekend all over England. During this time, I also took up the sport of high board diving at Albatross Diving Club, also in Reading. I traveled all over England again for various competitions, and after six months of diving, with not much experience, I was ranked 12th in England.

With eight swimming sessions a week and five diving sessions and competitions for both sports on the same weekends, I eventually had to decide which sport to pursue. I chose to concentrate on swimming. I also gave up Netball for swimming. I had played center for the A team at my school. We won the league of all the schools in my town. I was selected by my school to go to try-outs for talented Netball players. I made the try-outs and began to play Netball for the county and then for the South of England. There were opportunities to go on and play nationally, but swimming took priority.

Even the press couldn’t resist getting Emily on TV. Pattaya Mail News covered the swim from start to finish.

My dad’s next assignment was in Shanghai, China. In Shanghai, I was denied the right to swim with the Chinese teams; the government would not allow “wai guo ren,” (foreigners) into the pool. I swam at a public 25m pool, dodging all the people, with a lifeguard as a coach. My coach left to get another job and I was lucky to have an ex-Olympian, who swam in Los Angeles and in Seoul representing China, to come and work at the pool I used. His name is Zhengjian, and he is very famous in Shanghai. He and other colleagues coached me every day after school and on Saturday mornings.

It was not possible to do early morning sessions, as the pool did not open until nine o’clock. At that time of the day, I was at school! I swam individually with a coach for two years. It became increasingly difficult as it got boring and I lost motivation.

Last October, Zhengjian made a competition, which was originally between the Japanese and Chinese, international. This meant that I could compete, which was excellent and gave me the opportunity to prove what I could achieve. The competition was the Speedo International League. I “swept the board” coming first in all my events and won top girl at the meet.

Mum Stefanie was on the rescue boat watching Emily fight through stormy seas to carve her name into the annals of Pattaya history.

After two years in Shanghai, our next assignment brought us to Pattaya again. I have been living here three months to the day. I (started) at Bangkok Patana School (BPS) on Tuesday, November 2. BPS has a very strong swim team, the Tigers; they are the strongest team in Bangkok. I have made the national team and will resume intense training again eight times a week! My first competition will be on December 1st and 2nd.

I enjoy doing charity work, especially sponsored sport events. Last month I took part in a sponsored spin to raise money for Jesters ‘Care For Kids’.

I enjoyed the swim across Pattaya Bay; it is the first time I have done a sea swim. The sponsors were supportive and it was a great atmosphere. The Dusit Resort Hotel was fabulous, giving us food and drink at the end. It was a great day and a tremendous effort by all the swimmers. The Pattaya Sea Rescue did a grand job at steering the way and protecting us during the swim. Next year I hope to come first.”

Skal International