With dragon boat racing at fever pitch across Southeast Asia, the annual Elephant Boat Race & River Festival on the banks of the Chao Phraya River has claimed its rightful spot at the top of Bangkok’s social calendar.
The second annual River Festival taking place from 28th February to 1st March 2020 next to Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort will bring together sports enthusiasts, families and Bangkok glitterati. On the festival side-lines live music concerts, firework displays, on land digital rowing competitions, kid’s arts and crafts, VIP champagne lounges and gourmet pop-ups will jostle for attention.
Artfully combining high-octane sport, quality entertainment and a sumptuous high society programme, the three-day charitable event offers something for everyone. On and off the viewing platform, here is how to make the most of it.
- Come for the thrills, stay for the culture
At the opening ceremony, graceful traditional Thai dancers, celebrating Thai culture and the country’s national animal kick off the excitement followed live performances by Thailand’s top artists including Paradox and Oat Pramote.
Live art performance by Bangkok’s own Patcharapol Tangruen, also known as Alex Face, is a rare opportunity to see the famed graffiti artist create one of his street art masterpieces right before your eyes.
- Trunk to trunk action on the water
This year, local youth teams will join Thailand’s leading athletes, including last year’s winners the Royal Thai Navy Seals, in paddling it out for the royal trophy graciously granted by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Phra Vajiraklaochaoyuhua. Watch from the elevated viewing platforms as contestants’ paddles slice through the water in perfect rhythm, guided by a mesmerising drumbeat and artistic elephant-themed sculptures soaring from the bow of the vessel.
- Dry dock rowing for all
Too competitive to remain a sideline spectator for long? Dry dock rowing in a familiar fitness club-like setting requires no prior experience and all fitness levels are welcome. Winners in each category will be rewarded with travel vouchers, while all ticket sales proceeds will go towards supporting conservation work at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).
- Fireworks and cracking music acts
On Friday, the festival will kick off with an elaborate grand opening ceremony concluding with spectacular fireworks at 6.15 p.m. The following day, as local and international music acts from Russia, Ukraine and the UK take over the festival stage, the sky over the Chao Praya will light up at 8.00 p.m. The closing ceremony promises yet more thrills with the big final salvo at 7.00 p.m.
- Gourmet picnic on festival grounds
Whether you work up an appetite dry dock rowing or cheering from the bleachers, the festival’s vast array of tempting dining options will deal with hunger pangs in no time. Rivalling them in ambition is the line-up of pop-up bars and champagne lounges lining the river bank. With top chefs, bartenders and baristas representing Bangkok’s finest restaurants, expect Thai fine dining, festival favourites ranging from gourmet hot dogs to pizza, and perfectly executed G&Ts and lattes.
- Let’s go fly a kite
This year, Thailand’s kite association will be bringing kite-making experts from the four regions renowned for their unique designs and inviting guests to try their hand at kite making and kite flying. During the football games, a fleet of oversized kites will float majestically over the pitch adding a dash of theatrics to the experience.
- Good deeds rewarded
With 100% of ticket sales going to the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), who in turn will donate the proceeds to a wide range of elephant related charities, guests will be directly contributing to efforts to improve the welfare of Thailand’s elephants. Festival goers will be in with a chance to win luxury Anantara hotel stays worldwide in the raffle prize drawer.
- Like a VIP
With your VIP ticket, gain access to exclusive champagne lounges, gin pop-ups and beer tents, all strategically positioned to provide the best vantage point for on-the-river action and nightly fireworks displays. When not socialising or entertaining, kick back in the VIP area dotted with low-slung lounge chairs and sofas, a perfectly chilled cocktail or a flute of champagne in hand.
- No child’s play
More educational than rowdy, the festival’s activities for the little ones focus on creative workshops and interactive displays aiming to help kids expand their knowledge and appreciation for Thailand’s national animal. Alleviating the inevitable sugar high are the bouncy castles, while the fans of all thigs supersized will have a field day at the giant kite showcase or climbing the towering straw elephant.
- More sport for the buck
Running alongside the marquee events of dragon boat races and dry dock rowing are friendly football matches between U12 Bangkok teams on Saturday and Sunday and friendly games for the seniors on Sunday. Should you want to turn your attention back to the water, stand-up paddling competitions expected to attract over 120 paddlers will provide plenty of adrenaline-filled action.