The annual Elephant Boat Race & River Festival was held on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. Bangkok’s social calendar saw its peak at the second annual River Festival that took place from 28th February to 1st March 2020, next to Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort. The three-day festivities brought together sports enthusiasts, families and Bangkok glitterati. The festival saw live music concerts, firework displays, on land digital rowing competitions, arts and crafts, VIP champagne lounges and gourmet pop-ups. Artfully combining high-octane sport, quality entertainment and a sumptuous high society programme, the three-day charitable event offered something for everyone.
The first ever Elephant Boat Race & River Festival was a tremendous success, with over 9000 attendees coming together to raise significant funds for the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF). The GTAEF distributes these funds across a variety of projects dedicated to captive and wild elephant welfare, enabling them to continue their vital work throughout Thailand. Event organisers Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, while continuously driving efforts, supported its conservational expertise on behalf of Thailand’s national animal. Keeping this at the forefront, the annual sporting and society event donated all proceeds from ticket sales to elephant related projects throughout Thailand, while also generating awareness to benefit the future of the Asian elephant.
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Visitors to the Elephant Boat Race and River Festival in Bangkok enjoyed the festivities in 10 different ways.
1. Thrills and Culture
At the opening ceremony, graceful traditional Thai dancers, celebrating Thai culture and the country’s national animal kicked off the excitement followed by 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, was a rare opportunity to see the famed graffiti artist create one of his street art masterpieces.
2. Trunk to Trunk Action on Water
This year, local youth teams joined 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. Visitors watched from the elevated viewing platforms as contestants’ paddle sliced through the water in perfect rhythm, guided by a mesmerising drumbeat and artistic elephant-themed sculptures soaring from the bow of the vessel.
3. Dry Dock Rowing
There was also dry dock rowing in a familiar fitness club-like setting that required no prior experience or fitness levels. Winners in each category were rewarded with travel vouchers, while all ticket sales proceeds went towards supporting conservation work at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF).
4. Fireworks and Cracking Music Acts
The festival kicked 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 took over the festival stage, the sky over the Chao Praya lit up at 8 pm. The closing ceremony promised yet more thrills with the big final salvo at 7 pm on March 1st.
5. Gourmet Picnic on Festival Grounds
Whether you work up an appetite with dry dock rowing or cheering from the bleachers, the festival’s vast array of tempting dining options was a perfect ground for festive-goers dealing with hunger pangs. Rivalling them in ambition was a fabulous line-up of pop-up bars and champagne lounges lining the river bank. With top chefs, bartenders and baristas representing Bangkok’s finest restaurants, there was everything – from Thai fine dining, to festival favourites ranging from gourmet hot dogs to pizza, ice creams, fresh grills and perfectly executed G&Ts and lattes.
6. Fly a Kite
This year, Thailand’s kite association brought kite-making experts from four regions renowned for their unique designs and invited guests to try their hand at kite making and kite flying. During the football games, a fleet of oversized kites floated majestically over the pitch adding a dash of theatrics to the experience.
7. 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 were directly contributing to efforts to improve the welfare of Thailand’s elephants. Festival goers also stood a chance to win luxury Anantara hotel stays worldwide at the raffle prize drawer.
8. Like a VIP
With their VIP tickets, the festival visitors were given access to exclusive champagne lounges, gin pop-ups and beer tents, all strategically positioned with the best vantage point for on-the-river action and nightly fireworks displays. When not socialising or entertaining, one could 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.
9. No Child’s Play
More educational than rowdy, the festival’s activities for the little ones focussed 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 were bouncy castles, while the fans of all things supersized had a field day at the giant kite showcase or climbing the towering straw elephant.
10. More Sport for the Buck
Running alongside the marquee events of dragon boat races and dry dock rowing were friendly football matches between U12 Bangkok teams on Saturday and Sunday and friendly games for the seniors on Sunday. Stand-up paddling competitions attracted over 120 paddlers and provided plenty of adrenaline-filled action. Avid bikers were also spotted on their superbikes at the festival.