75-Years-Old Boat Name Makes Come Back for Water Festival

Saray Techo Sen Chey, an 11-year-old boat from the Pichey Riangsey pagoda in Kandal province. Photo: ThmeyThmey News

KANDAL PROVINCE – After a three-year hiatus, Saray Techo Sen Chey, an 11-year-old boat from the Pichey Riangsey pagoda in Kandal province, is back in the water to compete against other boats during the Bon Om Tuk celebrations.

The embarkation has been named after a 1948 boat that was racing during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era (1955–1971).

San Sok Heang, who built the new version of the boat in 2012, said it was originally used by villagers to transport grass for cows and didn’t have a name at that time.

It was only after World War II that the boat got its first name, “Saray Andet.” It then raced in the Royal Water Festival of the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era, from 1955 onwards.

Saray Techo Sen Chey is one of the well-known—and fastest and most decorated—boats in Kandal province with a long history. Photo: Torn Chanritheara

The craft was later repaired and renamed on several occasions. During the Khmer Republic era (1970–1975), it became “Saray Phot” and was later renamed “Saray Sen Chey” before falling into disuse.

In 2012, the boat was reborn from ashes, and a new version of its former name was given to it, Saray Techo Sen Chey. It started to compete in Water Festival’s races two years later.

Sok Heang said that the boat is named “Saray” in remembrance of ancient Khmer ancestors. “Saray” is an ancient name that has existed since 1509, during King Srei Chetha Thireach Reameathiptei or Sdach Korn.

During an interview at the Puk Russey pagoda in Ksach Kandal district, San Sok Heang recalled how he became involved in boat due to his father’s last wish. Photo: Chea Youkeang

He recalled that the boat won many races over the years. Such success comes from both the efforts of the rowers and good coordination induced by a great team leader. But he also believes that naming the embarkation after a 75-year-old boat helped it in gaining holy power, also known as Baramey in Khmer.

The builder added that “in this peaceful era, we attentively join hands to promote our Khmer traditions and culture, to be the treasure for the pagoda and our country.”

Saray Techo Sen Chey now competes in boat racing during the Water Festival on the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh city, after a three-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally written in Khmer for ThmeyThmey, this story was translated by Chhuon Kongieng for Cambodianess.

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