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Thailand’s Iconic Longtail Boats, What to Know about Them

February 9, 2020
Bluesotel Smart Krabi

If the UK has its double-decker buses, the Philippines its colorful jeepneys, and China its rickshaws, then Thailand has the iconic longtail boats to boast about. As the country’s take on gondolas, longtail boats actually help keep the local economy afloat—literally and figuratively.

Thailand’s longtail boats, locally referred to as rua hang yao, are typically found in Krabi and Phuket, where they are used to transport tourists from island to island. Locals who own these vessels usually operate transportation services, making longtail boats a source of income for hundreds, maybe even thousands of Thais.

These “gondolas of the south” are now permanently embedded in Thailand’s culture and identity. Although it’s likely that you’ve seen them on various Thai postcards and photos, have you ever wondered where they came from and why they managed to become a primary mode of transportation? In this article, we’ll help you find answers to these questions.

What is a longtail boat?
Longtail boasts vary in size and design, but they all generally follow the same structure. An average Thai longtail boat usually spans two meters, with an engine mounted on its stern. Although they have a flat bottom that allows them to sit low in the water, they’re still capable of weathering rough seas. The long propeller shaft is where its name was derived from. It’s tethered to the end of a long pole and powered by an enormous engine, giving the illusion that the boat has a “tail.”

How can one build a longtail boat?
There is actually no blueprint when it comes to building longtail boats. The design depends on the master crafter, which is then passed down from generation to generation of builders. Building a longtail boat widely hinges on skill, intuition, and experience. Its functionalities, aesthetic, and stability all also hinge on the person who builds it. The only important aspect that it should have is the ability to move through narrow waterways and shallow waters.

Tips for riding longtail boats
If you’re planning on island hopping in Thailand, then you’ll most likely get the opportunity to hop aboard longtail boats for your transfers. It’s important to wear comfortable footwear as you’ll be embarking and disembarking at the beach instead of the pier. Also, place your valuables in a waterproof bag in case you need to wade through waist-deep water.

Boarding the boat will require you to climb small ladders, but you have to be careful if the waves are particularly strong. Once inside, the captain may ask you to switch seats for equal weight distribution among passengers. If you don’t want to be splashed by the water too much, know that you can situate yourself in the middle of the boat. You might also be required to wear life jackets in case of an emergency, although not all longtail boat owners offer this.

As an extra precaution, it’s best to wear strong sun protection since not all longtail boats have overhead covers.

Wrapping up

Longtail boats are undoubtedly a fun way to hop from island to island. Should you find yourself on the island of Ao Nang, Thailand, and want to try riding a longtail boat, then get in touch with BlueSotel SMART Krabi today to ensure that you’ll get a memorable experience – we’re rated as one of the best hotels in Ao Nang.