In years gone by, catching fish for a living was a very dangerous business. Apart from fishing boats being less suitable for the task, weather predictions were at best unscientific, communications between those at sea and their land base very limited and rescue for those in peril unlikely.
These dangers resulted in the communities supporting the vital role played by fisherman often given special recognition This is often referred to as the ‘Blessing of the Fleet’ in communities with a fishing industry around the world with ceremonies to wish fishermen and their community a safe and bountiful season to come. The sentiments of this tradition are also a part of the culture of Thailand’s fishing communities including Hua Hin.
On the weekend of the 14th and 15th September the fishing community of Hua Hin gathered in a festival to celebrate the blessings that a successful fishing industry has brought to the community by making merit and by floating away any lingering bad luck.
On a damp afternoon on Saturday (14th), a colorful procession commenced at the central Buddhist temple before completing a town circuit and returning to the temple. This was a joyous and noisy assembly of traditionally dressed dancers with musical accompaniment and floats. One of the local traditions involves small dolls on offer (a small donation is expected) which may represent family members; signed and ready to ‘set sail’ the following day.
On Sunday 15th September, morning celebrations began with merit making activities for ancestors and other spirits revered by the fishing community. This was based near the beach alongside the Hilton Hotel at the Chao Mae Tub Tim Chinese Shrine.
Free drinks and food was provided by around 30 local restaurants with Buddhist religious traditions being followed by the crowd including the Hua Hin Mayor and Prachuap Khiri Khan Senator.
Decorated fishing boats were on standby to escort the dolls to be taken out to sea and cast adrift in smaller paper boats. The launch of the main fishing boat was signaled by a cacophony of fireworks then enthusiastically assisted by the crowd gathered on the sands. The full deck load of donated dolls was then taken out to sea and to a watery demise.
Members of the fishing community of Hua Hin were the first people to make their home in here long before that name was bestowed by royal decree. Recognition of the importance of their contribution was a clear and warranted focus of this significant annual event.