Long tail boats of Thailand, or Ruea Hang Yao in Thai, are very popular traditional wooden boats, particularly found in the south. They were developed as a simple, low cost method of transportation and for fishing and tourism. These wooden boats use automobile engines, diesel or gasoline, mounted on the back of the boat on a rotating base. The engine is attached to a long pole (the long tail) with a propeller at the end which the engine drives. This pole is used to steer and power the craft and can be tricky to maneuver.
Long tail boats are incorporated into many tourist activities, including use as taxis, and are a common sight around the Southern islands. We recently took the Island Gem Picnic Tour in Koh Samui and were transported to our snorkeling site and our picnic site by a long tail boat powered by an Isuzu motor.
Sacred Area of The Long Tail Boats of Thailand
While the motors may be from different makes and models of vehicles, the one common part of all long tail boats, and in fact almost all boats in Thailand, is the decorations on the bow of the boats. This area has usually been blessed by a Buddhist monk and will be covered in ribbon or scarves and hanging garlands of flowers as an offering to Mae Yanang, the goddess of safe journey, for good luck and protection. This area is considered sacred and tourists are expected to respect the area as such. Long tail boat rides can get a bit rocky when the water is choppy but it’s one of those typical Thai experiences we had to cross off our list.