Indonesia’s Bidar Boat Race

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(VOVWORLD) - Though usually celebrated in conjunction with Indonesia’s Independence Day, the Bidar (canoe) Race deserves a special mention! It’s among the most popular festivals in the Palembang region of south Sumatra. Meidyana Rayana of Indonesia will tell us all about this festival.
Indonesia’s Bidar Boat Race - ảnh 1 Bidar Boat Race of Indonesia. Photo:

VOV Reporter: Welcome to our show, Mei. Before we talk about the Bidar Race, please tell us a bit about yourself.

Meidyana Rayana: Hi. Thank you for inviting me. I’m Meidyana Rayana from Indonesia. I enjoy travelling and I was a TV presenter for a travel program on Television of the Republic of Indonesia (TVIR).

VOV Reporter: When we think about Indonesia, we think of beautiful beaches and lush greenery, colourful clothing and scrumptious food, fascinating dances and inspiring music. Throughout the year, a variety of festivals in Indonesia are celebrated, including the Bidar Boat Race. So Mei, please tell us about this festival.

Meidyana Rayana: It’s lovely the way you describe Indonesia. Thank you. Vietnam is really wonderful, too. In August, you can find lots of bidar races on the Musi River in Palembang, in southern Sumatra. The annual Bidar Race on the Musi River, is well worth your time if you visit Palembang around Indonesia’s Independence Day on August seventeenth. It’s a delight to watch the large hardwood boats race over the water.

VOV Reporter: When and how did this festival start?

Meidyana Rayana: Well, a long time ago, Palembang was surrounded by by the Musi River and 108 tributaries. For its area security, fast boats were needed. The Palembang Sultanate formed a river patrol using Pancalang boats. Pancalang means fast sailing boat. These boats were the first Bidar boats. The boat races have been held since the Palembang Darussalam Sultanate. They were called “kenceran” by some local people.

VOV Reporter: Can you describe the Pancalang boat?

Meidyana Rayana: An Indonesian encyclopedia says the Pancalang boat was used as a transport vessel and a trading vessel on the river. It has a moveable sunshade of bamboo laths, a rudder, and bamboo oars. A boat can be more than 20 or 30 metres long and is usually adorned in bright patterns.

VOV Reporter: Have the boats kept their original shape?

Meidyana Rayana: Nowadays, a Bidar boat has a different shape then in the past. There are two types of boat : The high performance boat is 12.7 meters long, 60 cms high, 1.2 meters wide, and has 22 oars. This type of boat can be seen on Palembang’s anniversary, June 17. The traditional Bidar boat has a length of 29 meters, a height of 80 cms and a width of 1.5 meters with 55 oars. This type of boat can be seen on Indonesian Independence Day, August 17, which is also called the Musi Festival, when thousands of spectators admire the decorated racing boats, and watch swimming competitions and the Bidar Boat Race. This boat race on the Musi River will be one of the most spectacular Indonesian festivals in 2020!

VOV Reporter: Who are the racers? Do they practice a lot for the race?

Meidyana Rayana: The participants are often teams from local companies and government agencies, but I believe it is open to the public. Anyone who has the stamina to row a bidar boat can join the competition. In 2019, the winning team was from a local company called PT. Agung Raya, followed by the local Transportation Department team and the Youth and Sports Department team. I think every team trains for the race.

VOV Reporter: Are there any sideline activities at the festival?

Meidyana Rayana: Yes. Another activity that attracts a lot of attention is the Parade Perahu Motor Hias or decorated a motor boat parade. Participants decorate their motor boats with local cultural themes.

VOV Reporter: Thank you so much for telling our listeners about the Bidar Boat Race. We wish you and your family the best of health and luck.