A kolae boat is a kind of boat from the lowermost part of Thailand, especially the provinces along the southern border. The word kolae in the Yawi language means “to roll,” which refers to the way the boats roll about in the water—never still, their constant motion mirrors the waves they float in.
Scholars presume that kolae boats have been around since before the Sukhothai period, first appearing concurrently with the emergence of Islam, where they cropped up in the southernmost part of the kingdom along the coast of the Gulf of Thailand between Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Malaysian peninsula.
Kolae are long watercraft built from wooden boards. For aesthetic effect,dazzling colors ornament their hulls and their stern and prow curve up high over the midriff. The bottom of the boat is rounded, shaped to fit the waves of the sea, making kolae boats dexterous craft that contend well with the waves, float stably, and resist keeling over.
Kolae are easily distinguished from other fishing boats due to the unique designs on each craft. Regardless of style, each design beautifully shows off the shape of the ship. Exquisite and lovely, these decorations represent a blend of artistic styles from Thailand, Isaan, China, and elsewhere, which in turn reflect the diverse ethnic and religious background of the southern regions. The kolae can be found in a variety of locales, all the way from the Yaring, Panaare, and Saibhuri districts of Pattani province, to the Takbhai district of Narathiwat province, where the coastlines have shallow waters fit for small-scale fishing boats such as the kolae.
The kolae boat is a valuable piece of art that reflects the spirit of the southern communities who invented and created them. The boats’ beauty and unique charm, whether in the design of their hulls, their bright colors, or their novel shapes, is the reason why so many people are impressed by the craft. Because of this, kolae boats are often called the “artistic masterpieces” of the southern region.