Royal Barge Procession
Bangkok Travel Blog› entry 2 of 14 › view all entries
June 12th, 2006 – by: rideouts
As with any big event, proper planning is critical. Of course, we didn't do any planning, in fact, I was on Google Earth trying to find a good viewpoint minutes before we left for the event. By random chance we ran into another American and the three of us proceeded down to the riverside. There was no good way to get to the parade route, we ended up taking the Skytrain to Saphan Thaksin and then getting a cab as far north as we could go.
Ultimately, we ended up at the S&P restuarant near at the northwest corner of the grand palace. They were supposedly sold out of viewing seats, but 500 Baht per person and tickets magically appeared. We were ushered through a series of gates until we arrived at a private dock, third row back from the river.
The view was great! even better, the Thais at the event remained seated the whole time, while I acted as the obnoxious american, with my camera and tripod. I was fairly careful to keep a low profile, and there weren't too many people behind me, and there was a wide viewing area.
The procession began at 18:30 and it was magnificent. The barges are ornately designed wooden craft with unique mastheads. The Kings barge is the largest and the only one with a seahorse masthead, it was truely magnificent. While the rowers row, they chanted a rowing chant that had been composed by a member of the Royal Thai Navy in honor of the King. As the barges slid by and the chanting echoed off the water, it was easy to imagine yourself in ancient Siam, watching the king go by.
These pictures cannot do justice to the spectacle. The barges were so long, and the chanting so rythmic that the scene cannot be conveyed easily. The motion of boats and oars, unified with so many colors and rythmic beats of drums and chants was like watching a moving meditation. To be a part a spectator of this kind of event is also to be a part of it, for you can't help feeling that the procession is as much about the viewer as it is about the majesty of this ritual.
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