Standing on the bank of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, I spent a lovely afternoon at the Royal Thai Navy grounds to observe the Royal Barge Procession to present the Royal Kathin Ceremony in a part of the celebration of the Auspicious Occasion of His Majesty the King’s 7th Cycle Birthday Anniversary. Originally scheduled for December, 2011, floods in the area caused rescheduling to 2012.
A hot wind was blowing and I could smell the fresh water on the breeze. Across the river at Wat Arun Ratchaworaram Ratchaworamahawihan (Temple of Dawn), people gathered to witness this dress rehearsal event. Chanting began and everyone hushed. The crowd was very respectful and I felt as if I had stepped back in time to an old way of life.
To my left, I could see the beginnings of the flotilla moving slowly, with hundreds of oars in unison on the 52 barges. They glided slowly towards us, growing larger as the chanter was joined by the entire fleet’s deeps voices together as the oarsmen were one voice. It brought chills to my skin, thinking of how long ago this royal and religious ceremony began, over 700 years ago.
Here’s a video showcasing this Thai cultural event:
Can’t see the video? Access it via YouTube: Royal Barge Procession
The official procession is on November 9, 2012 and if you are already in Bangkok, you should make time to watch this cultural event. There is one last grand dress rehearsal on November 6, 2012. This event has only occurred 16 times during the reign of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
During the Royal Barge Procession rehearsal, media was treated to a Thai snack box which we all enjoyed outdoors, along with a Thai iced tea (one of my new favorite drinks).
Behind the scenes: Oarsmen practicing chant before the procession
Crowds gather at Temple of Dawn to watch the procession
The Royal Barge Procession begins
There are 52 barges in the flotilla with four major royal barges, eight barges with animal figureheads, and 40 smaller vessels.
The barges are arranged in a battle formation from ancient times, five across.
Royal Barge Suphannahong
A visit to the Thai Royal Navy facility wouldn’t be complete without a photo with members of the Navy.
The Royal Barges are regarded as a national treasure of Thailand and the culture of the country. To discover more culture of this beautiful country or to learn how to attend current and future Royal Barge Processions, visit the official Tourism Authority of Thailand website www.TourismThailand.org. You can also follow @ThailandInsider on Twitter.
Special thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand for inviting me to attend the Royal Barge Procession and hosting my #InThailand experience.