Thai Royal Barge Procession กระบวนพยุหยาตราชลมารค

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Thailand’s Royal Barge Procession first began in the Ayuthaya period, about 700 years ago. It is a majestic ceremony that showcases the Royal culture of Thailand and its rich heritage. On November 6th, 2012, I was invited, along with a few other Bangkok based bloggers to attend the ceremony as an honored guest. We arrived quite early and we first greeted to a luxurious lunch that included an array of delicious dishes. Among the selection were braised duck sitting on a pile of deep fried ivy gourd leaves, topped with crispy fried onions, and drizzled in a sweet tamarin dressing and my personal favorite dish which was the deep fried soft shell crab sitting on top a bed of jicama. After the food we made our way over to the Royal Navy grounds, on the Thonburi side of the river, just south of Siriraj Hospital and Wang Lang Market. Arriving quite early, we had a chance to find a place along the river along with the masses of other photographers for a great glimpse at the Royal Barge Procession. While we waited, were were supplied with refreshments and beverages.

For the event, then entire Chao Phraya River, which is normally a busy choppy water highways, was shut down to the generally public. There were no rowdy boats or river express boats cruising up and down the river so instead the river remained eerily calm. It looked like Bangkok had come to a complete halt – I had never before seen the river so peaceful and glassy. On top of that, the Chao Phraya River is normally quite dirty, but for the Royal Barge Procession, there were crews the swept through the entire river, netting all garbage and unwanted vegetation. The glassy river alone was quite a sight.

The Thai Royal Barge Procession includes a fleet of precisely 52 boats which are handled by a total of 2,311 oarsmen. In this case, the oarsmen were provided by the Thai Royal Navy. The formation of the boat, which is based on a ancient Thai battle formation, was five columns across the river and spanned 1200 meters in length down the river. As they rowed, they chanted an ancient song which was composed strictly for the Royal Barge Procession and coordinated along with their rowing technique. Finally at about 3:40 pm, the procession was visible from out standing grounds. The sound of the chant followed by the formation of the boats was and incredible sight to see. The barges were elaborate, many of them gold and made of teakwood. The oarsmen were aslo dressed in ornate costumes as they rhythmically rowed and followed their command. The view of Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace in the background made the sight even more spectacular. Nearly all the boats in the Thai Royal Barge Procession were amazing, but the most spectacular in my opinion, was the Royal Golden Swan (also known as Suphannahong). This royal vessel was carved from an impressive single trunk of teakwood and measured 44.9 meters in length. It’s quite magical sight to see the Golden Swan gracefully moving across the central waterway of Bangkok. The procession lasted for a total of about 15 minutes until all boats had passed.

Thailand’s Royal Barge Procession is a rare event, held only on certain occasions, spaced out around 6 – 7 years. The opportunity to attend was a true honor, an incredible glimpse into the Royal culture of Thailand, and a remarkable preservation of craftsmanship and Thai heritage.

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