Royal Thai barges to set sail

12 Sep 2011

The Thai tourist bureau has announced that a rare royal barge parade will be staged in Bangkok next month. A flotilla of 52 historic vessels will be rowed down the capital city’s Chao Phraya River to commemorate the impending 84th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on 5 December. 

The flotilla will set sail from Thonburi at 15:30 on the 22 October and will head downstream to the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). The 52-strong armada of barges will proceed in columns of five and be propelled by 2,200 Royal Thai Navy rowers.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is the king’s representative for the procession which will see members of the royal family carried to Wat Arun for a merit making ceremony. The symbolic rite sees robes donated to monks at the temple.

The ornate barges have mostly been carved from the trunks of giant teak trees and feature figureheads such as of monkey god Hanuman and various other creatures. The (Golden Swan) Suppanahong boasts a marvellous swan effigy and was first launched towards the end of the 18th century.  

Due to the fragile conditions of some of the barges they do not set sail very often. Next month’s sailing will only be the 17th time that a royal barge parade has taken place since King Bhumibol ascended the throne in 1946.

For those who are not able to watch the royal parade, the Suppanahong and seven of the other vessels can be viewed at the Royal Barge Museum near Phra Pin Klao Bridge in Bangkok. 

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