The Momentous Royal Barge Procession

Published on: December 06, 2019

Vana Kasemsri tells us about the Royal Barge Procession and how to mark the occasion.

By Vanasobhin Kasemsri

The Royal Barge Procession is one of the most memorable and grand events happening in Thai history to celebrate the coronation of HM King Rama X. It will be held on the Chao Phraya River on 12 December 2019. It will consist of 52 royal vessels especially made for Thai Kings, and over 1200 rowers. This royal event does not happen often as it takes a lot of preparation and there needs to be a purpose for HM the King to travel on the barge. On this occasion, HM King Rama X will bring Kathin Merit Making robes to be given to the monks at the Temple of Dawn. The last Royal Barge Procession of this kind was held in 1982 to honor the Rattanakosin Bicentennial Celebration. 

One can visit The Royal Barge Museum in Thonburi to see the barges up close, but it will not feel the same as seeing how these barges look when they are being used in a real ceremonial event. If your children can bear the lengthy viewing of the procession, may I suggest that you start to research where you would like to reserve your seating to view this event. I remember watching the 1982 procession up close at the stand along with government officials, as my father was working for the Thai government at The Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I will never forget the moment the barges appeared in sight. The naval officers who steered the barges were all wearing colorful Thai uniforms that were specially made for the ceremony.  They all rowed together at the same pace and rhythm to one another. It was a spectacular and most memorable thing to see. 

I am planning to take my family to Icon Siam for the viewing of the procession. The veranda area will have stands for public viewing but I will book a table in one of the many riverfront restaurants so the children can keep cool.

If you have not been to Icon Siam or have not heard of this place before, you may wish to make a visit to this luxury shopping mall before the event to see whether this would be an ideal spot for you to sit or stand to view the procession. 

To coincide with the event, the Royal Thai Navy and Icon Siam have created a  very informative exhibition on the ground and first floors of the mall, with explanations about the Royal Barge Procession, with small wooden models of all the 52 Royal barges and their descriptions. The exhibition will run until 12 December. 

To get to Icon Siam, you can either drive across the Chao Phraya River to Thonburi where the mall is located or take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and there is a regular shuttle boat, which arrives every 20 minutes to take you to Icon Siam. 

Construction of the new BTS Gold Line will be completed by the middle of 2020, and the last stop of this line is at Icon Siam, which will make traveling there a lot quicker.

Icon Siam’s management is the Siam Piwat Group, who is also managing Paragon Shopping Mall, Siam Center and Siam Discovery Mall. You can find similar shops that are located at Paragon, from luxury brands to popular fashion houses such as H&M and Zara. However, you can also see unique shops that are one of a kind in Bangkok  – The Apple Store – claimed to be the largest in South East Asia- and the Takashimaya Department Store from Japan. 

On the Ground Floor, unique to Icon Siam is a Disneyland like food hall called Sook Siam (meaning happy Siam). This tourist ground brings together architecture, culture, arts & crafts and food samples from all 77 provinces in Thailand. You can review the floor plan first when entering through the main entrance, as you could easily get lost in this huge colorful space, the size of seven football fields. There are 3000 food vendors, so do save up an appetite and the energy if you plan to walk around and sample all the best snacks and dishes from all seven zones, depicting four different regions of Thailand. There are many spots worth taking photos at such as a mock-up of a Thai floating market, where visitors can sample delicious boat noodles, mock-ups of wooden houses from Bangkok’s Chinatown, a grand mock-up of a Naga Thai temple staircase entrances and mock-up of Sino Portuguese Mansions similar to those in the Thai southern provinces.

Icon Siam is a lot bigger than Paragon as it also houses the new state of the art entertainment hall called True Icon Hall that can pack in 2500 seats for conferences or concerts, an art exhibition hall and an outdoor terrace where there are light and sound water fountain shows featured four times daily, similar to the one at Dubai Mall and claiming to be the biggest in South East Asia. 

I know this is yet another shopping mall in Bangkok but it is well worth a stop on a warm humid day where you can experience the richness of Thai culture and enjoy a cooler breeze from the river channels and a spectacular view of Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River. 

Photos courtesy of the author and iStock.

About the Author

Vana, a Thai national born in the US, has lived overseas for a significant part of her life. She has been a BAMBI volunteer and member since 2014, and now works for B Grimm Company, overseeing their charity and conservation projects including “Saving the Tigers”. Vana enjoys spending her free time exploring Bangkok and its surrounding provinces with her family. She hopes to share her views on nature conservation and her travel experiences with newcomers to Thailand and BAMBI members.

The views expressed in the articles in this magazine are not necessarily those of BAMBI committee members and we assume no responsibility for them or their effects.

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