Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Royal Barges Museum, March 5, 2007

We visited around 9 a.m. Monday, March 5, which is a Thai national holiday. It was cooler than later in the day, and we mostly had the place to ourselves. The royal barges are gorgeous and with a fascinating history. Only eight can be viewed in their dry dock today because of space constraints, but there are 52 in all.

At one time they were used frequently, for war and for religious and ceremonial occasions. With ornate, colorful decorations, especially the figureheads, they are powered by many oarsmen. The number is dictated by the size and purpose of the barge.

Today, they are used for ceremonies from time-to-time, such as once a year in October or November when the king delivers new saffron robes to Buddhist monks at Wat Arun (the Katin ceremony), and when there is a royal cremation/funeral. I hope we can arrange to be in Bangkok some day when one of the royal river processions is scheduled. The photos from years past are stupendous.

Dinner on the Chao Phraya River, Mar. 3, 2007

Louie and I finally got to take the dinner cruise we were unable to book for Dec. 31, 2005 when we visited Thailand the first time.

This time, we chose the renowned Oriental Hotel's 'Maeyanang,' a restored, teak rice barge offering a 2.5 hour cruise on the river with a yummy buffet of traditional Thai foods. The boat also entered one of the old khlongs (canals), this one where the Royal Barge Museum is. More on that museum in a later posting.

Bangkok was once known as the Venice of the east, because its primary transportation and much of its lifestyle was water borne. The old photos of Bangkok show an exotic, lush series of canals covering the entire city. Many people lived on the water all their lives in boats and/or stilt houses. Today most of the khlongs have been covered by buildings and roadways, but vestiges of the old life can be found, if you try. Water taxis are readily available on the river and the larger canals. It's by far the quickest and most pleasant transportation in this totally gridlocked city.

We don't have too many photos, because it was dark and we were relaxing, but there's one of me in the hotel lobby before departure, one on the boat, and one of Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). Though a bit blurry, you can get the idea. With only about 20 guests on board and a full moon, it was a romantic evening for sure.