Friday, October 7, 2011

Dragon Boats on Parade

During lunch at the aptly named S&P River House, we kept seeing these long boats full of brightly-clad rowers being towed upriver. The waiter pointed to a sign indicating that a "Grand Royal Processional" was happening at 3 pm, so without much more information than that, Betsy and I made our way to a small park on the river where we joined a gathering crowd awaiting the festivities, which apparently is a rare event here.

At about 3:45, a couple of military boats came downriver, followed by about 30 dragon boats. Each boat had a crew of rowers, all dressed in matching shirts--some boats were blue, some orange, and the largest, most elaborate boats had crews in hot pink. I will say this about the Thai: they love their color. The boats carrying the hot pink rowers (about 60 of them) were trimmed in gold, including gold oars that the rowers displayed in a tight choreography. The hot pink boats seemed to be the ones that carried the important people (i.e., royalty). Each of the boats also had a trumpeter, a drummer, and a song leader, and the rowers, in addition to paddling, sang as they passed by. It was all pretty amazing to watch. I got some video on my Cybershot camera, but can't seem to upload it here--darn--so will try to do so when I get home. For now, here's a still shot to give you a sense of the scene.

It was one of the most stunning scenes I've ever experienced. We felt incredibly lucky to have stumbled upon it accidentally. It also gave us a good dose of river time, which was nice because the boat tour didn't work out. There has been some serious flooding in Thailand, and the dean at Mahidol strongly advised against getting on a boat lest there be a downpour and a flash flood. "If you see people moving quickly up steps," he said, "follow them." That was a compelling case for staying on shore, which turned out to give us the chance to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.

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