Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday in the Park

What an amazing day I had.
I have often talked about many firsts I will experience on this trip but how about something you may only experience once in a life time. That experience I am talking about is the Princesses Procession.
I made my way down to The Grand Palace at about 8pm last night by cab. Before I made my way I was talking with one of the concierges at the hotel to find out what to expect and briefly attempt to discuss the potential rules. The scenario played out like this, keep your wallet in your front pocket and wear black or white shirt. Easy enough considering my wallet is always in my front pocket and I brought plenty of black shirts.
When the concierge hailed my cab he talked to the driver to find out how close he could get to the ceremony and explained that he was not sure because there were over 100,000 people there already and they had several roads blocked off.
I jump in and he got me close as he could and pointed in which direction to walk. When I stepped out it was like moving through a crowd at a football game or concert. I made my way up a couple of blocks basically just following the crowds. I figured they knew where they were going and it would have been almost impossible to ask directions. After about 5 minutes of walking I came upon a massive intersection, this is where the procession would take place. The street was about 50 yards wide, probably one of the biggest intersections I have ever seen and it was lined with people on both sides mainly on the sidewalk area and about 10' off the curb.
To help keep order with crowd control there were probably 2000 guards/military and police officers.
This is where it gets interesting. About three minutes before the procession was getting ready to begin the guards shuffled us down to the street and made us sit on the pavement while they stood to keep watch. I happened to be sitting on the end of the row in front of three guards and a group of Thai Children. The guard began to have some issue as to the way I was sitting and they started talking to the children since they spoke no English. The children started to point to their legs to show me, I then went to Indian Style. The discussion continued because then they started pointing at my hands. At this point I was not sure if they were messing with me or if they were looking for a reason to kick my ass. Then a light bulb went off in my head, I remember reading that you need to have your feet pointed away because it is disrespectful. Thai's consider the feet to be the dirtiest part of the body. I changed my position so my feet were pointed behind me and the guards were satisfied.
The procession began with about 20 - 30 Mercedes driving by, the only sound you could hear were that of the cars. Everyone sat in silence with their hands together infront of their face. It only lasted a minute or so then everyone was allowed to get up, the guards actually thanked me, probably the only English they knew. I thanked them back and proceeded to make my way down the street.
The walk back was amazing, everyone was beginning to start the celebration, mostly they were taking pictures of themselves at the event.
I was going to stay for the celebration, however I was exhausted from the day so I started making my way back in the direction hotel so I could catch a cab. I will try to download some of the pictures, I did not get any of the procession simply for the fear that I might have been beaten, not to mention I did not see anyone else taking pictures.
Earlier that morning I made my way by cab to Lumpinee Park. Lumpinee Park was made for the people by the King so they would have a place to use and enjoy. It was absolutely breath-taking. The park was beautifully landscaped with winding rivers cutting paths throughout the park and all sorts of artistic statues throughout the park. There was a calm in the park like there was not a care in the world. The park had a variety of people there for different reasons, some for group activity, socializing, exercising and even napping. It is very hard to describe but when you walked through the gates there was a calm in the air.
I stayed at the park for a couple of hours mostly walking and taking pictures. Later I made my way to Lumpinee Statium to look around. There was not much going on because they were getting ready for a fight that night, which I was going to attend, however I decided to attend the procession. I can actually get tickets at the hotel, which are about $55 for ringside seats. The lady also mentioned that they allow you to take pictures and you get to meet the fighters. I may look into that next weekend.

1 comment:

Matt said...

That is sweet, to get to go to a special event like that which not many farang would ever get to experience. I wouldn't haven't known what the guards were upset about either, but thank god for Lonely Planet to fill us in on each cultural faux pas. :) I think you should have taken the chance of getting beaten for the sake of pictures for your blog.

The ringside seats sound cool. Hopefully you'll have a chance to do that too.

When are you heading out of Bangkok for Phuket or Chiang Mai?