24 October 2012 by Luke McCormick
A Royal Barge Procession is to take place on Bangkok's Chao Praya River on 09 November to celebrate His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 85th birthday.
The main procession will be held on 09 November, with full dress rehearsals by the Royal Thai Navy taking place on 02 and 06 November.
The procession is reserved for nationally auspicious occasions and has been held only 16 times during His Majesty's reign. The Procession will involve barges carrying the deeply revered Buddha image (Phra Buddha Sihing) and members of the royal family presenting offerings of saffron kathin robes, food and other necessities to the monks at Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn).
The procession will consist of 52 traditional-style barges arranged in five columns, based on a battle formation from ancient times. This is made up of four major royal barges - Suphannahongse, Narai Song Suban H.M. King Rama IX, Anantanagaraj and Anekchatbhuchongse - ten barges with animal figureheads and 38 smaller vessels.
The five-column flotilla stretches 1,280 metres in length and 110 across. A total of 2,200 sailors from various units within the Royal Thai Navy will serve as oarsmen.
It will take the flotilla 55 minutes to cover the 4.5km route from Thonburi Bridge to Phra Phutta Yodfa Bridge. His Royal Highness Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn will preside over the Royal Barge Procession and Royal Kathin ceremony at Wat Arun on behalf of His Majesty the King.
The royal barges of Thailand are the last of their kind in the world. The last time that a royal barge procession was organised was on 12 June 2006 for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of HM King Bhumibol's accession to the throne.