on September 13, 2010
It was around 330pm and the last attraction on our list to visit that day was "The Royal Barge Museum" ...The Chao Phraya Express boat was our selected mean of transportation and a small confusing map of the boats route was our guide. I had read about this museum in some sites, had seen some beautiful pictures but hadnt really been able to gather clear directions on how to get there. We figured out that if we asked along the way, someone would be able to help us out.We got off at pier number 12 (at the Phra Pin Klao Bridge) and walked our way under the bridge.After a few blocks we started getting ride offers from tuk tuk and taxi drivers but as we were pretty much convinced that the Museum was within walking distance from the Pier we thanked them and continued our pace. A friendly policeman advised us that we were close by and that we would find some directions just around the corner. The signs were bad and few ... but they were enough to guide us around the neighborhood in which the museum was located. A very poor neighborhood with a very narrow and long street or pathway that cuts into the middle of it, leading you all the way to the Barges. I felt a little insecure after a few minutes walk so decided to turn around thinking we were lost or had taken the wrong turn.Just as we were heading back to the Pier, we came across a nice English couple that offered to show us the way as they had already visited the place and knew how to get there.The walk itself was an experience. A lot of poverty, houses clustered one next to the other, people lying on the front doorsteps avoiding the heat of the insides with big fans blowing from every direction, others cooking hot foods, mini markets with no doors, a hairdresser, children running across the houses, motorbikes swerving their way around the pathways, opened windows allowing you to take a glance at what was going inside ... it actually felt as though we were walking right through their houses but this seemed to be something normal to them as they were not surprised to see us.The entrance fee was 30BHT per person and an extra fee if you wanted to take pictures from inside. This museum is located along Bangkok Noi Canal, a 20/30 minute walk from the Arun Amarin bridge.It houses 4 incredible Royal Barges and 4 escort vessels, several currently used for Royal ceremonies that take place on the river (we were able to notice that some of the escort barges had a cannon at the bow).To our surprise we were almost alone! There were no other tourists than ourselves and the English couple! We later noticed that tourists usually take a boat tour that will pass along the canal making a short stop for picture taking but no one gets off. You will be able to catch these boat rides at the Tha Chang Pier (the pier that gets you to the Grand Palace) as im sure there are other options available as well.These barges are very long (around 40 meters long) and are decorated with beautiful golden unique details as well as tiny pieces of glass. Exceptional craftsmanship.The front (bow) of each barge has been carved into different shapes each representing a mythical creature such as the head of a mythical bird (golden swan), the shape of the Hindu God Narayana, a seven-headed Naga image, Hanuman the Monkey God, a Half bird and half ogre figure within others.Each barge has golden pavilions on board to keep the baking sun off the Royalty members and it is said that more than 50 oarsmen are needed to paddle away and get the largest moving.I found this to be a different and more tranquil experience.
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