If you are in Bangkok at the moment then you shouldn’t pass up on the opportunity to go and see a light and sound show at the Grand Palace called “The Golden Heritage of the Rattanakosin Era”. It is running from now until 28th February 2011. It pays homage to the kings of the Chakri Dynasty, but more importantly it is a celebration of H.M. The King’s 84th birthday which takes place at the end of this year.
The presentation starts with the formation of Bangkok and then passes through the ages telling the story of the kings, nation and the people. One of the main themes that comes across is their fight for independence from the colonizing Western powers and also of their struggle to modernize the county. The last half of the show is devoted to the present king who is the “heart and the pillar of the kingdom”.
The shows producers use a combination of different techniques to bring us this world standard light and sound show. On the stage there are about 100 actors but these numbers are greatly increased at times by the clever interaction between man and the multimedia characters shown on the big screen. At times this creates a kind of 3D affect. Some of the music used in the show was composed by H.M. The King.
They also make use of their greatest asset, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which is to the left of the audience and also the Grand Palace itself which is behind the main stage. All of these buildings are beautifully lit up. As we are told the story and history of Bangkok, we are constantly reminded that we are sitting at the very heart of where all of this began over two hundred years ago.
There are nine acts in total during the performance. These are: The Founding of the City, The Glory of Rattanakosin, The Civilization of Siam, Democratic Siam, The King in the Heart of Thai People, The Royal Paths of His Majesty, Royal Virtuoso, The Heart and the Pillar of the Kingdom and Paying Homage. I am very familiar with the History of the Kings, but it was good to be able to see new photos and film footage as well as listen to live performances of His Majesty’s compositions.
The 90 minute show takes place on the lawn in front of Sahathai Samakom This is the area that you see when you first enter the gates of the Grand Palace. The show starts at 7 p.m. and runs nightly apart from Mondays. Tickets cost 500 baht each and you can use the seating plan to choose where you want to sit. The tickets have to be bought in advance at the Grand Palace during office hours only. You cannot buy on the door.
Although I enjoyed the show immensely, it should be noted that it has been designed for a Thai audience. Foreign tourists who don’t speak Thai or are not familiar with Thai history, might find it confusing at times. The performances and the multimedia productions should be enjoyable for everyone. But there are long stretches of voice-over in Thai. They do have screens on either side for projecting English subtitles, but unfortunately it was only used for a brief description of each act. It should also be noted that photography during the performance is not allowed. I was able to take these pictures from the media area at the back.