30th October 1996
Queen Elizabeth viewed a centuries-old Royal Barge Procession and the glory of the Ayutthaya era in a light and sound show at the former capital last night.
As if to welcome the British monarch, the floods in Ayutthaya, which had been a metre deep only a week ago, receded to a few centimetres behind the flood walls as Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip arrived yesterday evening.
Thousands of people lined the roads for hours to catch a glimpse of the Queen amid tight security.
The royal visitors, accompanied by Their Majesties the King and Queen and members of the Royal Family, arrived at Siriyalai Mansion at 6.45 p.m. to view the Loy Kratong ceremony in which thousands of miniature floats decorated with flowers and candles were launched into the river.
From the mansion, the royal visitors proceeded to Wat Chai Watthanaram to see a light and sound presentation on the theme of A Tale of the Ancient Capital.
The performance depicted the rise and fall of Ayutthaya and wars with Burma until its defeat and ruination in 1765 under the reign of King Ekathat.
After the performance, the British Queen was presented with a miniature royal barge of teak with pearl inlaid by provincial governor Banchong Kantavirut.
Tight security frustrated on-lookers, many of whom came from Bangkok.
At the beginning, they were prohibited from sois leading to the temple and were made to sit on the shoulders of the main roads to wait for the motorcade.
Only persistence forced the authorities to allow them to walk to the front of the temple where they were kept a distance from the British monarch when she arrived.
Several people expressed disappointment because they did not get a clear view of Queen Elizabeth and her consort.
Wisak Liangwattanachai came from Bangkok to make up for the missed opportunity at the Royal Barge Procession in the afternoon. He was disappointed that people were barred from entering the temple.
“I came because I wanted to see the British Queen. But I might have not come if I had known things would turn out like this,” he said.
Officials had failed to tell people where they could catch a glimpse of the Queen, he said.
A 76-year-old Ayutthaya resident said he arrived early to see Queen Elizabeth but was disappointed when the motorcade swept swiftly past.
Earlier, thousands of Thais in Bangkok waved Union Jacks as they waited to see the monarch before she went to the banks of Chao Phraya to watch the final dress rehearsal for the Royal Barge Procession.
The colourful event is being prepared for His Majesty the King to travel down the Chao Phraya to perform the royal thod kathin (robe-giving) ceremony in an ancient tradition which usually takes place after the end of Buddhist Lent.
As more than 2,000 chanting oarsmen in traditional costumes and manning 52 barges performed the 600-year old ceremony, the royal visitors moved to the edge of the grandstand to get a better view.
The government reserved a river-side building in the Bank of Thailand compound at Bang Khunprom to accommodate the British entourage.
Joining her in watching the spectacle were Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-archa and cabinet members who had earlier hosted a luncheon for Queen Elizabeth.
The Royal Barge Procession – last held more than a decade ago – will take place on November 7 to mark the King’s 50 years on the throne.
Queen Elizabeth will this morning visit Satriwitthaya School to see an anti-drug project and the Thailand Cultural Centre, accompanied by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to open an exhibition of rare Thai manuscripts and royal gifts between Queen Victoria and King Mongkut.
The Duke of Edinburgh will attend ceremonies of remembrance at Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemeteries at Kanchanaburi and Khao Chon Kai.