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The swan head of the figurehead of the Suphannahong Royal barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok.
The swan head of the figurehead of the Suphannahong Royal barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok.

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ROYAL BARGES

The National Museum of Royal Barges is the museum where the Royal barges can be seen as the name says so. These boats date back to the time when Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand (then Siam). The ships fall under national heritage. This is therefore overseen by a special department that protects the royal properties. In addition to overseeing this important heritage, the boats are also managed and maintained by the Department of Visual Arts in Bangkok. Occasionally, at large and important royal or spiritual events, the boats are used for the Royal Barge Procession. This Royal Barge Procession takes these boats through the Chao Phraya River. A special and unique experience if you can experience this! If the boats are not sailing you can see them in real life in the National Museum of Royal Barges!

The royal barges in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The eight royal barges 

A total of eight beautifully decorated Royal Boats can be admired in the Museum of Royal Barges. They are all carved from teak and decorated with gold leaf and beautiful ornaments of coloured glass. Each barge consists of a figurehead or depiction of one or more mythical creatures from Thai culture. Below we show and describe all eight ships.

The royal barges in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

Suphannahong’s Royal Barge

This is the barge where the king himself takes place during the procession. The Suphannahong was built at the time of King Chulalongkorn and ended during the reign of King Rama VI (sometime between 1880 and 1925). This barge has an impressive golden swan head and is over 46 in length. The barge needs 50 rowers to get ahead!

DID YOU KNOW?
Nice to know is that this ship is made out of a single trunk of teak.

The Royal Barge of Suphannahong

The Narai Song Suban His Majesty Rama IX

Of the eight royal barges, this is the youngest one. This boat is over 44 meters long and was built especially for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He was offered this boat during the celebration of his 50th year as king of Thailand in 1996. On the bow of this boat you can see the Hindu god Vishnu with in front of him a Garuda (bird-like human figure) with in his hands a Naga (snake-like creature). One has not been modest with mythical creatures on this ship, that may be clear! And if the mythical creatures can’t withstand a possible fight with their powers, there is still a cannon on board, BOOM!

The Royal Barge of Narai Song Suban HM Rama 9 in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The Royal Barge of Anantanakkharat

This barge is characterized by a 7-headed mythical creature which looks very much like a dragon. In Thai culture this “dragon” symbolizing water is called the Nakkharat. This boat of almost 45 meters long was used more than a century ago to transport mainly important Buddha statues or other important religious items. This barge also has a cannon on board, because all those valuables had to be protected.

The Royal Barge of Anantanakkharat in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

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The Royal Barge of Anekchat Puchong

This ship from the 19th century doesn’t really stand out because of her figurehead with mythical creature. But if you look closely, you can see that the teak hull is beautifully decorated with carved nails. Real craftsmanship! Imagine an assignment like this… : Chuu Len would you like to decorate this 45-yard barge a bit? How about nagas? Must be finished tomorrow, OK?”

The Royal Barge of Anekchat Puchong in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The Royal Barge of Asurawayupak

The bow of this relatively small ship of 28 meters has a blue mythical creature. Impressive!

The royal barge of Asurawayupak in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The Karbi Prab Maung Marn Royal Barge 

Another smaller ship but certainly none less beautiful, this ship with cannon is about 28 meters long and has a white monkey warrior as its figurehead as a mythical creature.

The Karbi Prab Maung Marn Royal Barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The Royal Barge of Krut Hern Hej

Again about 28 meters long but this time with a Garuda as a figurehead holding a Naga. Actually the same creature as on the Narai Song Suban but without Vishnu and a lot smaller.

The Royal Barge of Krut Hern Hej in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

The Akkachai Hern Haw Royal Barge 

The last of the couple is about 30 meters long and the hull is completely decorated with mythical crocodiles that are called Hera in Thai culture.

Akkachai Hern Haw Royal barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

What else can you find in the National Museum of Royal Barges?

In addition to the eight royal barges you’ll find about 50 other boats that belong to the total fleet. These are a bit less nicely decorated. These boats can be found in another part of the National Museum of Royal Barges. Everywhere you’ll be provided with information by signs next to the barges or on the walls in the main hall. In the museum you will even find a seaplane. There are also photos here and there of the Royal Barge Processions that have been performed in the past. Interesting detail is that in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok you can also find remnants of boats of which the largest part was destroyed by a bombardment by the Japanese during World War II.

The enormous length of a royal barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

How to get to the museum

The easiest way to get to the National Museum of Royal Barges is by boat. Take the Chao Phraya River Express boat and get off at N12 Phra Pin Klao Bridge Pier. From here it’s a ten minute walk. What is also regularly done is renting a longtail boat to sail through the klongs of Bangkok and then drop you off at the National Museum of Royal Barges.

The back of a royal barge in the National Museum of Royal Barges in Bangkok

In the surroundings of the museum

We’ve looked up some great options for you in the area. Like well-appreciated places to sleep, restaurants, shopping malls and sights worth seeing, you’re here now anyway! We hope this will make your visit to Bangkok even easier and more fun!

Open: Daily from 09:00 – 17:00
Entrance: 100 baht + 100 baht extra if you want to make pictures and/or 200 baht extra if you want to film.
Address: Klong Bangkok Noi
District: Thonburi
Chao Phraya River Express: N12 Phra Pin Klao Bridge

Chao Phraya River Express: Local line, red, yellow or green flag boat to N12 Phra Pin Klao Bridge.

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Video: Building Wharram Sailboats (YouTube)
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