Thai Trooping of the Colour


It was a hot and humid afternoon when I attended the Thai trooping of the colour.

This sounds like a very British thing to do, and it certainly had all of the pomp and ceremony that you would expect if you attended the event at Buckingham Palace.

However, this was on 2nd December, 1993 in Bangkok.  The occasion was to celebrate the birthday of the King.

The Thai Royal Family is revered locally.

Despite political problems in Thailand, the Royal Family are considered to be beyond reproach and the King’s birthday is a very big deal.

We had to arrive several hours early, well before the official guests were due to arrive, and we ushered onto a tiered stand that was covered by a large marquee.

The lack of air under the marquee only made the heat and humidity worse, so it was a very uncomfortable wait. We were also expected to wear our finery, so suits, or uniforms, for the men, and elegant dress for the women was de rigeur.

As we waited for the official ceremony to commence fleets of flagged limousines would roll up to disgorge the official dignitaries, and we did have some fun trying to work out which countries were represented by trying to distinguish their flags.

As the time for the ceremony approached troops of soldiers began appearing. Thirteen military units were represented.

Their uniforms looked to be copied from those of Britain’s Grenadier Guards, except that the Thai soldiers were wearing uniforms of many, sometimes garish, colours. Each unit was wearing a different colour.

Reds, purples, green, yellows, light blues and more were present.

All the soldiers were wearing bearskin hats, just like the Grenadier Guards, although I don’t think that too many real bears were slaughtered to make the hats.

Finally, the King and his family arrived and the ceremony began.

All the troops marched by in impressive formation, accompanied by military bands.

To march before the King was a great honour, and you could sense the pride of the participants as they moved in perfect step.

It was a very stirring and colourful occasion.  Although the pledges to the Monarch were, obviously, made in Thai, the solemnity of the occasion certainly wasn’t lost on us.

I didn’t know at the time, but I was indeed fortunate to view this marvellous spectacle as the Trooping of the Colour ceased to be held in 2009.

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