I was startled, my head made a sharp turn to the right. In the darkness, out of nowhere a narrow beam of bright green laser light had appeared a couple of inches away to the left of my face and I ducked. The beam of light went straight ahead, past me. I leaned back, raised myself a little, on the seat to see where the light pointed. I was sat in the middle of a large theatre on a comfortable red cushioned seat. The theatre had a capacity of almost 2,000. Two rows ahead of me, my section of seats ended. This was followed by a five feet wide walking space. Beyond it was the next section of red seats, in a gentle incline all the way to the theatre stage.
The green laser beam was on target. It flickered on a phone held by someone five rows down in the next section. Someone’s attempt to take a video ended rather quickly and the phone was put away.
Before the show, the staff took all cameras to be kept in individual lockers and there were clear signs that any kind of photography and video recording was strictly prohibited. But sometimes individuals would always try to violate the rules. Such is the rule of nature. This theatre was prepared. I turned my head to look behind. One of the ushers was standing on the stairs along the aisle, four rows behind me, left hand raised up and pointing a laser beam towards the phone he had spotted attempting to take a photo or video.
The show was mesmerizing. It was called Siam Niramit. The large stage had room for actors as well as animals. The front of the stage contained water where candles were floating. A small boat went across the stage too as part of the show. The 12 meters (60 feet) high stage is the highest in the world. The stage was 40 meters (130 feet) deep and 65 meters (214 feet) wide. It had taken me a long time, and several visits to Bangkok, to decide to buy a ticket for this show. I had noticed the advertisement posters at metro stations many times. After reading up a little about it online I had become curious to see what kind of a show was presented on such a gigantic stage. As it turned out, it was a show that included live elephants and a small rowing boat across a body of water on the stage.
It was a cultural show that consisted of several segments and the one I was watching at that time of the laser interruption was a depiction of how Thailand and its culture has developed over time with influence from other nations, including China and India. The segment started with an outline of a large ship, almost twenty feet tall, appearing at the back of the stage. The other parts of the stage had been set up to look like a village with wood huts on the left and a small market on the right side of the stage. Actors in white Thai dress danced as they interacted with each other showing the process of food being bought and sold in the market.
The ship came to a stop at the center of the stage. A group of fifteen men walked on to the stage. They were traders from China. Their black hair tied in long ponytails dropped to their waist. Their red colored pants and long sleeved shirts were in sharp contrast to the white dresses of the locals. The newcomers in red joined the dance. The Chinese men presented bags that were purchased by the Thai villagers and some of the Chinese men picked up items from the Thai shops. One man dressed in red and one Thai woman dressed in white danced away to the front corner of the stage, found a quiet spot, sat down next to each other and whispered into each other’s ears.
The music and the dance recital ended in ten minutes. The men in red shirts danced back towards their ship. It was time for them to return. The last man in red to board suddenly stopped. He turned and danced towards the center of the stage and waved to the man sitting at the front corner of the stage, still whispering into the ears of the woman. He moved his head away from the woman’s years, stood up, waved to the woman still sitting on the stage floor and began a slow dance back to the ship. The woman stood up, began to follow him towards the ship. In the middle of the stage she could go no more and sat down. She lifted her right hand to wave goodbye. Her head was bowed down, the long black hair tumbling onto the stage floor. She could not bear to look at the ship sail away. The man reached the ship, turned back, waved towards the woman, and walked into the ship.
The ship began to crawl away from the center of the stage. The silence of the audience could be felt. I looked at the woman on the stage. She sat on the stage, head bowed, the arm no longer had the energy to wave. Half the boat had gone away from the stage. Hushed giggles came from parts of the audience. I smiled and chuckled. At the back of the boat the dark hair on a head popped up over the boat’s wall. The man stood up at the edge of the boat. The boat continued to move very slowly away from the stage. The man’s head turned left and right as he got ready. He raised both arms above him and leapt on the stage. The woman sat at her spot and had not noticed, she was still looking down at the stage floor.
The man in the red shirt landed perfectly on the stage. With two hands stretched forward he danced towards the woman. The man knelt down in front of the woman and touched her left shoulder. She looked up. The man reaches out with both hands. She puts one hand on his hand. They stand up, both are of similar height, about a little over five feet.
They embrace each other in a tight hug. He had decided to make Thailand his new home. Culture from his land would blend with the local culture. They started a slow dance towards the front of the stage to take a bow to indicate the end of that segment. The applause in the hall resonated loudly across the large theater.
Towards the end of the show a segment included dancers in blue and red dresses swinging by ropes from one corner of the stage to the other. As multiple performers began to criss-cross across the stage in this manner, it resembled the poster of the show I had seen so many times. This was a majestic finale to a very grand performance.
The show had started at 8 pm and lasted for an hour and half. Prior to the show, the area in front of the theater was a small representation of different aspects of Thailand. I had walked into that complex to be greeted by an elephant. Two elephants were walking around the area with visitors on their back. Five people stood in line to take a ride on an elephant.
Performers in colorful costumes stood at different areas welcoming visitors and posing for a photograph. At one side of the courtyard was a young man, muscles glistening in sweat, dressed in blue shorts. He provided a demonstration of kicks used in Muay
Thai, or Thai Kickboxing. A small boy, three feet tall, short blonde hair dressed in jeans and a yellow shirt, went up to the boxer and began to imitate his kicks. The boxer smiled and bent down to help the boy perform the kicks. His mother took out an I- phone, and began to record the child’s attempts. I walked over to a dance recital about to begin outside the theater before the start of the main show. Photography was permitted only in the courtyard outside the main theater.
The show ended on time. I picked up my camera from the locker and walked towards the gate. The two elephants stood there, their tusks pointed up as a gesture of goodbye. I joined several others to put a hundred Baht note in the tip box next to the elephants.
A sign at the entrance had announced the Guinness Book of World Records had noted this to be the tallest stage in the world. That could be, however, in my mind this remains one of the spectacular and enjoyable stage shows I have seen anywhere. This cultural evening, for me, remains one example of quintessential Bangkok.
Siam Nimarit, 19 Tiamruammit Road, Bangkok 10320, Ph 6626499222; www.siamnimarit.com. Tickets start from 1,500 Baht, there is a dinner included at a higher rate. Free shuttle bus service from Exit 1 of the Metro Station: Thailand Cultural Centre is available. Complex gate and restaurant open at 5:30 pm, the show runs from 8:00 to 9:30 pm.
Once the show ends, a free shuttle service is take visitors back to the Metro Station named Thailand Cultural Center. Taxis are also lined outside.
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