2016 has been a year like no other with the Nation unified in their grief for King Bhumibol, so it was with some apprehension and I might add intrepidation as to the appropriateness of attending a party that is famed for its wonderfully extravagant buffet and flamboyant six and a half hours of nonstop entertainments. The entertainments featured not only the Royal Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Thailand’s leading Maestro, Khun Kitikhun Sodprasert, but also many leading celebrity entertainers from Thailand’s stage and television, so at least the talent count was sure to be at the top, plus the staff and trainees at the hotel join with the professionals for a song and dance show that is always full of energy and fun. I had been told that due to the circumstances and period of national mourning, the programme had been changed completely from a ‘Party’ theme to a ‘Homage to a Magnificent Reign’, so my inquisitiveness as to how this famed year-end event at the Dusit Thani Hua Hin would manage to be both respectful and entertaining at the same time meant that if I did not go I would not know. This event was surely going to be a challenge for the organisers and performers, especially while endeavouring to live up to the many return guests expectations based on the big ‘wow factor’ theatrical productions of previous year-end parties.
However, from the moment I arrived, my apprehensions quickly evaporated and I was immediately impressed by the elegance of the tastefully dressed marbled reception and assembling guests. The homage had been billed not as a New Year Party, but as ‘A GLORIOUS BLACK WHITE GOLD SILVER BANQUET’. Champagne cocktails were sipped and reunions of return guests created an ambience that one might expect at a sophisticated diplomatic reception, or by royal command performance. The ambience was polite and cordial with a gracious air of poised expectance.
It seems that Khun Victor Sukseree may have captured the sentiments of the nation after all and my reservations as to whether I should attend or not had been unfounded. Centre stage of the large reception area, illuminated in iridescent splendour and on its premiere public viewing, was an outstanding crystal image of His Majesty by famed Glass Master, Khun Jirawatn and his team, drawing great interest and paying of respects. The Homage had begun and was truly impressive. At the appointed time the guests made their way to the Banqueting lawn along a red carpet flanked by stunning ice carvings adorned with white orchids to be welcomed with beaming smiles and courteous wais from lines either side of white livered staff of the F&B Department, headed by their charismatic Chef who many of the guests greeted as a fond friend.
The banqueting lawn looked absolutely stunning with the glass and silverware twinkling like diamonds before a huge stage decorated with a magnificent backdrop, all of which added to the anticipation of what the evening would reveal. Here again the ‘Wow factor’ set the expectations high for what was to follow.
The food as always was fabulous both in array and display. The music, mostly compositions by His Majesty, was of a world class standard and as mentioned by Khun Victor, it was not an evening to be sad, but an evening to celebrate a magnificent reign and the guests sang, danced and shared the national silent observance for his Majesty, with no less sense of enjoyment of celebration than in previous years – what had seemed to be an impossible balance had not only been achieved, but surpassed brilliantly.
One non-scheduled event occurred during the playing and singing of His Majesty’s composition of ‘Falling Rain’, an unexpected short shower of rain interrupted proceedings, followed by an impromptu announcement was that we have all been blessed by holy waters from heaven. Coincidence or divine intervention, it made His Majesty’s song even more apposite and memorable. As in previous years, the guests were invited to the Lake of Fantasy for a spectacular show on the water that leads into the countdown.
The haunting sounds of chanting that accompanies the rare Royal Barges Procession on the Chao Phraya River of Kings grew steadily louder in the darkness, making the hairs on the back of my neck tingle. Then as if by some kind of celestial magic, gracefully emerging from the swirling white mist that shrouded the lake, shimmering royal barges, their serene oarsmen regally paddling to the rhythm of the chants glided into view, with the otherworldly Suphannahong, or ‘the Golden Swan’ as principal dancer in a breathtaking ballet of majestic symbolism that is so dear to the hearts and pride of the Thai nation. It was the icing on the cake, fitting, dramatic, poignant and once again the Lake of Fantasy had brought a heavenly magical setting fit to pay homage to a king and relevant for the occasion. The fantasy, concluded with the chimes of BIG Ben and a flourish of silver reign firework curtains and a heart shape with the Thai number nine at its centre.
Hugs were exchanged and the Thai New Year song filled the cool night air. Spirits lifted and sentiments exchanged, the homage was also a celebration and guests returned to the lawn dancing with renewed optimism for the year ahead into the small hours. We had paid homage to the 9th king of the Chakri Dynasty with celebratory respect and welcomed in the new 10th King of the Chakri Dynasty with optimism and high spirits. Can you combine homage with a party, maintain the ‘wow factor’ and entertain with class and appropriateness in a way that ensures everyone has a wonderful and happy time? Seems that once again Khun Victor Sukseree proves that you certainly can.
Well done! Stanley Barrington Travel Writer