THAILAND CHARMS TOURISTS WITH CULTURAL PERFORMANCES
The fascinating Far East charms visitors into coming over and over with its cultural wonders. Thailand distinguishes itself from the rest of alluring Asia with a distinctive culture that is quite visible in the way local artists perform.
These cultural performances draw in big groups of overseas audiences entranced by the classical spectacles and the delicate movement of performers.
From a proud UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage locally known as khon to performances with a modern twist at the world’s first Thai Cultural Theme Park in Phuket, the Kingdom of Thailand struts its stuff through a national and charismatic asset: culture.
7 PLACES TO INDULGE IN CULTURAL PERFORMANCES IN THAILAND
Classically dancing its way to visitors’ hearts, the Land of Smiles shows off its cultural values through some of the most spectacular performances the country has to offer.
1. Charismatic Khon at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre
The India-inspired, classical masked dance has long been a sought out performing art in the Kingdom of Thailand. Originally admired by court nobles and always supported by kings of Siam, khon has stood the test of time and has proudly become a national treasure. The general public can enjoy it seasonally when productions are put on.
The Thai masked dance performance is always based on the Indian epic Ramayana, and it certainly helps to educate yourself on the story first. Artistically, it features poetic narration, skilled acrobatic moves, traditionally beautiful music, and elaborate costumes and masks.
Listed as an ‘intangible heritage of humanity’ by UNESCO in 2018, the Thai khon drama performance is only available to the public for less than two months annually, usually during August and September, at the Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre. Special performances are also often arranged during the mourning period of royal family members.
Opened in 1933, the historic Sala Chalermkrung started as a movie theatre when Bangkok was home to countless stand-alone cinemas, showing foreign films. Today, it is used entirely for concerts, live shows, and performances.
For local performing art enthusiasts and khon super fans, the annual show is something very much looked forward to. Make sure you check the event calendar and book tickets in advance if your trip falls within the show period. For a shorter version of the Thai masked dance, a 25-minute show at Sala Chalermkrung will leave you enthralled. Here khon is performed five times daily on weekdays at 10.30 am, 1 pm, 2.30 pm, 4 pm, and 5.30 pm.
2. Dazzling Cultural Shows at the Siam Niramit
Award-winning Siam Niramit takes pride in Thai culture and, as a world-class performance production, explores Thailand’s rich artistic and cultural heritage. It hosts spectacular shows through one of the world’s largest stage productions. The hall itself holds 2,000 people.
Opened in 2005, Siam Niramit is a cultural show with much wow factor featuring 100+ performers, 500 grandiose costumes, heart-thumping sound scores, meticulously designed backdrops, and amazing, state-of-the-art special effects. Each of these flares helps ensure this introduction into Siam’s history and culture will be a mesmerizing experience. Touristy as it sounds, this has become one of Bangkok’s top shows popular among visitors who also have the opportunity to wander through the replica village.
A remarkably dazzling show, with dinner-inclusive packages available, Siam Niramit is not to be missed and tough to beat, as far as cultural entertainment is concerned. Tourists can catch the three-act show either in Bangkok or Phuket and embark on memorable journeys. These stories explore Siam’s seven decades of rich history, the three worlds as described in the Law of Karma, and show a series of colorful merit-making festivals combining religious ceremony with joyful celebration.
3. Treasure Thai National Performing Arts at the Thai National Theatre
Established by King Rama VI to encourage Thai dancers and musical artists to perform to a wider audience, Thai National Theatre provides complete facilities for the Fine Arts Department to bring the nation’s treasures to life.
Currently, the National Theatre maintains the legacy of two types of classical dance: khon and lakhon. The former is performed by a troupe of skilled male artists while the latter features a group of female dancers telling varied stories through their dance moves. Khon dancers perform episodes from the Ramakien, a prized piece of Thai literature, while lakhon dancers perform a broader range of dances from a broader range of sources, including those derived from folk stories and stories from the Ramakien.
Normally, the classical masked dance program is arranged in two periods annually and is performed at 2 pm on the first and second Saturday and Sunday throughout each period while the classical dance drama is performed at 2 pm on the first and second Sunday of the month from October to December. The program of the National Theatre is subject to change. Check its website or that of the Fine Arts Department’s Office of Performing Arts which is responsible for all the programs at the theatre.
4. Thai Puppetry Mastery at Asiatique – The Riverfront
The riverside open-aired night market is home to a few amazing shows. Patrons will be entertained as they relax in this scenic, historic venue dating back to pre-World War II.
While offering something for everyone from foodies and shopaholics, Asiatique: The Riverfront on Charoen Krung Road contains visit-worthy performance venues to take in the Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre, the Calypso Cabaret show, and the widely admired Thai boxing.
Open daily from 4 pm-12 am each night, it amazes visitors with wild dancing and elaborate outfits worn by members of Calypso Cabaret Show. They impersonate celebrities like Lady Gaga and Marilyn Monroe while also featuring traditional and classical Thai dances. Muay Thai Live: The Legend Lives puts a twist on the renowned martial art turning it into a great combination of 90-minute boxing and performing art in The Stage arena.
For more culture-centric stuff, Joe Louis Traditional Thai Puppet Theatre is ready to cast a spell on the audience. It is one of only a few Thai puppet troupes that put on performances regularly.
5. Enchanting Thai Puppet Show at Khlong Bang Luang
A canal tour along Khlong Bang Luang is never complete without a must-stop at The Artist’s House to witness an enchanting troupe of local artists performing the lauded Thai puppet show.
Upstairs, the 100-year-old ancient art-filled, two-story wooden house is a gallery displaying paintings, photography works, and other art forms. A coffee and souvenir corner occupies the area downstairs. At 2 pm daily, except for Wednesday, a mesmerizing Thai puppet show bringing to life characters from Thai mythology will leave culturally keen visitors utterly spellbound.
A form of theatre whose earliest recorded account dates back to 1685, Thai puppetry was often performed for the monarchy but is currently a rare form of entertainment. The no-frills Thai puppet show at the house has become the ultimate highlight of the Bang Luang Canal tour. The Artist’s House is open daily, Monday-Tuesday from 10 am-6 pm, Wednesday-Friday from 9 am-6 pm, and weekends from 9 am-7 pm.
6. Embark on Ancient Thai Literature World at KAAN Show
Based heavily on the mythical and legendary characters and places, this show is a real adventure into the world of imagination. It is inspired by classic Thai literature which reflects another aspect of Thai culture.
Located in SINGHA D’LUCK Cinematic Theatre in the resort town of Pattaya, KAAN Show is a new hybrid of live-action and cinema. It combines stage performance and state-of-the-art technology to bring to life a story of a young man and his fantastical adventure where he encounters characters in the ancient Thai literature world.
Expect enthralling special effects, showstopper moments, entrancing acrobats, and jaw-dropping aerial performers throughout the 60+ minutes of the visual wonderment.
7. A Perfect Combination of Classical Dances and Traditional Khuntoke Dinner
A traditional khantoke set dinner in Chiang Mai provides insights into the nuances of northern Thai cooking and at the same time offers a glimpse of Thai cultural glory, provided that some fantastic classical performances are added to the treat.
Among others, Khum Khantoke in Chiang Mai’s Muang district is an ideal spot to spoil yourself with Lanna culinary sense and a feast for the eyes in the form of a northern-culture-focused welcome parade, a combat fighting performance, and a dance and drumming show—to name just a few.
These cultural performances ignite extra sensory excitement and are truly a sight to behold while you please your palate, sampling mouth-watering dishes and relaxing.