The meaning of the word “Alangkarn” in Thai is huge or grand. You can expect no less when you visit the famed Alangkarn Theatre in the city of Pattaya. Located just an hour and a half out of Bangkok, Pattaya City along the southern east coast of Thailand has much to offer in almost any form of entertainment. There are few epic sized theatre performances around the world of noteworthy mention with the exception of those in London and America, but you can find one of it right here in Pattaya City.
The Alangkarn Theatre situated a little out of the city centre boast a two thousand seat auditorium with a seventy meter “Hexa” stage that has a one hundred and eighty degree view and state-of-the-art sound systems with three large entry walkways that can accommodate a troupe of elephants literally! It is a most impressive stage not to mention impressive performances that go along with it.
While you are in Pattaya, make sure that you do not miss this epic extravaganza. The Alangkarn Theatre experience tour booking is made through Thaitourismguide and it is advised that you include the transfer from hotel to Alangkarn Theatre in your booking. Please note that there is only one show per day and the pickup time is at 4.00pm as the show starts early at 6.00pm and it takes about half an hour to forty five minutes to get from your hotel to the theatre venue. This leaves you with an hour to walk around the Cultural Rostrum which is packed with pre-show activities. Your bookings for Alangkarn Theatre can also include a Thai and International Buffet dinner at the Alangkarn Restaurant which is served after the show.
Arrival at the theatre grounds will see you first entering the walkway into the Cultural Rostrum entrance. The walkway itself is impressively decorated with huge sculpted Korn theatre masks depicting the many characters of deities and villains found in the Ramakein stories. These colourful masks make a good background picture for your memorable experience at the Alangkarn Theatre. At the end of the walkway as you turn right, is the open air cultural rostrum. The first to greet you would be the star of the elephant cast, a female elephant, who is a young 22 years old. Astride her is her handler and also stage performer. She will oblige you for a ride with a mere fee of THB100 which is equivalent to USD3. This would be bare back elephant riding so it is a different experience altogether compared to those you would find in an elephant village where you rode on a “howdah” which is a sedan chair strapped onto the back of an elephant. You will be able to play with this beautiful pachyderm and also pose for pictures with her and her handler.
There are many activities all around the rostrum that will entertain you. In the centre of this courtyard is a huge bell tower with some very intricate sculptures of mythical creatures such as one with the body of a dragon and the head of an elephant as well as a few life-sized and true to life sculptures of elephants. There are many opportunities here for you to get some really nice pictures especially with the glow of the setting sun in the background, as after all, Pattaya is a seaside resort area! At the mini stage podium you will be able to watch small traditional Thai dances while along the sides leading to the main auditorium will be mini stalls setup with games and souvenirs. Watch out for some of the cartoon dressed characters from the old Thai traditional stories; they are bigger sized than normal and sometimes may seem to be just statues without moving save for the occasional twitch.
The show in Alangkarn starts promptly at 6.00pm and there are several entrances into the theatre. Those requiring a wheelchair can obtain them from the front registration counter and one of the ushers will bring you up to the theatre by a separate entrance. The services for the disabled and handicapped are remarkable so it is very convenient even for those who are not mobile. The reception of the theatre is enormous with several more huge masks of deities and mythical creatures, a central display of a Royal Barge and several stage mock-ups in the corners. Making your way upwards will bring you to the theatre stage where seating is numbered. The show starts with two clowns entertaining the crowds using a large ball which is thrown to and fro to encourage audience participation. This goes on for about ten to fifteen minutes followed by the opening of the stage curtains.
There are three parts to the one and half hour show starting with an introduction to Thai beliefs in mysticism. Here you get to experience the first wonders of this extravaganza show with real life fire effects, fireworks and surreal settings. There is a beautiful “naga” or better known as a dragon on stage ending with an epic fight with the Thai elephant. You will also get to see actors flitting across the stage on aerialist wires adding on to the mystical allure of the performance. The entire scene and play in the first part symbolizes the track of Thai civilization, a belief inculcated about the origins of Thailand and its cultures. This is followed by the second scene where you get to see a fire breathing “naga” in all its glory. You can even feel the heat from the many fire spouts along the front of the stage! Watch for the enactment fight between the “naga” and the elephant star of the show, it is truly remarkable. This first act in the show will give you some understanding of Thai mythology and what shapes Thai culture as you see it today.
The show consists of three acts with seven different intricate stage settings including a pyrotechnic display at the end of the show. The opening of this wonderful epic stage play begins with the symbolic title of “Belief”. This scene depicts the dawn of civilization based on mythology and the age of fairies. The scene is rich in mythical creatures such as half man/bird which is symbolic of the Thai national emblem the “Garuda” as well as a fire breathing dragon. Great pains have been taken to create all the magical backdrops such as this first scene that is reminiscence of a mythical and magical forest. Look out for the great scene where the elephant battles the dragon which shows the Thai reverence for the “Chang” or elephant in scene 2 and the triumphant elephant as it overcomes the dragon or known in Thai as a “Naga”.
In Act 2 you will experience the different Thai culture and arts through an introduction to the four regions of Thailand which is the North, South, East and West. In this sequence you will see a wonderful parade of elephants in full regalia with a Royal entourage consisting of fire torch bearing troupes, a dais borne on the shoulders of the performers in glittering gold adornments, some very beautiful Thai female performers in intricate headwear and costumes on the top of six elephants parading from the stage to the broad centre aisle among the spectators! This is one of the highlights of the performance not to be seen in such splendour at any other epic performance in Thailand and is a definite MUST-SEE when you are in Pattaya. This is truly one of the best Pattaya travel experiences you can have and it comes highly recommended. Also in this act in scene 4, is to look out for the left and right stage ends where you will get to see beautifully sculpted Korn character statues that are almost as high as the stage. “Korn” is the Thai character from stories and myths based on the Ramayana. Here you are introduced to a fascinating culture of the Royal Mask drama that re-enacts Korn scenes as performed in days of old in front of a Royal audience as a form of entertainment.
The final act will bring you to three well known periods of Thai history which are the Sukhothai, Ayuddhaya and Rattanakosin Kingdom. These were the periods of creation, conquests and prosperity in the Thai history. The Sukhothai period is depicted as a time of early creation and discovery under various Kings of Thailand who slowly brought prosperity to the country. In the Ayuddhaya period, there are scenes of conquest between the ancient rivalry of Thailand and Burma. Finally in the Rattanakosin period it is a time of prosperity and wonderment. There are comedy sketches between the scenes with a traditional courting and wedding period, followed by rivalry between suitors ending in an outbreak of war where full ancient Thai and Burmese war regalia are worn complete with war elephants on stage. The last scene in a setting of peace and wonderment another highlight of aerial artistry is displayed with floating fairy like performers gliding down from the back of the audience to the stage and ending in a great fireworks display. In the final Act, there are instances of audience participation so you do get your five minutes of fame on an epic stage! Do marvel at all the wonderful backdrops and stage scenes that must have taken a whole troupe of artisans to create that makes this show so worthwhile watching.
As you leave the stage on the way out to your waiting transportation, the theatre lobby is alive with the performers who are available for photo shoots with you for a mere THB20 or USD0.90 per session. You can always tip them more if you like for the great performances. There are in total about five different scene settings that you can take pictures of with the casts as a good memory of your visit to Alangkarn. This is one of the must see performances in Pattaya, and it is always best to make sure your tickets are booked in advance. There are two options, one is just for the show and the other is for a show and dinner. The dinner is an international and Thai style buffet after the show. There is only one performance a day, so do make sure that you do not miss your transport and to be on time for your transfer arrangements to Alangkarn!