Published on August 12, 2007
The bookworm's ultimate dream - a library that comes to you - has sailed into reality with the Port Authority of Thailand's Library Ship of the King.
Commemorating His Majesty's upcoming 80th birthday, the Bt30-million floating library is a converted barge that gleams in the sunlight. Its cargo consists of more than 1,000 books on the King's life and achievements, a photo exhibition and several royal artefacts.
Its itinerary covers eight provinces and 10 communities in 80 days, a voyage that began in Samut Prakan on August 1 and ends in Chai Nat on October 7. The barge is spending a week in each province along a 270-kilometre stretch of the Chao Phya River.
Visitors will learn much about His Majesty's recommended "sufficiency" lifestyle, which Samut Prakan Vice Governor Wannida Boonpraeorg has characterised as "the philosophy of Buddha - to do things according to our capability".
The library is one part of a project designed to show how the King's life is exemplary of this idea, "so that young people can learn from his example", says Chalermchai Meekhumiarn, managing director of the Port Authority.
The library's books offer biography, vintage news clippings and documentation on the royal projects and the King's other endeavours on the country's behalf, especially in economic matters. There are computers for research on board as well.
The library is "for all people", says Wannida - no cards or registration necessary, only a wish to learn more about His Majesty.
The photo exhibition, entitled "Be Content ... Alike the King", has images of His Majesty as a monk, on his rural visits and with his family.
Adding an interactive appeal, there is a "messaging jigsaw". Guests can write their best wishes for the King on one of 8,000 jigsaw pieces, which when assembled will spell out "Long Live the King".
And reaching inland, the library is hosting a painting contest for youngsters aged 10 to 12. Two entrants are chosen from 15 schools along the barge route each week to attend workshops, at which they'll be shown how to create an artwork based on the "Be Content" theme.
All the participants get souvenir backpacks from the Port Authority, and the winner gets a computer.
In Samut Prakan, television star Nattarika "Nam Phueng" Thampridanant led the art workshop. Showing a series of her own paintings, she explained that "art has no rules, no limits" and that students should use whatever inspires them to create their paintings for the King.
The children then painted little flowerpots to try out the lessons they'd learned. With Mother's Day approaching, several painted pots for their mums.