The afternoon was hot and humid as I made my way to Santichaiprakarn Park, a piece of greenery along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River that used to be the location of an old sugar mill. I got a tip that something will happen between 1500H and 1800H and I got excited when I read about it and made the effort to travel from Lat Phrao in Chatuchak where I stayed for a few days, took the Skytrain to Saphan Thaksin, rode the scenic tourist river cruise to Phra Arthit pier and walked to the park.
It was a clear day and there were several people walking about, or just sitting around benches or on the grass. At the edge of the park was the white washed 18th century defensive structure, Fort Phra Sumen, only one of two of what remains of a formidable array of 14 forts that were constructed to protect Bangkok. This one was built in 1783.
But I got curious. At one end were a series of upright boxes with something covered in plastic. So after going around the small park, when the clock strike 3 PM, these wheeled boxes were being towed by people to one of the open grounds. One by one, they took the plastic cover and revealed papier mache pandas and one by one they placed these pandas on the grass. It took time for them to place all these as excitement around it also built. Curious people and visitors were busy taking photos and selfies.
The project, by French artist Paulo Grangeon, together with the World Wildlife Fund created 1600+ papier mache pandas in Taiwan to represent the more or less 1600 pandas remaining in the wild. These then toured several cities around Europe and now in Asia with several locations in Bangkok.
It takes the form of a flash mob wherein at designated time in the afternoon, these flash mob pandas assemble for the next three hours. It is then transferred to another venue the following day until it reaches the Central Embassy, one of the major sponsors, where it will be displayed till 24 March. A total of 10 well known venues around Bangkok have been identified as locations.
Beyond the cuteness, this panda flash mob also raises awareness about the status of the species, listed as endangered and is in great need of protection as well as providing awareness of what WWF mission is about.