I visited Thailand during the mourning period of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Thailand’s parliament just announced that the “Crown Prince” Maha Vajiralongkorn will take the throne. The late King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October due to kidney failure. After taking some time to mourn his father, Prince Vajiralongkorn will now lead the monarchy. Thailand however, will be in an official state of mourning for a year, with public servants required to wear black as a sign of respect. During my recent visit, there were so many different ways the country showed respect to their king of over 70 years.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the world’s longest reigning king and for many Thai people, the only King they’ve ever known. Not only was he respected as King, to many he was the Father of the country. His birthday December 5th is celebrated as Father’s Day.
Everywhere I went I saw amazing murals and dedications to the King. I literally couldn’t walk a block without seeing flowers, a photo or a mural dedicated to him. Being an American, it was awe-inspiring to see such love and respect dedicated to a political leader. Especially with our current political climate, it’s hard to fathom.
I spotted this candlelight vigil at JJ Market. There were many similar booths throughout the market where people could light a candle and say a prayer for the King.
One of the things I enjoyed most was seeing amazingly ornate murals of the surviving Queen Sirikit. I know it’s a monarchy…but every king needs a queen!
The King’s Castle
The Royal Palace was one of my must visit locations. Being the social butterfly that I am, I made a few Thai friends and I heard so many great stories of the things mourners do to show their respect. For example, immediately after the King’s death citizens were allowed to visit his final resting place at the Temple of Emerald Buddha. People from rural parts of the country walked hours to Bangkok to pay their respects. For others, it’s as simple as fulfilling a need. I was told that some people walk around the Palace and pick up trash as a way to pay respect to the King.
The most impactful thing I saw when arriving at the Palace was the sea of black. Hundreds of Thai people walking to the Palace wearing black and white, the official mourning colors. We lined up, men entering on the left and women on the right.
After walking through a metal detector and getting my bag searched, I walked down what could only be described as a photo wall. There were paintings of the King both young and old for people to take photos with. It was heartwarming to see people posing next to images of the musician and the engineer, the many different sides of the monarch.
I got my bag searched one last time before I was permitted past the gates and into the Palace. Well, technically outside the Palace. It costs 500 baht ($14) to enter the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha. The temple is also the final resting place for the King, so naturally there were many mourners waiting to pay their respects. The interesting thing is only Thai people are permitted to visit the body.
The Grand Palace is one of the most beautiful man-made places I’ve ever seen. I need an entire post to do it justice, so I’ll share more photos and detail in a separate post. As you’re walking out of the area with the temple you turn a corner and there it is The Palace. This grandiose estate that’s traditional yet modern. There are guards surrounding the property and only allowing you to take a few steps toward it for a photo op.
Outside the Gates
It’s when you leave the Grand Palace that you see the true kindness of the Thai people. There are street vendors offering free food, booths with free water bottles and dedicated areas for mourners to sit, eat and drink together, for free. As I walked by to take a few photos I was encouraged by multiple people to get in line and partake. Unfortunately, I had other plans. So I continued with my walk noticing all the beautiful white floral arrangements dedicated to the King and the people walking by, most wearing black.
Other interesting things I noticed was that most Thai websites have a black and white image of the King on the page that you have to close out of before you’re redirected to the website. There were also multiple television channels that solely show photos of the King with calming music playing in the background.
Did you visit Thailand during its mourning period? What did you think?