In Bangkok for the King of Thailand’s Birthday

Park on the King of Thailand's Birthday

With the recent passing of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej, there has been a lot of coverage about the country’s public mourning and the way it has affected tourists. There have also been plenty of travel blogs on the situation, including this insightful one by Travel Lexx on Why You Shouldn’t Cancel Your Trip To Thailand After King’s Death. For those not in the know, it may be hard to understand the effect the king’s sad passing has had. Much of it stems from the deep love the people had for him. I know I certainly didn’t appreciate it when I visited Bangkok for the first time. Thankfully it didn’t take me long to learn as I had happened to visit Bangkok the week of the King of Thailand’s Birthday.

Bangkok Streets on the King of Thailand's Birthday

I’ve developed a habit of stumbling into these kinds of situations, be it local festivals or royal birthdays. My first inkling that something was going on when I was walking down towards Khao San Road and noticed a lot of the locals and street vendors wearing yellow t-shirts. I mean a lot! Many of them were in fact also selling yellow t-shirts but unlike most places in this part of Bangkok, the customers were also local.

Some friends and I grew inquisitive and asked what was going on. We learned that it was a week-long celebration of the king’s birthday on December 5 and that yellow was the royal colour. We were also told that there would be a huge festival on the day, which is also celebrated as Father’s Day. Unfortunately my friends had left Thailand before the 5th, but I was still in Thailand then so I knew I had to stick around for the big day.

Bangkok Crowds on the King of Thailand's Birthday

In the evening, I wandered down in the direction of the temple, the streets even busier than usual. When I reached the major intersection by Sanam Luang Park, I realised the enormity of the celebrations taking place. The huge roads that ran by were all barricaded off and in places of cars was a sea of yellow, both people and lights. A head of me were thousands and thousands of locals and an electric, positive atmosphere. Right down the major roads yellow ferry lights hung from the trees, utterly transforming the once major through road.

Down one side of the street, a seemingly never-ending parade marched by. It appeared to include everyone from school kids to armed forces. After watching the parades for a while, I ventured off into Sanam Luang Park where around the outside there was a ring of food stalls selling everything you could imagine. With a quick look there, I moved on into the vast field of people picnicking on the grass and looking over towards a huge stage that had been erected in the park. The stage had a screen showing live footage of performances and speeches and thousands of eyes glued to it.

Bangkok Parade on the King of Thailand's Birthday

Later in the evening while I was having dinner, the fireworks began. And I don’t just mean the official ones near the Royal Palace, but random ones going off even a block over from where I was eating. The first one certainly made a few people jump. The rest of the night was filled with sporadic fireworks and no sign of the celebrations dying down. What was quite interesting was how few tourists were involved, the majority of people simply passionate locals.

The entire day made it perfectly clear to me how revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej was by the people of Bangkok. Seeing the celebrations for the Thai king’s birthday then, made me appreciate today the extent of the public mourning for the late king. With that, it makes sense why they would ask visitors to act in a manner befitting the current atmosphere and show respect to a country who has lost a beloved leader.


Have you visited Thailand during the celebrations for the King of Thailand’s Birthday? Or witnessed another country mourning a fallen leader? Please share in the comments below.

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In Bangkok for the King of Thailand's Birthday, via @travelsewhere


This post is part of Wanderful Wednesday at SnowinTromso and The Weekly Postcard over at Two Traveling Texans. Please head on over for more great posts.

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18 Comment

  1. I actually didn’t know how respected the king of Thailand was until I heard about his passing and read the countless articles about it that followed. I’m sure Norwegians would take the passing of their king very deeply too. It’s so interesting for me to learn more about as I come from a country without any royals…

    1. David says: Reply

      It can be hard to appreciate the love for royalty if you don’t come from a country with royals I agree. I was blown away by how big a deal it was.

  2. Wow – what an incredible experience for you. And solidarity between the locals. My Aunt is Thai, but lives in England and I remember she once stopped eating certain foods because the king was ill and she believed this solidarity would help. I really love your photos too – I really struggle with night time photography, but the lights have come out so well here.

    1. David says: Reply

      I was really lucky with these shots as they were with my old camera which struggled. I can believe that sort of solidarity now after seeing the birthday celebrations and recent mourning.

  3. This must have been such an interesting thing to stumble upon! It’s pretty rare that a huge festival in a touristy place is filled with mostly locals, but I guess it makes sense since it was a celebrating of their king! I had no idea that he was so loved!

  4. I am amazed at how much their loved their leader and still celebrate him after his passing. Definitely going to share this.

  5. galanda23 says: Reply

    Wow, the king seems to be quite loved and respected in Thailand.

  6. I love that they care so much. We wouldn’t even have a day off here…the birthday celebrations look so fun

  7. It must have been a great experience. The tree decorations look amazing.

  8. I think to have been the longest reigning monarch (at the time of his death) commands a certain respect from his country. To have given his life to the people of Thailand since he was 19 is incredible and a festival like this each to celebrate his birthday would be amazing to experience. Love your night photos.

    1. David says: Reply

      I definitely agree, his life long service to his country and goodwill certainly makes the love for him make sense.

  9. Anisa says: Reply

    Wow, I had no idea. I only starting hearing about how much he was loved once he died. I actually went to Thailand in mid-Dec so I just missed the birthday……Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. David says: Reply

      Pity you missed out on the celebrations but I’m sure you had a great time regardless. Thanks for reading Anisa.

  10. What a great time to be there. You were so fortunate to have experienced his birthday. I’ve only been to Thailand once, and that was many years ago (more than I’m willing to admit to). I think it must be time to go back.

  11. What a cool experience. My husband’s family were expats in Thailand while he was growing up and his step family is Thai so they know all about how revered the king was by the people. I’ve only been once and it was during a heat wave and I was sick so sadly, I didn’t really enjoy it. I’d like to go back sometime so I can get a better opinion of it. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  12. I didn’t realise the passing of a King could have such a profound affect on the general public. Being an Aussie we very rarely get affected by the passing of major public figures – more it will be a little gossip for a few days then onto the next issue of the day.

    1. David says: Reply

      As a fellow Aussie I understand what you mean, we don’t have the ingrained love for public figures like this.

  13. Wowhhh, such a nice experience you have shared with us! Next year I will plan. Nice post.

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