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.
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.
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.
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.
Why Not Pin It For Later