It has been more than 50 days since His Majesty the Late King Bhumibol’s passing and Crown Prince assumed the throne on 1st December 2016 as King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, King Rama X.
Note: The official coronation ceremony will take place after the cremation of his father.
Img Credit: Tourism Authority Thailand
National Day on 5 December
National Day, which falls on the King’s Birthday, has been celebrated on 5th December for the past 70 years. With the Late King’s passing in October, this year may be the final year where Thailand’s National Day (and Father’s Day) is celebrated on 5th December.
A birthday remembrance ceremony was held on Bhumibol Bridge (Also known as Industrial Highway Bridge) from 5.00am to 8.00am. This bridge, crossing the Chao Praya River twice, was a royal project initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol, aimed at improving transportation and the lives of people. For the first time since its opening in 2006, the bridge was closed off to public from 00:00 on 5 Dec 2016 for this special ceremony.
Together with tens and thousands of thai people, we (a small group of media and blogger representatives invited by Tourism Authority Thailand) woke up in the wee hours of the morning and made our way to the event venue.
On our way to the venue at approximately 4am, the streets were lined with people of varying age, all decked in black. Amidst the solemness, there were many people posing for photos and selfies as we made our way to the centre stage where a huge portrait of His Majesty Late King Bhumibol lies.
On the many huge LED screens, they looped videos of the various agriculture contributions and Royal Projects that His Majesty has initiated. As a special tribute and a recognition to his contributions to the agriculture scene for the Late King, soil from 77 Thailand’s provinces were mixed and divided into 19,999 packets of Royal Soil and distributed together with a memorial pin with the “9” symbol.
Note: 5th Dec has been declared as “World Soil Day” by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation since 2013, in recognition of His Majesty’s contribution in the agriculture industry.
From 5.00am, the Royal Thai Navy orchestra started playing songs that were mostly composed by His Majesty. I have no idea how they did it but the acoustics were excellent. As the sky brightened up, the unexpected colours from the sunrise came as a pleasant surprise.
The ceremony led by Deputy Prime Minster General Tanasak Patimapragornstarted started with an 89-second silence, to mark the King’s reign and life. Two songs were sang – Thai’s Royal Anthem and the song Kwam Fan An Soong Sood (The Impossible Dream) which was composed by His Majesty. Also, 999 monks from all over Thailand also gathered and sat lining the bridge. They led the mass prayers and collected alms (food/money) from the crowd who painstakingly prepared the givings beforehand. Many also brought photographs of His Majesty and lifted it up high through the singing and the prayers. Photo Credit: Tourism Authority Thailand The ceremony ended with the release of yellow and white balloons into the air. It was a really pretty and symbolic moment as it brings the colour (yellow) representing the King up and away to the skies of Bangkok.
Ceremony ended with the release of yellow and white balloons in the air. Beautiful sight instead. #flyhoneystarstravel #051216 #BhumibolBridge A video posted by flyhoneystars (@flyhoneystars) on
As we made our way down the bridge to the shuttle-van, it was amazing to see how orderly the massive crowd was. There was no pushing or shouting and the people just inch slowly ahead without much fuss. They even instructed the crowd to walk in single-file so that the volunteers could properly distribute the souvenirs for attendees. One of the books was a collection of His Majesty’s iconic speeches and teachings while the other was a pictorial life story; both in Thai.
I am really thankful to be given this once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness such a memorable, and symbolic local event. Through this experience, I really learned a lot about the importance of the Royal family in maintaining peace and stability for the Thai people. His Majesty Late King Bhumibol may be gone but he has left behind many teachings which will guide Thailand in the years ahead. From the interactions between the monks and the people, you can feel the importance of religion in their hearts. All these falls in place with the symbolism of the Thai National Flag which is a thin red stripe, white stripe, thick blue stripe followed by the white stripe and red strip. It brings together the Nation (Red) and the Religion (White) with the King (Monarchy) supporting from the center.
What has changed in Thailand following the Late King’s passing?
- Black and White Banners lining the streets
The banners which used to be gold and white has been replaced with black and white. You can see these banners all over town, hanging from the railings and ceilings and all over.
- Memorial Displays can be seen in many public and private spaces. You can leave condolences messages in the book
- Solemn Colour clothes can be seen everywhere
– From the shops at the outskirts to the shops in Chatuchak to the people around you.
While it is not a requirement for tourists to wear solemn colours, you are encouraged to follow suite. For my trip, I brought only black and white clothings and it was fine. Take this chance to shop for the most fashionable black/white dress or tops. The shopfronts will usually display the black/white pieces on the outside but you can still find the other colour clothing after you enter the shop.
- Limited Access to Grand Palace
Since 29 Oct, Thais from all over the country have been making their way to the Grand Palace to pay their respect to the Late King. The wait time is approximately 6 to 9 hours and up to 10,000 people can enter daily. If you are intending to visit the Grand Palace, be properly dressed and expect huge crowds and please note that the access areas are limited. Access to the temple of the Emerald Buddha is available.
What has not changed?
- The shopping and the night market
My all-time-favourite artisan night market ARTBOX is back at a yet another new location near Chatuchak Weekend Market.
I’ll talk more about ARTBOX in a separate post.
Also, a brand new downtown night market – Talad Neon– started operations on 1st Dec 2016. Situated at the Pratunam district, it is in the heart of all that action.
We also visited the Talad Rod Fai Train Market and it was business as usual.
- The politeness and friendliness of the thai people.
- The food remains as delicious as I can remember
The visit to the Bhumibol Bridge and the entire trip itinerary has been made possible by Tourism Authority of Thailand (Singapore)