Waiting for the King
Today was immense; I joined the nation of Thailand in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej who died yesterday. I was at the Grand Palace yesterday and there were lots of official government vehicles coming into the palace where they had a reception, a lot of people came out crying, I think it must have been when the king died, I tried to find out what was going on and it seemed as if the ladies told me he was very ill, which I knew anyway, but I thought maybe he was getting worse, it wasn’t until I went back to my hotel and turned on the news to see what was happening that I heard he had died.
The nation of Thailand absolutely adore their king he is highly thought of, not just because he is royalty but because during his reign he changed the country for the better, he has been on the throne for 70 years and I’m sure if our Queen died we would be the same.
The outpouring of grief from the Thai people was awesome, they all wore black or white today and I mean all, the only colour visible was from the umbrellas people used to shade themselves from the sun, while they waited for the king to be taken from the hospital where he died to the Grand Palace where he will spend possibly a year while the country mourns.
While I was at the road side waiting for the entourage, which passed by the street my hotel was on, I met three lovely Thai people who could speak good English and they told me a bit about the royal family and the history. Their name were Varalee, Vivanya and Paveen and they were brother and two sisters, they were off work for the day because it had been declared a national holiday.
I wanted to go to the museums today and take a boat ride and visit the Grand Palace again but these things were closed due to the death of the king so I thought I might as well join the mourners and be a part of history.
We were told originally that he would be coming between 1pm and 2pm but he didn’t actually come until after 4pm, so we were all waiting in the terrible heat to watch his car pass, en route to the palace, many people fainted and had to be given ammonia to revive them.
Everyone was dressed in black or white and they turned up in their droves on tuk tuks, coaches, buses, cars, taxis etc., they were all dropped off near my hotel which was on the main route to the Palace, there were thousands lining this particular piece of road which was just across the bridge from the hospital in which he died, one of the main roads in Bangkok.
The military was out in force and army recruits were lining the route, special bomb squad police also did thorough checks to make sure everyone was safe and I did think that the police presence was not enough but I was shocked at how dignified everybody was, not that I judge the people I just thought that because he was so revered that I would see something akin to when Lady Diana died but it was nothing like that, it was much more reserved.
Before the procession approached we were all asked politely by the military to make a y (this means put your hands together as if in prayer and bow your head) we were told to sit down to ensure everyone could see and also to ensure everyone was physically below the king and members of the monarchy and to be silent when the king passed, take off sunglasses, put down umbrellas. I did think that with this many people that would be difficult to achieve but they did it. I have never seen such a respectful dignified mass of people ever.
The silence when the official cars passed was awesome, the only sounds were the birds tweeting and the amount of people there was tremendous, all roads were full of people, some crying but in a dignified way, I didn’t see any outpourings of grief just silent sniffles.
I was told by the girls I spoke to that the country would prefer the princess to become Queen but she would never compete against her brother the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. The king had four children the Crown Price being the only boy and therefore the King in waiting.
Vivanya and Varalee told me what to look out for in the entourage, they said that a Buddhist monk would lead the procession because the king is Buddhist and this is normal for a Buddhist faith, then the king would follow in the grey van, no doubt it was reinforced and bulletproof, then the Crown prince would be behind in the Royal vehicle. When the entourage actually came through there were very many cars, I thought they were never ending, with all the officials cars too.
Once he had passed, everyone made a dignified exit, there was no pushing and shoving, just everyone taking it slow, all the roads around the area were jammed with people, it took a long time for them all to disperse, the mood was just like you had been to a funeral and you were fondly remembering the person who died, so there was laughter and crying and a whole mix of feelings.
I felt honoured to have taken part in the nations mourning and I was honoured to sit with the lovely Thai people and watch their king go to the Palace where he will rest in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha until his cremation in the Royal fields called Sanam Luang opposite the palace probably in a years’ time, I was also told by Vivanya that the king would be mourned for a year and people would wear black every day for this especially government and civil workers.