By PRATCH RUJIVANAROM
Tiredness and having to queue for hours in the hot Bangkok sun could not diminish the people’s spirits, as tens of thousands waited patiently to pay their respects to the late King at the Grand Palace.
Yesterday was the first day that the Royal Household Bureau allowed the public to enter Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall, and huge numbers turned up to show their loyalty and express their condolences before the Royal Urn.
Since midnight on Friday, people from all around the country waited to enter the Grand Palace. The vast walkway around Sanam Luang was a throng of queuing people as early as 5am, but still they came in their droves, arriving at the venue during the morning in the hope they would be among the first to pay homage to the beloved HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
As a Thai citizen, I also queued to enter the Grand Palace yesterday. Knowing that a lot of people would come on the first day, I decided to go to Sanam Luang as early as possible to get the first queue card, and arrived there at 4am. But I discovered that thousands had already come before me and a long queue was already winding around Sanam Luang.
From night to dawn and then sunrise, people around me waited patiently for their turn to get to the Throne Hall. Most were dressed in black, but some wore white shirts and other uniforms with black ribbon bows on their chests. It was just like a black line of people circled around the Royal ground.
Due to the large numbers, the Peace and Order Maintaining Command canceled the distribution of queue cards and people were allowed to enter the Grand Palace on a quota basis.
As the sun rose high in the sky and the temperature soared, people of all ages and genders still stood firm with high hopes that it would be their turn soon.
Thongphun Pojjanakantrong, an 80-year-old woman from Roi Et, said that although she was tired of the long wait, she did not want to take a rest, as she was very eager to pay her respects to the King.
“My legs hurt and I feel tired, but there is nothing to worry about. I have my daughter taking care of me and I am sure that the long wait will end with a worthy prize,” Thongphun said, smiling. “I have travelled this far from my home. Tiredness cannot sway me from my main objective to pay homage to my beloved King.”
Many volunteers distributed food and drink, cold towels, fans and balm to the mourners, making their wait that little bit more pleasant.
After waiting almost 10 hours, it was finally my turn to go into the Grand Palace. During this procedure, there were many officers who guided us through each stage. The people in queues were grouped and led to the Throne Hall step by step.
As well as arranging for the people to enter the palace in an orderly manner, the officers also made sure people were dressed appropriately, in accordance with an earlier announcement by the Royal Household Bureau. In case of doubt, there was a free formal clothes and shoe rental facility near the palace entrance.
The atmosphere inside the palace was more somber than it was outside. The crowds were suddenly silent, as traditional Thai funeral music was played. A little later, I found myself on the steps to the Throne Hall.
The moment inside the Throne Hall was short but momentous. The officers guided us all on how to pay respects to the Royal Urn. I caught a momentary glimpse of the golden urn before praying one time to the late King.
Beforehand, I had asked some people about how they felt after paying homage to the King. They all told me that it was an emotional moment that could hardly be expressed in words, but all of their tiredness from the hours of queuing had gone.
It was exactly the way I felt. – The Nation