Thais say goodbye to their King

I’m not a big fan of royalty but the respect and love that Thais have for their deceased King is impressive. Hua Hin basically shut down from 2 pm yesterday and pretty much everything is closed today as the all-day funeral and cremation ceremonies are held in Bangkok.

The shutdown reminds me of the holiest days of Ramadan in Indonesia, but is far more intense here. Thais are wearing black today, as they have for much of the past year. There will be ongoing ceremonies all day in all 76 Thai provinces.

DSC_0725In Hua Hin, the main ceremony will be at the spacious grounds of the Wat Huay Mongkol (above) just west of town. The area is sure to be a traffic and crowd nightmare, but the difficulties of such will not be a problem for the Thais.

The Thai news is consumed by all this, of course. Here’s what we posted today at Hua hin Expat News:

Fly Over Funeral Site in This Official Drone Footage

Watch live coverage of the ceremonies

Thailand kicks off sumptuous funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Thailand on Wednesday marked the start of a lavish, five-day funeral for King Bhumibol Adulyadej with a Buddhist religious ceremony attended by senior members of its royal family.

King Bhumibol, who died last year aged 88, will be cremated tonight on a royal pyre within a cremation complex of gold pavilions in front of Bangkok’s Grand Palace, in a ceremony that is expected to draw about 250,000 mourners.

Thailand has observed a year of mourning for King Bhumibol, who was regarded as a pillar of stability during a reign of seven decades that witnessed political upheaval and rapid development in the Southeast Asian nation.

“It’s overwhelming,” said one mourner, Aporn Wongdee, 60, who hails from the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat. “I’ve been here for two days already and I want to see our father to heaven.”

A sum of $90 million has been set aside for the funeral, the likes of which has never been seen in Thailand, officials involved in the funeral preparations said.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn, known as Rama X, who inherited the throne in December on his father’s death, arrived at the Grand Palace by car on Wednesday as soldiers dressed in red uniforms and black hats stood to attention.

He was flanked by his two daughters. Live television images from inside the palace showed the king lighting candles in front of his father’s coffin and a symbolic royal urn.

The Buddhist funeral ceremony, mixed with Hindu rituals, was attended by 119 Buddhist monks who chanted prayers in the ancient Pali language.

Queues of black-clad mourners, many carrying portraits of the king, snaked around parts of Bangkok’s old town, waiting to enter the cremation area. By mid-afternoon, 25,000 mourners had gathered around the cremation site, city police said.

In what is expected to be an emotionally charged morning, King Bhumibol’s body will be moved on Thursday from the Grand Palace to a crematorium in a public square in front, where thousands of people have already pitched tents to ensure places.

Today, three processions will make their way from the palace to the cremation site – a series of specially erected Thai pavilions that took nearly a year to build.

Some Thais have folded flowers of sandalwood paper to be used in the cremation, in the belief that their fragrance guides the soul of the departed to heaven.

The cremation day has been declared a national holiday, when banks will be closed and major shopping centers will be shut from 3 p.m. – Reuters

Foreigners join mourning Thais

As hundreds of thousands of Thai mourners swarmed the Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds Wednesday, ahead of the royal cremation ceremony today for the late King, some foreigners also came to join the nation in bidding a final farewell to the beloved late King of Thailand.

Most foreigners wandering around absorbing the atmosphere were dressed casually, as Thais gathered to pay their final respects to the late King. However, some foreigners were seen wearing black mourning attire as they waited to participate in the event.

“This is a moment of history,” said Kristine Gould in her late 50s, who traveled on Wednesday from Chiang Mai province, where she has been living for 10 years, to participate in the ceremony with her friend.

“Even though we are Americans, a part of our hearts is Thai; we need to be here,” Gould said.

“Your king is our king,” said Veronica Taylor, 60. Taylor is an American who lives in Phuket. She said she has been living in Thailand on and off for more than 40 years. “I’m proud to be a part of this historic moment,” she said.

The two American women were among a large number of mourners queuing up at a security checkpoint in front of the Royal Hotel, also known as the Rattanakosin Hotel, to watch the royal cremation ceremony.

Gould said she was “so impressed” by how Thais have come together at this time.

“It’s amazing. I think it’s an example for the whole world, how they come together, how they serve each other, how they look after each other,” she said.

Not far from Sanam Luang, the street and pavements along nearby Khao San Road, usually swarming with multitudes of tourists from all over the world, seemed less lively Wednesday.

Most foreigners interviewed along the areas adjacent to Sanam Luang said they were aware of the passing of the late King and today’s historic ceremony at nearby Sanam Luang. However, although the majority of foreigners interviewed said they knew about the royal cremation ceremony, there were some that were not aware of the event.

A couple who traveled from Italy said they had no knowledge of the ceremony.

“We knew about the passing of the late King but not the royal cremation ceremony,” said Nunzio Quatteone, in his late 40s. However, they said they do not regret coming to Thailand during the royal cremation ceremony because they will have a chance to be part of this historic occasion.

“We are lucky to be here and feel the ‘Thai energy’,” said Fabienne Sarrus, 40, from France.

Some who knew about the ceremony were startled by its scale.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this,” exclaimed Felix Michalski, a native of Germany. “I’m so amazed to see how all the people in the streets are coming to support the late King.”

Michalski and his Brazilian friend Falio Diluia, 23, also said they respect the people participating in the event and would probably attend the royal cremation ceremony.

Anna Walters, 22, from England, said she thinks it is quite an experience to witness such a historic event in Thailand. She added that she can see the places she intends to visit next time she comes back.

Janjaree Sawangsang, a flight attendant who volunteered to provide information to foreigners in Khao San Road, said most foreigners approaching her for information were aware of the ceremony and were not hampered by the event.

“They understand and even expressed their empathy,” Janjaree, in her late 40s, said.

The orderliness of the scene captivated them. For others, the sheer scale and grandeur of the funeral pyre and associated religious structures built to honor the late King were “breathtaking”.

“I feel safe and inspired. Everything is well organized,” said Oksentiuk Myroskava, 28, from Ukraine.

Myroskava said she thinks this kind of event “connects the country”.

“It’s amazing. They support each other with food and everything. People are also asking me ‘do you need help?’” she added.

“Our countries would not respect our leader with this kind of reverence,” added Myroskava’s Canadian partner Vince Rees, 37. The couple added, “We are proud to be here.” – Bangkok Post

Thais unite to bid farewell

Whenever their fellow Thais endure grief or difficult times, people from all walks of life in Thailand always show they have plenty of compassion and often offer unconditional help in whatever form they can. It is no exception today as the nation mourns and says goodbye to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Tens of thousands of mourners have made their way from different parts of the country to reserve space around Sanam Luang in Bangkok to observe in person the royal cremation for the late King.

On Wednesday, tens of thousands passed security checkpoints to secure a prime spot to view the ceremony. The government expects more than 100,000 mourners will gather around the ceremony site.

As high as the number of mourners is, many others have registered as volunteers to help the event pass smoothly.

The five-day royal cremation rites will run until Sunday with the royal cremation taking place tonight.

Providing information on etiquette during the ceremony is an essential task of a group of volunteers. Others are assigned to help out with providing transportation to and from the royal cremation venue.

A large number of volunteers will also ensure there are sufficient food and beverages provided to mourners. First aid and medical services are also in place, thanks to a variety of medical volunteer teams from both state and private hospitals and medical centers.

At least 20,000 security volunteers have also been trained to ensure calm and order are kept at the maximum.

These volunteers have shown they are doing their work from the heart. Compared to what the late King had done for his people in the seven decades under his reign through his many royal development projects, his numerous visits to rural communities, and his words of wisdom that have become the guiding light for the nation, they may feel that their acts of compassion are incomparable.

In addition to contributions from individuals, private sector entities are also engaged to take part in such acts of giving. Transport and telecom companies have provided free services for mourners, for example.

As the country’s unifying force, the late King helped Thais survive times of crisis. This time, and particularly this week, Thais have unified again in their volunteering efforts. Their remarkable compassion reminds many of what happened in 2011 when floods ravaged homes and farmlands, turning 65 provinces into disaster zones.

As flood victims ran out of food, were stuck in their homes or endured grief, volunteers went out to offer food and drinking water, to get them out of their flooded homes and assist with anything they could during their stay at temporary shelters.

The volunteering spirit of many Thais demonstrates the kind and giving nature of people who lived under the late King’s reign.

For Thursday’s ceremony, thousands of mourners have been camped out on pavements since Monday to bid a final farewell to the revered monarch, whose 70-year reign touched the heart and soul of every Thai. Many of them said that thoughts of the late monarch helped them battle heavy rains and heat. Some said the physical hardship they endured over the past week is little when they thought of the late King’s work in his lifetime.

In other provinces, people also attended ceremonial activities in their home towns.

After this final farewell, Thais should continue doing good deeds by volunteering to help those in need. We should never forget that such an act of compassion is a meaningful way of paying tribute to the beloved late King, Rama IX. – Bangkok Post

About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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