By Courtney Ridgel
Before explaining what travelers may expect to see in Thailand over the next few months, we’d like to first put in context what the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadej means to the Thai people. King Bhumibol was more than simply a figure-head; he was both a living god-king and a beloved grandfather-figure to all Thais. Thai law demands reverence for the King and movie theatres always play a tribute to the King before each movie showing. Every home contains a photo of the King and he was seen a leader that truly cared and loved his people. The loss of King Bhumibol is being felt as a personal loss for every Thai person, and his seventy-year reign means that most Thais have never known another King. Additionally, he has been an advocate for peace and stability between Thailand’s competing political factions.
So, what does this mean for visiting travelers?
- Deep respect should be shown to the King and Royal Family at all times. Showing respect for King is the law (known as the lese majeste laws) and all people within Thailand, including foreigners, are required to abide by this law. The Thai people will be very sensitive during this time of mourning to any comments about the Royal Family or the current situation.
- As an official year of mourning has been implemented, all travelers should be very respectful and wear dark colors in conservative fashions for at least the next 30 days. (Be sure to keep your shoulders and knees covered – this is recommended at any time, but especially over the next month). Thais are required to wear black for the next 30 days and it is recommended for foreigners, but not required.
- The Thai government has announced that all celebrations will be toned down, and as part of this,
- Most bars and restaurants will remain open as usual, but many have closed over the weekend and may remain closed until further notice. If a bar is open, there must not be any “celebratory” behavior, out of respect. Alcohol will be sold during the usual hours of 11am-2pm and 5pm-midnight. Alcohol sales and consumption are banned for this Saturday, which is Wan Ok Phansa – the last day of Buddhist Lent (Vassa).
- Nightlife such as Soi Cowboy and some popular night clubs will be closed indefinitely. Most of our guests don’t visit these establishments, but in case this is of interest to you – these venues are considered “celebratory” and so are currently closed.
- You may see people with shaved heads. This is an outward expression of mourning in Thailand and is nothing to be alarmed about.
- The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha will be completely closed from October 14-20. They will make further announcements at a later date to say whether it will reopen after that. Government buildings are likely to be closed frequently, both to observe the national period of mourning and to accommodate large state funeral ceremonies. Other temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho will remain open. You can find more information on closings and cancellations here.
- Celebrations associated with Loy Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai have been cancelled. This means that the Grand Parade, fireworks and street parties and festivities are cancelled or prohibited. However, the releasing of the krathongs in the river and the floating lanterns will continue. So, while this is disappointing in that it won’t be as “festive” as usual it will likely be a unique Loy Krathong. In recent years, this festival has moved away from the traditional and the spiritual aspects of the festival, and more towards the party &celebrations. This year we believe that the festival will return to its roots and will be more spiritual and introspective. We don’t recommend cancelling any Loi Krathong celebrations as the main focus of the festival will remain.
We will keep monitoring the situation and we will keep all of our guests updated about new regulations, closures, and any changes to celebrations and we’ll adjust itineraries for our travelers accordingly. That said, we do feel that the situation merits any cancellations at this time.