By Courtney Ridgel
As several months have passed since King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away, we wanted to give our travelers an update on what they can expect when visiting the Grand Palace.
When King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away in October, official mourning was declared, meaning that:
For the first 30 Days: A month of Deep Mourning was required for all Thai people. All public buildings were required to display the king’s photo and many created small memorials to him. Many public billboards displayed photos of the King and black and white drapes could be seen throughout Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Most of these memorials and displays can still be seen.
For the first 100 Days: This marks the traditional Buddhist mourning period and allows Thais to ‘make merit’ for the dead. The majority of Thai people and expats followed this period, by choosing to continue wearing black beyond the required 30 day period. The closing for the cleaning of the Grand Palace was marking the end of the 100 days of mourning. Now you will begin to see more and more people wearing colors other than black.
For a full year: All government and public service officials are required to mourn for a year and wear only black, or black and white. The King’s body will lie in state for this full year, and citizens from all across Thailand have been traveling to Bangkok to pay their final respects. Some of the well-wishers take 7 hour bus rides from the far provinces of Thailand to sit on the sidewalks in the sun through the heat of the day to await their turn to enter the Royal Palace. Once inside, the hallways are converted into queues for those wishing to see the King, and pay their last respects.
Outside the palace, the army, navy, police, nurses, firemen and volunteers all have aid stations to care for, shelter, feed and provide first aid the mourners. Volunteers also collect garbage to keep the streets clear. Taxi drivers have been giving Thai citizens rides to the Palace for free. Overall, there is a strong feeling of unity and general kindness.
Right now the government and the Royal Family are preparing for the cremation of the King. The Fine Arts Department is under the process of designing this ‘royal funeral pyre’, which is expected to be completed by the end of September and will be double the size of the funeral pyres of previous Thai kings. (This same department painted a nice mural outside the Palace representing the life of the King and his hobbies.) This process involves royal ceremonies of ritual homage and religious ceremonies both before and after the pyre. Our team will continue to monitor for Palace and government building closures. Last Saturday, the Grand Palace was closed to mark the end of the 100-day Buddhist mourning period, and the entire area was cleaned and the aid stations were reduced from 17 to 6 locations to make way for the construction. You can find more information about the construction of the royal funerary process here.
What this means for travelers:
– Be aware that visitors to the Grand Palace are still expected to dress entirely in ‘mute’ colors – black or dark navy. Avoid wearing red or maroon out of respect. Visitors showing too much skin (i.e. – tank tops, shorts, etc.) will not be permitted to enter the Grand Palace. Our guides have told us that they recommend close-toed shoes, although you may get by with sandals.
– It may take longer than usual to approach, enter and exit the Grand Palace due the number of visitors, and parts of the Palace may be restricted for foreign travelers or closed altogether. You will need to pass through multiple security checkpoints and any bags are subject to search.
– Please remember that 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. Additionally, the Thai people loved their King and deeply mourn his passing.