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On the 13th October, 2016, Thailand tragically lost its long-reigning and much-loved monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or Rama IX, following years of illness and decline. Now, just over a year later, the country is set to say goodbye with a suitably almighty funeral, culminating in his cremation and a large number of ceremonies that will follow. If you’re in Thailand during this time, things might be a little different – here’s what you should know.
Since the death of the late king, Thailand has been in a state of mourning. Some work sectors such as education enforced a mandatory white, grey or black clothing policy for a year to show respect for the late king during the mourning period. Whilst you may see many people wearing dark clothing during the week of the funeral events, tourists who are enjoying their travels throughout the country aren’t expected to join in – though are reminded to act with dignity and respect.
The events will see hundreds of thousands of people line the streets around the site of the funeral, so if you’re planning on staying near Wat Phra Kaew (Grand Palace) be aware that the traffic will almost certainly be at a standstill and that roads will be closed. Whilst it’s fine for tourists to watch the events, the chances of being anywhere near the cremation are minimal due to the sheer number of mourners who’ll be in attendance. Those planning on attending the funeral should adhere to a strict dress code; you should wear all black – men should don a long sleeved shirt, dress pants and dress shoes, whilst women should wear a dress that falls below the knee or skirt that extends below the knee with a blouse (not sleeveless or spaghetti strapped).
Depending on what you’re planning on doing, you may find your travel activities disrupted. The famous Full Moon Party and other celebrations on the island of Koh Phangan have been cancelled throughout the month of October, and other bars around the country will tone down their entertainment as a mark of respect, with some even closing completely. The Grand Palace – the site of the funeral – will obviously be closed, but will reopen to the public on October 30th.
7-Eleven have announced that all of their stores will close from 2:30pm to midnight on the day of the 26th, and many other popular stores such as KFC, Makro, Lotus and Big C will also see their stores closed for the day from around the 2-3pm mark; so ensure any food, snacks or drinks are purchased well in advance to avoid the closures and queues. The majority of Central department stores will also close early, and every Major Cineplex theatre will be closed for the day, so if you’re planning on watching a movie or doing some shopping, you might want to consider doing it on a different day. Popular attractions in Bangkok such as Dream World and Safari World will be closed on the 26th, as will other attractions around the country such as the Flight of the Gibbon in Chonburi and Rawai Park in Phuket. If you’re unsure on whether a place is open or not throughout the funeral, it’s advised that you get in touch with them to find out. A more exhaustive account on closures and disruptions can be found here.
It’s impossible to say exactly how it will impact you, but remember that this funeral is a big deal to millions of Thai people who’ll want to be at home watching the coverage. Many shops and restaurants will close, and you may experience hiccups in your travels plans, but after the 26th everything should be back to normal.
Absolutely. Bangkok is a huge city, and the funeral and its events are concentrated in just a small area of the city. Many boats, buses, trains and subways will operate for free or at a reduced price on the 26th, so you needn’t worry about getting around the city or being stuck in traffic, and you could use the experience to travel to different parts of Bangkok that are a little further off the beaten track.
If you’re worried about missing out on the shopping or visiting the Grand Palace, you might want to postpone your visit to Bangkok in order to be there when things are back to normal, but you’re unlikely to be affected too much by the funeral.