This October sees the funeral take place of late Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej, an event which will bring Bangkok to a standstill.
The king was Thailand’s longest reigning monarch, sitting on the throne for over 70 years from June 1946 until his death, aged 88, in October 2016. Most Thais had never known another king, and with the monarchy so highly revered in the Southeast Asian country, a year of mourning that began with his death has been deeply felt.
During those 12 months, extensive preparations have been underway for his funeral, an event that will last five days and has an estimated cost of US$90 million. Royal funeral chariots have been restored, an urn has been made to hold the king’s ashes, and a huge temporary crematorium has been constructed in Sanam Luang, the huge square in the centre of Bangkok, next to the Grand Palace, that has been the setting for previous funerals.
It’s here, where on 26 October, the coffin holding the king’s body will be brought on the royal chariot, pulled by hundreds of men. After a memorial service and khon (a Thai dance performance generally reserved for royalty) have taken place, a pyre made up of rare kalamet tree wood will be lit after sunset and the king will be cremated. Next morning his ashes will be collected in the specially-made urn and transported to the Grand Palace and then to their final resting place in the Chakri Mahaprasat hall.
Visitors to Bangkok during this period can expect huge crowds and disruption to transport, and are expected to show respect for the proceedings. Elsewhere in the country, visitors are asked to show the same level of respect but, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, there’s no need to change any travel plans.