Several days ago while in Chiang Mai, John and I found a cinema with movies in their original language. We popped in to see The Girl on the Train. At the end of the previews, pictures of the king of Thailand, Bhumibol Adulyadej, flashed on the screen, accompanied by what I assumed was the Thai national anthem.
Everyone in the theater rose. Out of respect to local customs, John and I rose as well. We have been told by expats here that the king is highly revered and cautioned about strict lese majeste laws that forbid any negative discussions of the royal family.
King Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch, died on Thursday and the entire nation genuinely mourns his passage.
Today, Lub d, the cool hostel where we’re staying, posted some behaviour and dress quidelines for us tourists.
The synopsis: Do/say something deemed disrespectful and you can be arrested.
Yesterday, John and I made our way to the central pier to take a boat trip through Bangkok’s canals. The streets were subdued with people dressed in black or white. Thousands of citizens were standing in lines at each ferry port, patiently waiting to board a ferry for the Royal Palace to pay their respects.
Tourism continued, however. For $60, we had a private, two-hour boat tour down the rolling Chao Phrya River and into the canals.
The residences along the canals run the gamet from the homes of the well-to-do to those much less fortunate.
The canals are also home to water monitors, close relatives of komodo dragons. We saw two, one was huge, about six-feet long, while the other was much smaller, but still rather intimidating.
The canals were also teeming with fish — which explained what the monitors feast on.
Thirty-one years ago when John last visited Bangkok, the drivers flew through the canals at break-neck speeds. Nowadays, it’s a much slower ride which gives you a chance to take in the sites — temples galore.
Then it was back on the river and riding the waves churned up by all the traffic. It was kind of like being in the ocean on a longboat.
We spent the evening at the Patpong Night Bazaar. It was very quiet. The bars were empty and the few ladies of the evening we saw were without customers. No public drinking or revelry is allowed during the next 30 days.
The somber mood prevailed this morning as we ventured out to the Chatuchak market.
It was a good market, but I preferred the public park next door.
We met the daughter of one of our neighbors for lunch at an excellent Lebanese restaurant. Kori works as a teacher here in Bangkok. We’ll see her next when she comes home for the holidays.
Tomorrow, we fly to Cambodia, leaving a nation in mourning. May Thailand’s next monarch be as beloved as King Adulyadej.