Backpacking through Thailand is by far one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in my life. All of the laughter shared with new friends and old complimented the beautiful, breathtaking views of this tropical country. Now, an unexpected event has truly changed Thailand, and its people, forever.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej held the throne for a staggering 69 years before his death in October 2016. I’ll be honest, when I travelled Thailand I didn’t really know, nor overly care, who the king was, I was just there to have fun, let loose and forget life back home.
When sitting in a rooftop bar with another traveller called Aron, he brought the king into the conversation. This is when I first found out about his ill health. I looked at my phone to check the time, and as I did, I said an ‘out of the blue’ time that I thought the king would pass the next day, almost like a bet with Aron, (is that wrong?). The following day, news broke that King Bhumibol Adulyadej had died at the age of 88 bang on the time I had said the day before.
As I done every day, I walked out of my hotel heading to the shops for some water. Halfway down the little street I feel that something didn’t feel the same as usual, people are usually chatting, playing music, socializing outside with drinks. Today everyone was quiet. Do they actually worship this guy so much? Apparently, they do, and I mean they adore him. Thai people were visibly upset, and tourists didn’t really know how to react to the situation.
Stupidly, I start wondering if there is going to be any nightlife on Koh Phi Phi Island where I currently was, it is renowned for fantastic nightlife and party scene. I wanted to party! An immediate ban was placed on alcohol, so it was somewhat hard to get any drink from bars, however, some were willing to risk the police and their license. Gutted I was, I think I sat at the bar with my legendary Thailand drink …. The Bucket! Basically a bucket is a cheap Thailand Whisky in a bucket with Coke and Ice.(Remember, drinking was currently illegal), but anyway … this ****’s you up, but that’s what most tourists are there for, to get f****d up! If you’re more of a “flashpacker” and have more cash to spend, then you might get the more expensive buckets, like Vodka Redbull or Jack Daniels and Coke. But for 150 baht, a bucket filled with cheap Whisky and coke, you can’t really complain. Anyway…. Back to the king …. Sitting with my bucket I start to check online to see exactly what is happening, and I see the entire country has come to a standstill. All TV channels were playing a tribute to the king, and there was a ban on all types of entertainment, (Music and such …).
Now I’m starting to realize; these guys are genuinely upset, actually mourning as though he was a blood relative. The night went on, the fire shows were still showing on the beach for the tourists that decided to come out. I think I had two buckets and ended up heading back to my hotel.
As I move on from Koh Phi Phi, I notice new billboards everywhere, signs attached to buildings, a photo of just the king’s face. Speaking to local people and people within our hotel I learn a lot as to why the Thai people respect this guy so much, he made the Thai economy boom, the country started moving toward democracy and he supported the war on drugs. He listened to what the Thai people had to say.
My trip in Thailand was coming to an end, by now I had definitely changed my view on the entire situation. This guy is loved, adored and worshipped, it’s such a beautiful thing seeing everyone come together to support each other throughout the country. In Bangkok alone, 60,000 people per day were visiting the royal palace to show to their respects. That’s a lot of people!
I can only imagine the feeling he would have experienced knowing how many people adored every inch of him.
From 9th June 1946 to 13th October 2016 King Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled over Thailand, he has left his mark on the land, and will forever be in each and every Thai person’s heart, and even those who have visited the country for decades of his reign.
I send my best wishes to all of the amazing Thai people I’ve met and all of those I didn’t get to meet. Every one of you is proud of your country, proud of its values and accomplishments, and for that, I salute you; we need this kind of loyalty all over the world.
RIP King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
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