What does the death of Thailand’s King mean for travellers?

Thailand is in mourning after the death of their beloved King Bhumibol who passed away last Thursday, 13 October.

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej ruled Thailand for over 70 years after ascending to the throne at 18 years old. King Bhumibol was a caring ruler who worked hard for his people and also played a very important role as not only the King of Thailand but also the protector of the Buddhist faith.

King Bhumibol memorial banner

He was well loved and his passing has deeply affected the Thai people.  Those in Thailand say you can feel the sadness in the air. For many of us this will be an invaluable opportunity to witness a unique part of Thai culture, learn more of the Thai values, the importance and history of the Thai Royal Family and see how remarkable the Thai people are, and how united they can be, even if it is in grief.

During this nationwide mourning period there will be a few things you’ll need to be aware of if you are travelling in Thailand, however Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Chris Lee emphasised that “Our tourism activity will not be affected. We will just show sensitivity.”

So here’s what you need to know…

There is a National Mourning Period
Thailand is officially in a state of mourning for 30 days until 14 November; however, this could go on for longer. When the King’s sister died a few years ago, the mourning period occurred over 12 months culminating in the state funeral. It is yet to be seen how long Thailand could stay in mourning.

Khao San road - empty
Outside our Stray Shop on Khao San road on Monday 17 October – a road usually teeming with people is quiet.

Entertainment will be ‘toned down’
The government is trying to minimise the impacts on the foreign tourists while ensuring that the traditions and customs are adhered to. During the 30 days of National Mourning, all entertainment functions have been asked to ‘tone it down’. Bangkok’s red light district has shut down over this time and some night clubs are also closed. On Khao San Road bars and restaurants are open, but it is not as rowdy and pubs may close earlier than 1am. Some shopping areas, markets and boxing stadiums are also closed.

Sale of alcohol
You can still buy alcohol at convenience stores like 7/11 between 1100hr – 1400hr and 1700hr – midnight. This is also the case at some restaurants, however, music will be toned down.

Special Events
Several events have already been cancelled (see a list of cancelled events), including the Full Moon Party in Koh Phangan on Monday, 17 October, and a few more will also be cancelled during the 30 days of mourning. Other events will be scaled back in terms of music and entertainment. We do not yet know if Full Moon Parties from November onwards will be cancelled. When we receive information on this we will update it here.

Thais line up to offer condolences for Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Grieving Thais went to work dressed mostly in black Friday morning, just hours after the palace announced the death of their beloved King Bhumibol, the politically fractious country's unifying figure and the world's longest-reigning monarch. He was 88. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
Thais line up to offer condolences for Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday. Source: Daily Mail UK.  Photo: Sakchai Lalit)

 

Bangkok – Grand Palace Area
It’s going to be extremely busy around the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha as this is where the King’s body is currently at rest until the funeral. The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha will be closed until 20 October. Members of the public can sign messages of condolences for the late King at the Sahathai Samakom Pavilion, located in the Grand Palace, 8:30am to 4pm daily through Oct. 20. If you’re in the area please ensure you’re wearing respectful attire (shoulders and knees covered) as this is essentially similar to a funeral at this time. If you need to travel through the area to get to the Stray shop, please allow extra time as traffic is very congested. 

Services operating as normal
All immigration services, banks, hospitals and other public services will be operating as usual. Wat Pho and Wat Arun will be open as usual. Stray bus departures will continue to depart Bangkok on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and we don’t anticipate any changes to our departure schedules at this time.

A Thai woman weeps as she holds on to a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a line to offer condolences for the king at Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Grieving Thais went to work dressed mostly in black Friday morning, just hours after the palace announced the death of their beloved King Bhumibol, the politically fractious country's unifying figure and the world's longest-reigning monarch.(AP Photo/ Gemunu Amarasinghe)
A Thai woman weeps as she holds on to a portrait of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej in a line to offer condolences for the king at Grand Palace in Bangkok. Source: Daily Mail. Photo: Gemunu Amarasinghe)

Cultural Sensitivity
This event is unprecedented for many Thais and has had a tremendous emotional impact. It’s very important to be culturally sensitive at this time. You’ll notice the Thai people wearing black, sombre clothing as an expression of mourning. This is not to say that you need to wear black – Thai people are very understanding of how foreigners behave and dress but if you’re around funeral proceedings, around the Grand Palace in Bangkok you should try to be respectful in how you dress and behave.

Insults to the monarchy not tolerated
Any perceived insults to the monarchy could land you in serious trouble punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If a complaint is filed against you, police will formally investigate it.

Thai Media
Newspapers and some Thai websites have changed to black and white, removing colour to reflect the current state of mourning. No soap operas will be shown on TV. The Thai news media will be working hard to communicate the current situation.

Useful sources of information:

It is advised to check local media regularly and carry a photocopy of your passport on you for identity purposes.

Stray Asia operates an adventure Hop-on Hop-off network across Southeast Asia. Stray’s Passes and Flexi Tours offer a fun, flexible way get around Asia and venture off the beaten track on a private guided network. 

One Reply to “What does the death of Thailand’s King mean for travellers?”

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