Thursday, October 26, 2017

The King and I

Rama IX, King Bhumibol Adulyadej
As Thailand prepared for the cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, I couldn't resist posting about him and some of my memories of Bangkok at the time when Thais mourned over the loss of their beloved leader.

"More than a year after his death, Thailand prepares for a final goodbye to their beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej," says the news. Cremation took place on Thursday, October 26, 2017. That reminded me of photos I haven't posted yet. These are photos of my travel to Bangkok almost a year ago!!!! Oooopppsss... sorry for this late post 😭😭😭 I'm sure to get a spanking from my family for this!

Well, how fortunate of me to have been given the opportunity by my institution to attend an international conference in Bangkok, Thailand. Billy, my husband, was also invited to deliver a lecture on Mathematics at Silpakorn University. You call that coincidence? I call it providence.

The conference flyer
What do I know about Thailand? That Siam is its old name, yes! (Well, I first learned that from the famous movie musical, The King and I, which my mother and I watched on a black and white TV when I was in grade school. This well-loved and award-winning movie, that starred Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr, has transcended age and time and has even become my daughters' fave musical, too!)

Knowing about the death of the King aroused so much curiosity in me as to the lineage of the King. I had to read about the movie, The King and I, and search about the King's family tree. Forgive my ignorance, but it was only then that I seemed to get the connection between entertainment and history. Now I know that Rama IV - King Mongkut (played by Yul Brynner) passed his title to Rama V - Prince Chulalongkorn (played by Patrick Adiarte) in the movie. History tells that Prince Chulalongkorn brought about an end to slavery in Thailand by issuing a proclamation eliminating the practice of bowing down to him. That was meaningful information I learned as the conference I attended was held at the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital.

Here are photos of the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital (photos courtesy of my husband as I didn't get a chance to take photos of the facade before and after the conference).

Built by King Rama VI as a memorial for King Chulalongkorn, his father, the King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital was mandated by King Rama VI to be the most elegant and popular hospital in the Orient. With its modern medical equipment, this hospital has taken the lead in medical services as home to the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, known as the center of medical research.

Searching the net on the King's family tree tells me that King Mongkut was Rama IV, King Chulalongkorn, Mongkut's son was the Great Rama V, and King Bhumibol Adulyadej was the Great Rama IX.

Attending this conference allowed me, not only to visit Thailand for the first time, but also to witness how its people showed reverence to their King.

We (my family and I) arrived in Bangkok when Thais were mourning for the death of their beloved King. Before we left for Bangkok, we read travel tips warning tourists to consider wearing muted colors as a sign of respect, although it was not mandatory.

Upon arrival at the airport, we found these flyers with suggestions during the mourning period.

Black ribbons were made available for free in many places for visitors and tourists who didn't have black shirts on. The black ribbon was a ready option to be worn with dark-colored blouses or shirts.

I liked this black ribbon display that has caught my attention while window shopping at the mall. 

I brought along more dark-colored than black tops, however, on our 3rd day, my husband called my attention against wearing floral prints. Thanks to my daughter, Ayana Grace, who was generous enough to lend me her black shirt. Sad to say, I didn't like it very much on me 😭 so just look at the background and appreciate the view of the Grand Palace. 😄

Me posing in front of the Grand Palace
Below are other photos of me wearing my daughter's black shirt.
Big deal eh?! Yes, big deal! See my sardonic smile.
Taken at China Town at night
 And here's another one taken at Wat Arun.
Me at Wat Arun 
Please don't look at me! Rather, see the intricate design of the structure behind me. Oh, wait, here's a closer look of the temple spire. That's one of the four spires of Wat (temple) Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn. I tell you, they are amazingly and beautifully made! Located on the western bank of Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun is one of the most impressive and most visited temples in Bangkok. At first, I confess, I was hesitant to visit the place, but seeing all these for art's sake, I had no regrets. See the photos below.

Wat Arun is said to light up with flood lights creating an impressive sight
from either side of Chao Phraya River. 

The main spire was surrounded by scaffolding at the time of our visit.
Well, this visit wouldn't have been complete without a family photo ops so here we go!

The Four Sisons with the main spire of Wat Arun at the background
 You may still appreciate the meticulous artistry even with the scaffolds surrounding the structure. Here's another pose with one of the four spires that has already been renovated. 

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) as seen from the other side of Chao Phraya River
We waited for the temple lights until beyond 6:00 pm but to our disappointment, the  temple didn't show its lights. The Thai storekeeper near the bank of the river told us the temple lights were off since the King's death. We then left the place, sad that we missed one of Thailand's beautiful tourist attractions at sunset. Good that I was able to capture all these while waiting for the setting of the sun.

You can see the main spire of Wat Arun from the other side of the river. 

It was amazing to observe how Thais from different areas of the country paid respect to their King. They set up altars in public places.

 at the park

inside the train stations

King Adulyadej and his Queen Sirikit  

The King, the Queen and I

There were altars in tents along the streets.

A long queue of mourners clad in black, unmindful of the scorching heat of the sun,
are seen patiently waiting to be allowed entry inside the Grand Palace to view their King.
Our Chinese/Korean features made some people think we were among the mourners who patiently waited to view the King. We were also given packed meals and drinks while walking down the streets on our way to these tourist attractions.

At the conference, the organizers allowed five minutes of silence during the Opening Ceremonies to convey condolences to His Majesty, the King. They also showed sympathy to the Thai participants in their bereavement by setting up this  photo booth with the portrait of the King guarded on both sides by beautiful floral peacock arrangement. 

Photo ops with the King at the photo booth
I was torn between my desire to pose for photo ops and being wary lest I block the portrait of the King on the wall.

The Conference organizers, during the Fellowship Night, featured the Thai Classical Ensemble to perform some Royal music composed by His Majesty. Here's a portion of their performance.

While strolling around Siam Paragon, I was fortunate to capture the making of a mural in honor of the King. I was mesmerized watching the artists' hands gliding on the wall with their paintbrushes, drawing several images of the King. Such amazing work of art I personally witnessed in action!

There was no doubt about how the Thais dearly loved and respected their King. The king's face is featured in all Thai currency denominations.

In fact, as of this writing, I learned that the Bank of Thailand has released a new set of banknotes in all denominations in remembrance of the king. The Commemorative banknotes feature portraits of King Adulyadej in front, and stories of his lifetime at the back.

The death of 88-year old King Bhumibol Adulyadej was seen as an end to more than 70-year reign of one who is popularly known to preserve Thailand through efforts at stabilizing the nation. Highly respected all over the country, King Adulyadej also known as Rama IX, Thailand's and the world's longest reigning monarch, has earned the admiration and respect by many Thais and was even regarded as a demi-god. 

I like these photo of the King. I love how his image depicts a countenance of selflessness, generosity and compassion for which he is known among his people. 

The Conference Photo Booth
Here's this video from BBC News that I would like to share with you. It will surely touch your hearts the way it touched mine. It tells of the grand work made in preparation for the farewell to Thailand's most loved King Adulyadej. It will also allow you to take a glimpse of his person, his achievements, as well as his leadership. Please do click link below to view "Building heaven in a year". 

Goodbye, King Adulyadej! I may not have seen you face-to-face but my memories of Thailand will always include special thoughts of you. May  your rest in peace.

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