It’s been just over a year since Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away at the age of 88.
The world’s longest-reigning monarch, his death on October 13, 2016 plunged the nation into a year of mourning, many choosing to wear black the entire period as a sign of respect for the man who’s often called the “father of the nation.”
And now, Thailand is preparing to say a final goodbye to its beloved king.
Following a year of preparations, a Royal Cremation Ceremony filled with ancient rites, colorful performances and grand street processions will be held October 25-29 in Bangkok’s historic Sanam Luang area, where a large, three-tiered 50-meter-high golden Royal Crematorium featuring the work of dozens of skilled artists has been built.
Tourists heading to Thailand this week might be wondering how the five-day Royal Cremation Ceremony will impact their travel plans and whether they should avoid Bangkok during this period.
According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), which has issued a series of guidelines and information to assist travelers with their planning, visitors are more than welcome during this historic period.
“During this time, we ask tourists and visitors for their understanding and patience should they experience any inconveniences,” says the organization in a statement.
“We assure you that the Thai people remain as warm and hospitable as ever, and visitors to the kingdom at this sensitive time will get to see the great love and reverence the people have for their beloved late King as they pay a final tribute and farewell.”
Ceremonies and closures
The area around Sanam Luang – a large, outdoor plaza adjacent to the Grand Palace – will be open to the public throughout the five-day cremation ceremony but travelers should expect huge crowds as hundreds of thousands of Thais travel to the site to pay their final respects to their king.
A few popular sites in the area have been closed. These include Bangkok’s Grand Palace, where the king’s body now lies. It will be closed from October 1-29.
The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Vimanmek Teak Mansion are also closed until further notice.
The actual cremation will take place on October 26, which has been declared a public holiday. Several roads will be closed to traffic, including those around Sanam Luang.
Public transportation will be free on October 26 to facilitate the masses of mourners expected to descend on the Thai capital and line the streets surrounding the Grand Palace and Sanam Luang to bid their final farewell during the procession, when his body is transported from the Grand Palace to the nearby crematorium. This will begin at 7 a.m.
Many businesses, including bars, amusement parks, museums and restaurants have announced plans to close on October 26 to allow their staff a chance to view the cremation ceremonies either on TV or in person. Bangkok’s major malls have said they will close early. Emergency services and hospitals will operate as normal.
For a full list of closures, visit the TAT’s website.
Though no bans on alcohol have been announced, visitors can expect nightlife to be more subdued during the days of the ceremony, with nightclubs and bars closed on the 26th.
Hotels around the main cremation events have already reported high occupancy rates – including Bangkok’s popular Khao San Road area, which is within walking distance of the Royal Cremation sites.
What to wear
The majority of Thai people are wearing black clothing this week as a sign of mourning.
Though tourists aren’t required to adhere to any dress codes, they’re asked to wear respectful clothing during this period.
Those planning to witness the Royal Cremation Ceremony are required to wear all black. Tight clothing and sleeveless shirts are prohibited.
Royal performances, exhibitions
On October 26, starting at 6 p.m., royal performances will be held at Sanam Luang to honor the king and mark the end of the country’s official mourning period.
These will include Khon masked dances, puppet shows and live music, all of which will continue till 6 a.m. the following day.
The cremation will take place at 10:00 p.m. on October 26 and will be followed by merit-making ceremonies from October 27-29.
An exhibition will be held at Sanam Luang for 30 days, from November 1-30, 7 a.m.-10 p.m., to showcase the arts of the Royal Crematorium and related structures.
For those wishing to learn more about the Royal Cremation Ceremony, the government has set up an English language version of its website highlighting all the ceremonies, the meanings behind them and a full schedule of events.