A quick note to my awesome readers: a lot of this comes from what I’ve read on the internet, what friends are reporting, and what I know about the country in general. As I type this, I am in Atlanta, Georgia, and like most of you am seeing things unfold from afar.
Also, a second note: the Thai powers-that-be have long enforced the country’s lèse-majesté policy, and enforcement of that law has only intensified over the past few years. Do not, under any circumstances, be heard talking about the king, the royalty, and the like on anything other than stellar terms if you are in Thailand.
Thailand’s King, His Royal Highness Bhumibol Adulyadej, is dead at 88 years old.
October 13th, 2016 marks a sad day in Thailand history. The world’s longest reigning monarch passed away after a lengthy stint in the hospital. He will be missed by Thais and non-Thais around the world – and as tourists, his departure from our world means some serious shake-ups around Thailand.
Tourists coming to Thailand from now well into 2017 should be aware of what to expect:
- Expect the overall mood of the country to be somber and reserved. As such, festivities will be muted, and tourists should avoid festivities or acting joyous. Government officials will be expected to wear black during the one-year mourning period.
- Media organizations have been asked to turn their content and ads gray. The Bangkok Post and Nation Multimedia, two of the top news websites for the country, have complied.
- Festivals and events are likely to be cancelled, postponed, or greatly toned down to recognize the somber nature of the moment. I’ve been told Chiang Mai’s Lantern / Loi Krathong festival has been cancelled.
- Government offices may not open on time, may not open at all, or close earlier. This is unlikely to cause tourists many problems, but Immigration is a government department.
- Private businesses, while being sensitive to the mood of the people, are being given some discretion on when to resume their normal activities. Malls are likely to be open
- After a short time, TV channels were allowed to resume their usual programming – but with “no entertainment, dancing, joy or violence allowed for 30 days” from October 13th.
- Alcohol is likely to be available at convenience stores and bar (keep your ear to the ground on this one), though you may find bars and clubs to have fewer live music performances or events. That means no ‘Full Moon’ parties, live concerts, big parties at clubs, etc.
- Organized / touristy bar areas may be closed – I’ve read that Soi Cowboy in Bangkok will be closed ‘indefinitely’.
- Most indications show Thailand being open for business, so visiting the sights Thailand is known for should be fine.
- All of this remains on a ‘touch-and-go’ sort of mindset. The previous King of Thailand died in 1946, meaning there’s no recent precedent for this sort of mourning. The junta and presumed-soon-to-be-King Rama X, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, may change things further.
This may not be the best time to visit Thailand, mostly since a lot of celebrations / festive stuff has been cancelled or muted. If you can be sensitive to the locals, however, and weren’t planning on attending festivals or getting really drunk, this may actually be a better time to go. I’d definitely consider wearing black or purchasing a black arm-band as a way of recognizing the death of a man that meant so much to so many Thais.
Whatever you do, stay classy =)
Got an update? Share in the comments.
Also published on Medium.