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Funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and what it means for your holiday in Bangkok this October

So, the month of October is here and already there is plenty on the plates. The Germans are all fully drunk with Oktoberfest, the Australians are occupied with the Melbourne Festival, London is gearing up for Frieze Art Fair, and California is super excited for the music festival of Desert Trip. While there is so much that is happening around the world this October, Bangkok will be at a standstill as it marks the funeral of the nation’s late most revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Serving Thailand for more than 7 decades, King Bhumibol Adulyadej also known as Rama IX was considered as the nation’s moral compass and most people worshipped him as God. When King Bhumibol Adulyadej died on 13 October 2016, the entire nation was torn apart. Following King Bhumibol’s death, the country has been in a year of mourning. Over the next 12 months, Thais indulged themselves in extensive preparations leading up to the funeral and the funeral events which will last over a period of five days has an estimated cost of US$90 million.

Planned a trip to Bangkok already but unaware of the whole situation? Here’s what King Bhumibol’s funeral means for your holiday in Thailand.

Royal Cremation Ceremony

While the funeral ceremonies run from October 25-29, the actual cremation will take place on 26th October on the broad parade ground of Sanam Luang, in front of the Grand Palace. Built to represent Mount Meru, the nine-spired funeral pyre is adorned with delicate towers and the whole ceremony will be witnessed by 8,000 invited guests and millions of others around the world.

Sequence of events

5:30 pm, 25th October 2017 – The cremation ceremony of King Bhumibol Adulyadej begins with a royal merit-making rite at the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall inside the Grand Palace. It will be broadcast live on all the channels and this prepares the moving of the Royal Urn the following morning.

26th October 2017 – At 7 in the morning, the king’s body will be moved from Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to the royal crematorium on Sanam Luang. The Royal cremation ceremony is scheduled to run from 5:30 pm till 10 pm and the actual cremation will take place at 10 pm. As a final tribute, there will also be performances of traditional khon masked dramas and orchestras, which run from 6 pm on October 26 till 6 am on the next morning.

8 am, 27th October 2017 – The royal relics of the late king will be collected at the Royal Crematorium in Sanam Luang following a ceremony.

5:30 pm, 28th October 2017 – A merit-making rite will be held for the royal relics in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall inside the Grand Complex.

29th October 2017 – The royal relics will be moved from the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall to Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall at 10:30 am. At 5:30 in the evening, the royal ashes will then be enshrined at the two temples of Wat Rajabopit and Wat Bowon Niwet in Bangkok.

What this means for attractions & activities

  • The Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha will be closed for the tourists and the general public from 1st October 2017 till 29th October 2017.
  • The attractions of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall and Vimanmek Teak Mansion will be closed on account of restoration work.
  • Muay Thai fight promotions will be suspended for the whole month of October and there will be no fights that will be held at Rajadamnern Stadium.
  • Steam Train trip which was initially supposed to run on 23rd October has been cancelled now.
  • The Police Museum and the Paruskawan Palace will not be functioning for the month of October.
  • Thailand Knowledge Park in Centralworld will be closed on 26th October, the day of cremation.

Tourism activities will continue as normal around the country, even though Thai people will be in mourning…There are no restrictions on tourists at all and they can still enjoy ‘Amazing Thailand’ while they are here

– Tanes Petsuwan, deputy governor, Tourism Authority of Thailand

Apart from this, all other attractions in Bangkok will function normally like any other day.

What this means for transport

Flights

International and domestic flights will operate normally and during the time of the funeral ceremony from October 25-29, additional domestic flights will be added to help in with the transportation of the mourners. As heavy Congestion can be expected around this time, make sure to get to/from Bangkok Airport as early as possible.

Trains & Buses

  • Bus & train services operate normally throughout October but as the funeral approaches, expect some congestion.
  • The Airport Rail link that serves Bangkok Suvarnabhumi and the Purple line will be free for Passengers on October 25 and 26.
  • Local bus services around Grand Palaces and Sanam Luang will be free of charge.
  • Metro, BTS Skytrain, and Trams will be operating for free on all routes in Bangkok on October 26.
  • BTS Skytrain on October 25 & 27 will be free only on the routes of Wongwian Yai to Bang Wa and On Nut to Samrong.
  • Bus services from Sathon to Ratchephruek will be free between 25th October and 27th October.

Boats

  • During the funeral period, extra boats will be operating along the Chao Phraya river.
  • There will be restrictions on the boat operation along the Chao Phraya river from Krung Thon Bridge to King Taksin Bridge from 25th October till 27th.
  • Both the Chao Phraya express boats and Saen Saeb canal boats will be free on October 26.
  • Free boat services will be on offer from 9 am – 4 pm on 25th & 26th October and from 10 am – 3 pm on 27th October. The operating locations include Sathorn pier, Rama VIII bridge pier, Commerce Ministry pier, Nonthaburi pier, and Tha Pimarn pier.
  • For time-being, Chao Phraya Express boats will not be stopping at the piers of Tha Rajinee, Tha Chang, and Tha Phra Arthit, but instead, they will be stopping at Thewes pier and Talad Yodpimarn.

Taxis and Tuks Tuks

Taxis and Tuks Tuks are regularly available throughout Bangkok & as the funeral approaches, there will be heavy demand for both of them. So, please make sure to get ahead of time and plan well in advance.

What this means for accommodation

The accommodations around Sanam Luang and the Grand Palace are already full and there will be a huge demand for hotels during the time of the funeral ceremony – Oct 25-29. So make sure to book your accommodations very well in advance.

What this means for shops, restaurants & bars

  • While restaurants, shopping malls, and stores will be open, bars and clubs might be closed on October 13 & 26.
  • Tesco Lotus, the giant supermarket chain will close all its 1,900 stores at 2 pm on October 26.
  • Lights and music in bars, clubs, and entertainment venues might be toned down starting from October 25-29 and on October 13.
  • Pubs & Clubs in Chiang Mai might be closed on October 26 and they might be still open in Ko Phi Phi islands.
  • Hotels are allowed to serve alcohol but the final decision will be made by the hotel management.

What this means for festivals and events

  • Rub Bua (lotus flower receiving) festival and Buffalo racing festival will proceed further without any hindrance on October 4 but the outdoor concerts are cancelled.
  • The annual temple fair of Phra Samut Chedi Temple Fair Parade will take place on October 10 as scheduled. But the actual temple fair is postponed until November.
  • Full Moon, Half Moon, and other popular parties which will be normally held on Koh Phangan are cancelled for the month of October.
  • Phuket Vegetarian Festival scheduled between 20th & 28th October will go ahead as planned but there will be no parades this time around.

FAQs

Can I attend the funeral?

Yes, you can attend the funeral. But make sure you dress appropriately (in black). There will be millions of visitors who will be attending the funeral. So, please don’t expect to get close to the actual ceremony area. They are generally reserved for foreigners and VIP’s.

We would like to request that the solemnity of the royal cremation is observed, and visitors should refrain from any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour

– Thailand Tourism

What happens after the funeral?

The Grand Palace will be open to the public from October 30 and there will be an exhibition that will take place at Sanam Luang throughout the month of November describing in detail about the funeral proceedings & the rituals involved.

Will there be any effect on the media broadcasting during this time?

Yes, there will definitely be a few changes in the television schedules during October. Entertainment programs will be suspended for a while and the telecast will move to black and white from colour. Special programmes will be aired in honour of King Bhumibol Adulyadej from October 21-24 and the live streaming of the cremation ceremony will be broadcast from October 25-29. Almost all the programmes come with English commentary.

Is it possible to take pictures of the royal family and the ceremony?

Only if you are a media person or someone with connections you can at least get near the main ceremony. Otherwise, no you can’t. Further, drones are also not allowed to fly for a radius of 19 kms around Grand Palace as they are noisy and disrespectful.

Should I skip travelling to Bangkok?

There’s no reason that you should totally avoid visiting Bangkok during October while almost all the attractions remain open. But be on a lookout for the huge crowd around Sanam Luang and also make sure that you don’t stay on Khao San road.

Other things to remember

  • The one-year mourning period has been extended by additional 15 days to October 27.
  • Flags will be flown half-mast from October 13-27.
  • The first year anniversary of King Bhumibol (October 13) is a public holiday.
  • You are not allowed to organize any festivities during the month of October.
  • 26th October is declared as a public holiday.
  • The rehearsals for the royal procession is scheduled to be held at Sanam Luang on October 7 and 15.

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