Last night Mr. Oat, our tour guide and friend from the last time we were in Bangkok, sent a text confirming what time we’d be meeting and asking us to wear black if possible, as most people would be since the King’s cremation ceremony was that day. Sal washed our darkest shirts (not a lot – generally you pack very light colors because of the heat) so they were mostly dry when we got up. We went to the hotel cafe and got a pastry and juice, ate quickly back at the room, packed our bags and off we went to meet our friend.
I learned about Mr. Oat on TripAdvisor a few years ago before our only other trip to Asia. We really enjoyed our time with him as a guide-turned-friend. Mr. Oat is a character. He is quite proper and very petite. He covers his mouth when he laughs, which is quite often. I was very much looking forward to seeing him again; it’s nice to see a familiar face after three weeks!
We met Mr. Oat in the lobby, amid bows and hugs. He gave us two bags of fruit. This was not surprising. Mr. Oat is generous, as well as everything else I said above. We headed out of the hotel and pretty soon saw the long line of Thai people who wanted to honor the King by giving a flower. There were already so many, and it was only 9:00 a.m., the day the King would be cremated. We are across the street from one of the big malls, and the place with the crowds wasn’t even the King’s Palace, just another designated spot people who make an offering. It speaks to the deep love the people have for their late King that the turnout was so overwhelming.
Our plan for the ½ day tour was to go see one of the temples with the Big Buddah, and then go to the Jim Thompson’s house. Mr. Oat had us taking a public boat to get there, which was a first and quite an experience; we were the only foreigners on it! You have to hop in quickly and hop out quickly, which is interesting when you’re not all that limber/coordinated, like me. Ha! The workers are telling people lord-only-knows-what, but it sounded like a lot of shouting. We just copied Mr. Oat unless someone told us differently. Come to find out that today all boat rides were free in honor of the late King. Mr. Oat & I were separated from Sal on the first ride and he sat a few rows ahead of us. I was on an end and had to help hold up the clear tarp to keep the river water from splashing into the boat (it’s very dirty and people get sick from it).
See that rope on the upper right side? That’s what you grab on to get into the boat. Now imagine me doing it. OK. Now stop laughing. I could not get a pic of the boat from outside as it was controlled chaos.
Here’s a quick little video I took of the ride. It’s short because I was paranoid about getting splashed with the filthy water and ending up sick. And I thought the Hudson was bad!
Our stop was the final stop and it was near the King’s Palace, which is where the crowds were even larger than by the hotel. People were offering free drinks and food, in honor of the late King. Quite interesting. Just as we had gotten to where the temples was, we were told it was closed. Poor Mr. Oat. He had called the day before and they told him it would be open. Mr. Oat then called our next stop and it, too, was closed. He was embarrassed and worried we would think he wasn’t professional. We had no such worry – it was unusual circumstances. From my limited time in Thailand I do understand that sometimes things aren’t communicated all that well. It was OK. We decided to just add these stops on our tours the next two days instead, and go back to the hotel since most things would likely be closed. We got on the boat again, and it was slightly easier for me this time as I knew what to expect and how to maneuver it. This time Sal was on the end and his job was to hold up the tarp.
I really like that pic. I grabbed a quick selfie with Mr. Oat on the boat. As soon as I got my phone out to take the pic he quickly changed the side of his head that would be photographed and said, “more hair there”. Hahaha.
Before we knew it we were at the last stop near our hotel, and we climbed up off the boat again, onto solid ground, with one of the workers lending me a hand. It was a mini-adventure and I actually enjoyed it. It was fun being the only tourists.
Mr. Oat was going to get in the line to offer a flower, and we headed back to the hotel. I heard from him about three hours later, and he had finally gotten to the front of the line. Wow! Apparently in the evening they will gather his flowers at each of the places people met to honor him and then burn them with his body.
Thai people truly loved their King. We definitely got that idea last time we were here, and this time it’s magnified. So many people were in black. So many people wanted to offer him a flower. I asked Mr. Oat if it was normal to wait a year to be cremated. Apparently not. He said it was usually three months. He said the people asked the Royal Family if they could please have more time as so many wanted to go and offer their respects, and some live so far away. Their wish was granted. I think most all stores closed by the early afternoon.
We spent the rest of the day doing a few chores and then spending some time at the pool. We ordered lunch and this was a first – my pad thai had a coat on.
We spent the evening reading and watching some of the cremation ceremony on TV. I think they said there were dignitaries from 42 different countries attending. Prince Andrew was there; he was the only one I recognized. I think this also explains why security was so beefed up around here and we have a security guard at the elevators. I sent a text asking Mr. Oat if we were still supposed to wear dark colors, and he said yes, until the end of the month. I have one black shirt I brought, so this should be interesting since it’s the 27th ! Good thing there are mega malls nearby.
A quiet day, but still with some adventure.