UPDATED: 17th October 2017 – Nearly a year has passed since the passing of King Bhumibol on 13th October 2016. He was Thailand’s most revered King in living memory and the nation’s sorrow has been overwhelming. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people have queued up in the heat and rain to pay their last respects. Nearly a year later, many Thais, and foreigners like myself who work in Thai schools, are still wearing black. Soon the day will come that nobody wants. The cremation of King Bhumibol. Many foreign tourists and expats have asked me how the funeral will affect their holiday in Thailand. What I will be doing on this page is giving you all of the latest information as and when it comes in. Please follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow or Facebook for any breaking news.
IMPORTANT: This page is only a summary. Some sections were getting so long that I have now written separate blogs on some of the major topics. Click here for a full list of blog posts about the royal funeral.
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR:
- The royal funeral will take place from 25th to 29th October 2017.
- The actual cremation ceremony will take place on Thursday 26th October.
- 13th October is a new public holiday marking the death of King Bhumibol. This will take place every year from now onwards.
- 26th October has been declared a public holiday so that people can attend the funeral. This is a temporary holiday for this year only
- There will be rehearsals for the royal procession at Sanam Luang on 7th, 15th and 21st October. If you attend, it is compulsory to wear black and carry photo ID [more here]
- The royal crematorium on Sanam Luang will be open to the public after the cremation from 2nd to 30th November, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
TIMELINE OF FUNERAL:
25th October: A royal merit-making rite will be held to mark the start of the royal cremation ceremonies in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall inside the Grand Palace. This will start at 5:30pm and will be broadcast live on all TV channels.
26th October: The body of the late King will be moved from the throne hall to the royal crematorium at Sanam Luang where the royal cremation will be held. This will take place at 7am. The cremation ceremony will be from 5:30pm and 10pm. The actual cremation will take place at 10pm.
27th October: Following the cremation, a royal ceremony will be held to collect the royal relics of the late King at the royal crematorium from 8am.
28th October: A royal merit-making rite for the royal relics will be held in the Dusit Maha Prasat Throne Hall at 5:30pm.
29th October: A royal ceremony will be held to enshrine the royal relics at the Chakri Maha Prasat Throne Hall at 10:30 a.m., and the ashes of the late King will be enshrined at Wat Rajabopit and Wat Bowon Niwet at 5:30pm.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS and ACTIVITIES:
- The Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha will be CLOSED to the public, including tourists, from 1st to 29th October 2017. It will re-open on 30th October.
- There will be no Muay Thai fights during October at Rajadamnern Stadium
- Ananta Samakom Throne Hall and Vimanamek Teak Mansion are closed until further notice
- Paruskawan Palace and The Police Museum are closed from 1st to 31st October.
- There will be no steam train trip on 23rd October 2017
Quite a few of the major tourist attractions, like Dream World, Safari World, Siam Park City and Siam Niramit will close for one day on 26th October. They will be open as normal on the other days. [Full list here]
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS:
- The Full Moon, Half Moon and other parties on Koh Phangan have been cancelled during October.
- The Phuket Vegetarian Festival will go ahead as planned between 20th and 28th October. However, there will be no parades until the last day.
- The Phra Samut Chedi Temple Fair Parade on 10th October will go ahead. However, the actual temple fair has been postponed until November.
- The Rub Bua Festival in Bang Phli and the Buffalo Racing in Chonburi on the 4th October are both going ahead as planned. But there will be no outdoor concerts.
SHOPPING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Shopping malls, markets and shops are expected to be open as normal during October. However, quite a few shops, cinemas and even some department stores will close for one day on 26th October. In addition, you might find some family run shops and market stalls closed from 25-27 October. As far as entertainment goes, provincial governors have been asking for venues to “suspend activities from 13th to 27th October 2017”. However, you may find some behind doors entertainment continuing as normal. You would have to ask these places in advance. But, what is certain, by far the majority will close on 26th October as the actual cremation is that evening. Click here for a full list of what is closed.
Shopping malls open every day include CentralWorld, Siam Paragon, Emporium, Emquartier. Others may close early on 26th October for the Royal Cremation Ceremony.
IMPORTANT: Click here for a dedicated blog post on what is closed during the funeral.
- All buses, trains and airplanes are expected to be running as normal. But in the days leading up to the funeral, expect many people to converge on Bangkok and the area around Sanam Luang. They are putting on extra buses, trains and planes, but expect congestion.
- The BTS skytrain will be free all day on 26th October. On the 25th and 27th October, only the extensions from On Nut to Samrong, and Wongwian Yai to Bang Wa will be free.
- The BRT bus service from Sathon to Ratchapreuk will be free from 25th to 27th October
- The MRT subway will be free all day on 26th October
- The Airport Rail Link and the Purple Line will be free on 25th-26th October
- The Chao Phraya Express boats and Saen Saeb canal boats will be free on 26 October.
- There will be free shuttle boat services from 9am to 4pm on 25th-26th October, and from 10am to 3pm on 27th October. The boat service will go from the Commerce Ministry pier, the Nonthaburi pier and the Rama VIII Bridge pier in the North, and from Sathorn pier and Tha Pimarn pier in the South.
- There will be restrictions on boat movement on the Chao Phraya River from Krung Thon Bridge to King Taksin Bridge. The main periods of time are from noon to 9pm on 25th October, from 6am to 11pm on 26th October, and from 8am to 2pm on 27th October.
- The Chao Phraya Express Boat will not stop at Tha Chang, Tha Phra Arthit and Tha Rajinee piers temporarily, but stop at Thewes pier in the northern part of the river and Talad Yodpimarn in the south instead. Ferries operating from Phra Chan Nuea, Maharaj, and Tha Chang piers will use Pinklao pier on the Bangkok side of the river while ferries which operate from Tha Tian pier will use Rajinee pier instead. Tourist boats will use Pinklao pier on the Bangkok side of the river as well as Rajinee pier.
IMPORTANT: Click here for a dedicated page on road and river closures during the funeral
ROYALTY AND HEAD OF STATES AT THE ROYAL CREMATION CEREMONY
- King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and his wife Queen Jetsun Pema
- Prince Akishino and his wife Princess Kiko from Japan
- Queen Mathilde of Belgium
- Queen Maxima of the Natherlands
- Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
- Australia’s governor-general and his wife
- President Halimah Yacob of Singapore
- Festivities to pay a final tribute and farewell to the His Majesty King Bhumibol and to mark the ending of an official mourning period include public performances, such as the khon masked drama, puppet shows, and orchestras. They will start at 6:00 p.m. on the Royal Cremation Day, 26 October 2017, and run through 6:00 a.m. on the following day. They will take place at the Northern end of Sanam Luang
- The flying of drones is banned over much of Bangkok from 25th-29th October. The air exclusion zone extends for a radius of 19km from the Grand Palace [more here]
- The one-year mourning period has been extended until 29th October
- Flags to be flown at half mast from 13-27 October.
- Thai TV stations will go black and white from 1st October. Until 20th October they have to stop or reduce the number of entertainment shows. From 21-24 October there will only be programs about King Bhumibol. From 25-29 October only the funeral of King Bhumibol will be aired
If you want some more background information about the royal funeral and the crematorium, then please visit this website www.kingrama9.net. The following are direct links to the highlights:
- The Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej
- The royal crematorium
- Royal chariots and palanquins
The Bangkok Post also has a good site about the Royal Crematorium and ceremonies.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
Q: Can I attend the funeral?
A: Literally hundreds of thousands of people will be attending the funeral of King Bhumipol. I expect that as long as you dress respectfully in black, you will be able to attend. But, don’t expect to get close to the actual ceremony. I hear also there will be a special area reserved for foreigners. I will post more information on this when I get it.
Q: Can I take pictures of the royal family and the funeral ceremony?
A: You certainly can not. You have to be accredited members of the media to be able to take photos and they will have many restrictions. And also, only a select few can get anywhere near the main ceremony. I am not going to even try.
Q: Will clubs and bars be closed during the funeral?
A: There has been no official announcement about this yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a ban on the sale of alcohol on the 26th October. The actual cremation will be taking place in the evening and it is unlikely that any bars will open that night. It is also possible that there might be a voluntary ban on the sale of alcohol for the main three days of the funeral, 25th-27th October. Some bar owners have told me that they will probably close the whole week. I will update this information as soon as I hear anything official.
Q: Are tourists expected to wear black?
A: You only need to wear black or grey if you are attending the funeral on Sanam Luang or at one of the many ceremonies held around the country.
Q: Will the shopping malls be closed?
The big shops rarely close for anything. Nothing officially has been announced on this, but I expect you will find the malls open as normal during the funeral. However, I think on the cremation day, and particularly in the evening, you might not find many people out and about. There will probably be at home watching the funeral on TV. So, smaller family run shops would most likely be closed on at least the 26th October.
Q: Will the Grand Palace be open?
A: They have already announced that the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace will be closed to the public during most of October. It will re-open again on 30th October.
Q: Will temples near the Grand Palace, like the Reclining Buddha and Temple of Dawn be open?
A: I expect these will be open as normal.
Q: Is it best to avoid Bangkok during the funeral?
A: Bangkok is a big city and there is no reason to avoid it. However, there will be a big movement of people to Sanam Luang, the site of the royal crematorium. It is best to avoid all roads and the river in that area during the five day funeral. In particular on the 26th October. Khao San Road is also in this area and I wouldn’t personally stay here during the funeral.
Q: Will tourist attractions be open during October?
A: I expect most will be open as normal. However, government run museums will be closed on the public holidays on 13th, 23rd and 26th October. This is normal.
Q: Will anything be closed on the royal cremation day?
A: I don’t think it will be made official, but many leisure kind of activities and attractions will be closed on 26th October. An owner of a golf club has already told me they will close on this day.
Q: Will public transport like the skytrain, buses and boats be open as normal?
A: Yes, of course. Life does go on. But, they’ve already announced that some services will either be free or have reduced fares. I would think that the skytrain will be very busy at major intersections like Siam, Victory Monument and Saphan Taksin. The busy period will be 25-27 October with 26th October being the busiest.
Q: Will there be English commentary on TV during the funeral?
A: There will almost certainly be English commentary on TV sets where you can change audio channels. The funeral ceremony will be broadcast live on all TV channels.
Q: Can I fly my drone during the funeral?
A: Drones are very noisy and it would be extremely disrespectful to do such a thing. Anyway, an air exclusion zone has been declared for drones that extends for a radius of 19km from the Grand Palace. This covers much of Bangkok.
Q: I will be flying THAI Airways on the 26th October from London to Bangkok. Will they show movies and serve alcohol?
A: I am almost certain that it will be as normal on your flight. The government has already said that drinks can be served behind closed doors. No problem with movies too.
Q: I will catch a bus from Pattaya to Suvarnabhumi airport on the 26th October. Will the roads be closed? Will the airport be open as normal?
A: The roads to the airport and and the airport itself will certainly not be closed and will be operating as normal. Anyway, Suvarnabhumi is not actually in Bangkok and there is a main highway between here and Pattaya.
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If you have any further questions, please post them in the comments below. Please also follow me on Twitter @RichardBarrow as I will be posting regular updates in the days leading up to the funeral.