The Royal Crematorium for His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej is now open for viewing by the general public from 2nd to 31st December 2017. Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the opening ceremony. There is also an exhibition about His Majesty. This is an update I have done after visiting on the first day. Other days may be different. Most of what I wrote before I had to rewrite as it never happened. Welcome to Thailand! The crematorium is on Sanam Luang near the Grand Palace.
UPDATED: 29th November 2017
WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR
- The exhibition will open daily during 2 November – 31 December 2017 from 6.00 a.m. until 10.00 p.m.
- The public will be able to view the Royal Crematorium from the ground level and supplementary structures and learn more about arts and culture regarding this ancient ceremony.
- You cannot climb up the steps to the top of the crematorium.
- You are allowed to use big DSLR cameras and take videos. I also used my 300mm zoom lens. So, yes, long lenses are allowed.
- You are not allowed to do selfies and Facebook Live
- The exhibition is free and open to everyone
- Dress code is the same as for the Grand Palace. No shorts, singlets or sandals.
- No need to wear mourning clothes, but muted colors might be appreciated.
- Shoes are not that strict. I saw no-one being turned away.
- Bring photo ID such as passport. But when I went they didn’t ask to see it. This might change
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- A total of 5,500 people will be allowed to visit the royal crematorium per round
- Each round lasts for exactly one hour
- You are given a coloured visitor’s badge and so they can see which round you are in. But they are not strict if you are too slow.
- A bell will sound five minutes before the end of each round. But it is in Thai and so you don’t know if it is for you or for another round
- 104,000 people are expected to visit the crematorium each day
- When I went, Thais and foreigners were in the same queue. Now I’m told there is a separate queue and you wait in a separate tent. But you all enter in the Northeast corner near the Royal Hotel.
- You can walk up to the entrance from The Ministry of Defence end, from Tha Chang pier, or come in from the Northern end on Ratchadamnoen Avenue.
- The news that there would be quotas per day isn’t true. I didn’t see any signs of counting when I went.
- There are tents provided for people to sit and wait for their turn. I did not have to stand and wait.
- When I went I had to wait about 90 minutes. People who went later said they didn’t have to wait so long. Weekend will be busy for sure
- Officials will be on site to provide guidance and assistance to the general public, persons with disabilities, elderly persons, monks, and foreign visitors. However, all announcements were in Thai and not many people could speak English.
- It is possible that they might extend the exhibition, but that is not guaranteed. I will update when I hear
- After the exhibition, the Royal Crematorium and other components will be completely dismantled.
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HOW TO GET THERE
Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) buses will be available free of charge from 06.00am to 11.00pm.
1. Victory Monument – Sanam Luang
2. MRT Hua Lamphong – Sanam Luang
3. Rattanakosin Island area – Sanam Luang
4. Ekamai – Sanam Luang
5. Southern Bus Terminal (Sai Tai Mai) – Sanam Luang
6. Mo Chit – Sanam Luang
Nine roads around Sanam Luang will be closed during November for the exhibition: Ratchadamnern Nai from Phanpipob intersection to Pom Padet, Sanam Chai from Pom Padet to Wong Worn Rordor, Na Phralarn, Na Phrathat, Habpoei, Lak Muang, Kalayanamitree from Chang Rongsee bridge to Sanam Chai, Soi Saranrom, and Rachinee. In addition, there will be five screening points to screen visitors before entry to the Royal Crematorium ground. They are at Ratanakosin Hotel, Tha Chang Pier, Territorial Defence Command, Thammasat University, and near the Defence Ministry. Make sure you bring passport or photo ID. A photocopy should be suffice.
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Referred to as Phra Merumas (Golden Crematorium), the Royal Crematorium is where the Royal Urn is placed on the pyre (Phra Chittakathan) for the cremation. Traditionally, it was built as a temporary construction in the middle of the city for cremating a deceased king or queen, or high-ranking royal, and is recorded for the first time in the Ayutthaya period.
The Royal Crematorium is modeled after the imaginary Mount Sumeru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. In the ancient Thai kingdom, the concept of a divine king was firmly established and institutionalized, and it was influenced by Hinduism and deism. To represent this concept, the artists and architects used their imagination in the construction of the Royal Crematorium.
The Fine Arts Department was assigned to design and construct the Royal Crematorium for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The Royal Crematorium comprises nine spire-roofed pavilions (busabok) rising from the base, which is formed in three levels. The principal pavilion is in the middle and is the centerpiece of the ceremony, with the pyre for the setting up of the Royal Urn to be cremated and fire screens. The Nine-tiered Great White Umbrella of State is placed at the top of the principal pavilion. There are stairs in the four directions. The western part of the Royal Crematorium faces the Royal Merit-Making Pavilion (Phra Thinang Song Tham).
The construction of the Royal Crematorium and supplementary structures for the Royal Cremation of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej covers two-thirds of the 30-acre Sanam Luang ground. In previous royal cremation ceremonies, it occupied only half of Sanam Luang. At the Northern end are three stages for public performances.
The structure measures 50.49 meters from the base to the top. It is made of wood, with an inner steel structure. The “heavenly pond” is found in the four directions of the Royal Crematorium base and is also decorated with auspicious animals, namely elephants, horses, cows, and lions. Sculptures of mythical creatures that exist in the Himmaphan (Himavanta) Forest surround the base of Mount Sumeru.
There are also sculptures of Khun Tongdaeng and Khun Jo Cho, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej pet dogs, to be placed in the principal pavilion of the Royal Crematorium.
The first level is surrounded with the ceremonial fence, or enclosure (Rajawat). The figures of Thao Chatulokkaban, or the four guardians of the world, are found at the four corners.
The second level consists of the Dismantling Halls (Ho Plueang), where the Outer Royal Urn and the
Sandalwood Royal Urn will be kept, as well as other items used in the Royal Cremation Ceremony. There are also six sculptures of Garuda (a mythical figure that is half bird, half human).
The third level comprises the Monks’ Pavilions (Sang) at the four corners of the Royal Crematorium, for monks who will chant Scriptures.
The magnificent Royal Crematorium is also decorated with eight standing celestial beings and 32 celestial beings in a kneeling position.
The landscape at the ceremonial site has been arranged to pay tribute to the work of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, with a rice field, vetiver grass, Chaipattana Aerators, along with a model kaem ling, or water retention area, among others. Literally meaning “monkey cheek,” kaem ling is a well-known flood-control project initiated by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The ceremonial ground is also decorated with many plant species, with an emphasis on yellow flowers, such as marigolds. Yellow is the color representing Monday, the day on which His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej was born.