Seeing the King in Bangkok

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We saw the King through his car window from the street curb as his car rolled into the Grand Palace.

See we happened to be in Bangkok for the King’s birthday, completely unplanned. What does the King’s birthday look like? A sea of yellow. That morning we woke up to yellow: yellow shirts, yellow signs, and yellow portraits of the king every which way you turned. We went along our touristy duties that day, seeing the Palace, finding a market, eating a lot, and wandering til our feet were sore. We decided to check out Chinatown for dinner, but unfortunately the area was deserted; all the stalls and restaurants were closed for the celebrations. We wandered for a good while just to find a restaurant that was open.

Later that night we found ourselves in the middle of another gathering. Thais, in yellow, were lining the streets with candles. Of course we joined in. We found a candle, and a good spot with a view of a television outside a bar. Together with the Thais we listened in rapture at the King’s speech, understanding not one word. Everyone then broke out into song, and we smiled along.

I will say I have never seen such devotion. I tried equating this back to an American holiday, but to no avail. Maybe July 4th? But really that’s just an excuse for Americans to eat and gather with family and friends. There is a cynicism that accompanies Americans’ view of the president, no matter what party. So seeing altar-like homages to the king and such happiness during the song really stuck with me.

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