Turning 85 in Bangkok
Lights, check. Balloons, check. Firecrackers, check. I must say the Thais are very thorough in their birthday preparations. Larger than life portraits in the streets, check.
Wait, did I mention that this party wasn't for me? (I still have a few decades to go before hitting 85.)
On Wednesday December 5th, 2012, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch, celebrated his 85th birthday and I had the fantastic opportunity to experience this celebration. Similar to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee held in London earlier this year, but the emotion of the Thais was so much greater. The King's birthday is also celebrated as Father's Day and is a national holiday.
The lights and decorations were everywhere, as were the people that came to celebrate. Very large crowds were expected to be on hand so I was advised to enjoy the evening before the address.
More than 200,000 Thais packed the Royal Plaza, many gathering the night before, in front of Anantasamakom Throne Hall to hear the king speak in a rare public appearance.
The King is much loved by the Thai people and cheers of “Long live the King!” were heard throughout the streets. The monarch has been quite ill in the past few years so this appearance was cause for much anticipation.
As the crowds began to gather the feeling was very festive, with many street vendors selling firecrackers, balloons and of course food and drinks.
The atmosphere even in the evening was wonderful with most people wearing yellow shirts which was the King's wish. I asked why and found out that yellow is the colour for Monday, the day that the King was born. In the evening there were fireworks, and although I was nowhere near where the official celebrations were taking place I was given a lit yellow candle and a number of songs were sung.
This day truly showed how much the Thai people admire and respect their King.
It is worth noting that on the King's birthday "officially" no alcohol can be served. However I had no problem at the bar I was at. I asked why I could drink where I was and I was told "the owner know the police very well!"