Happy Birthday, Your Majesty

Today marks the 81st birthday of the world’s current longest reigning monarch, King Bhumibol of Thailand.

The King has established a routine of addressing the nation in a radio speech the night before his birthday. Sometimes it reads like a State of the Union. Sometimes it reads like a personal letter. Last night, probably when the Thai population needed an address the most, the King was unable to deliver one. His son and daughter revealed the fact that was long suspected- His Majesty is ill.

The exact words were “mildly ill.” Which, when describing an elderly 81 year old, really can mean anything.

It didn’t strike many as a surprise. His appearance in his sister’s cremation ceremony showed a frail aging man. His lack of public appearances other than that event, added to the suspicion that his condition may be worse than publicly acknowledged.

But the reality did hit the citizens. Their reverence for the king is unlike anything I’ve seen… especially when bestowed on a mortal human being. Mondays are officially the days to wear yellow, in honour of the King, who was born on a Monday. Every Monday, streets would be swarmed with yellow. Except this past Monday when the protesters, who chose yellow as their official colour, occupied the airports.

It will be interesting.. with Thailand in a political crossroads, with an aging king, what happens from here remains unpredictable.

You are invited to dress in black

Official mourning period was 14-16 November, when the public was “invited” to dress in mourning colours and somberly. Colours are black and white, with request to lean more on the black (why they just don’t say wear only black, I don’t know). I am finding, though, a handful of the female population have determined that “somberly” doesn’t necessarily mean “modestly.” I’ve found myself staring at one woman for a bit until I told myself “well, it’s all in black.”

As any royal request goes, an invitation is pretty much obeyed. The reverence of the royal family is something most of the rest of the world would not understand. To give you a shapshot of the sea of black, I’ve taken a video of a crowd coming off a train platform.