Souksaan wankeud – Happy birthday, King Bhumibol.
The Thai monarch is turning 86 today. He was born on the 5th December 1927 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA where his father Mahidol Adulyadej studied medicine in Harvard at that time. His father died in September 1929. Four years later Bhumibol Adulyadej moved to Switzerland with his mother, his older brother and his older sister, where he went to school and university. On the 9th June 1946 he became the king of Thailand after his older brother King Ananda Mahidol died under mysterious circumstances on that day.
Currently Bhumibol is the head of state in the world with the longest term of office, he is reigning even longer than Queen Elizabeth II. Bhumibol Adulyadej was officially crowned king on the 5th May 1950. His wife Sirikit,who he has married two years before, was named to be queen the same day.
King Bhumibol is deeply worshipped by the thai people. Last year I was lucky to be in Bangkok for the king’s birthday. As I wanted to see how the locals celebrate their king, I decided to mingle with the locals.
The public express boats were full of people, many of them wore yellow T-Shirts, the colour of the loyals to the crown. The boat piers were decorated with countless small thai flags. From Tha Tien Pier, the boat pier No. 8, I walked to the Sanam Luan, a huge place on the opposite side of Wat Phra Kaeo, the Grand Palace. Everywhere huge pictures of the king were lined up. People in the streets enlightened candles and sang birthday songs for him. People were incredibly friendly, offering me drinks and wishing me all the best.
When I passed by the Grand Palace, the gates, which are normally closed at night, were opened. The guards in front of the palace allowed me to take a few photos. On the Sanam Luang was a huge stage where female dancers performed to honour the king. The place was full of people who were sitting in the meadow, having a picnic, enlightening candles and huge lanterns which they let fly. What an amazing atmosphere! I am glad that I had the chance to join the ceremonies once.
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