Pilgrimages

Thailand continues to be in mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on October 13 last year. This king was the world’s longest-ruling monarch when he died, and he is viewed by many Thai people with a saintlike (even cult-like, some would say) reverence. His photograph — and bunting, bunting, and more bunting — is everywhere. This was on a sidewalk out in front of a cafe…

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.. and this was on the counter at an iced tea and coffee shop:

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The king’s body has been lying in state in the Grand Palace in Bangkok for nearly a year now, and the time in which visitors can come to view the body is drawing to a close. This means that families are streaming in from all over Thailand to wait in line to pay their respects. I learned this first hand when I tried to visit the temple at the Grand Palace. Instead of finding the famous golden spires, I found impassable sidewalks and mobs of people waiting to see the king.

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It is currently impossible to get anywhere near the palace grounds (I know, because I walked and walked and walked around it). This is the best — and only — view I got into the Grand Palace complex gates:

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You can see the spires I was aiming for — entirely blocked off — in the distance:

IMG_4345Much of the nearby area is blocked by tents and pylons and fencing, by guards and military personnel and news vans and construction crews. That last group is building a giant cremation complex on a parade ground that exists especially for royal funerals. The king will be cremated on October 26, and that will be a huge week in Thailand. Over a quarter of a million people are expected to come to Bangkok for the event, and all newscasts during that week will be in black and white.

I took a much more profane pilgrimage of my own to Chatuchak Market, Bangkok’s enormous and crazy weekend-only market.

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It’s a mystery to me that there’s a market for some things:

Andrea, Emily and I had lots of fun poking around:

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I found myself inexplicably drawn to small fruits and vegetables …

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… and small fake cacti …

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… and small real cacti …

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… and small fake flowers… IMG_4384

… and whatever these things are:

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Chatuchak can get incredibly hot during the day, especially if you are in the outdoor areas (one of which, for some reason, is right up against a burned-out building).

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To cool down, we stopped for coconut ice cream in coconut shells.

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You can watch a guy nearby hacking away at coconuts using a cool machine to get them open for drinking:

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Food in Bangkok is amazingly good and cheap. Here’s some pad thai we had near our hotel — yum!

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