Visiting Thailand? Dos and Don’ts Following King’s Death


Thailand image by Mariamichelle CC0

The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13 has plunged Thailand into a state of mourning not seen for many decades. Although this event has affected Thais deeply, they remain welcoming to holidaymakers keen to enjoy the country’s castor sugar beaches, lush jungle hinterlands and sunny weather.

However, ‘respect’ is the watchword for any trip to Thailand in the coming months.

What to wear and how to behave

Black clothing has virtually sold out in the country as Thais pay their respects to the late king. As a visitor you don’t need to wear black, but opting for low-key colours will put you in good stead with locals.

Avoid flamboyant attire in public places.

But as Chris Lee, UK and Ireland head of marketing for the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), says: “despite reports, tourists don’t have to wear black on the beach.”

There are reports that the TAT has asked Immigration to provide visitors with black ribbons which they can wear as a sign of respect, although this hasn’t happened as yet.

Aside from asking visitors to dress respectfully, the TAT encourages them to “continue with their travel plans as normal”.

But the TAT also warns that “Visitors should refrain from conducting any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour.”

The UK’s FCO backs this up: “Following the death of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej there is now an official period of mourning of one year from 14 October 2016. You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time.”

Is the nightlife affected?

Bars and restaurants have been asked to tone it down by the government, so the nightlife may well be a little more subdued than usual. Most establishments will close by midnight, although owners have the final say.

Millions of Thais make a living from the country’s tourism industry, so many will be keen to keep their businesses going.

Are any tourist sites closed?

Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and the Grand Palace are closed to the public, as they will be the venue of the Royal Funeral Rites. But all other tourist attractions remain open.

Traditional and cultural events will go ahead as usual, but their tone may well be modified in respect for the late king.

You can expect transportation, banks and medical facilities to operate as normal.

Talking about the king

Many Thais are open to talking about their feelings at this sad time, but as before the king’s passing, care should be taken when discussing anything related to the monarchy. Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws mean anyone insulting or defaming the monarchy could face a jail term of up to 15 years. If you want to be on the safe side, avoid the subject altogether unless it is broached by a local – and even then proceed with caution.

The atmosphere in tourist hotspots like the islands of Phuket, Koh Samui and Koh Phi Phi is likely to be lighter than in Bangkok, although less intense than before the king’s death. Indeed, now could be a particularly relaxed time to visit this most unique of kingdoms.

The famous Thai smile may be a little thin on the ground right now, but if you’re mindful of your host’s feelings you’ll still have a fabulous holiday.


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