Sunday, May 5, 2013

Boxed In

A woman waits out a thunderstorm in an unused phone booth in Bangkok

May 5 is Coronation Day in Thailand. It marks the day Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, assumed the throne in 1950. He is the world's longest reigning monarch and revered by the Thais. Normally the King comes to the Grand Palace for special merit making ceremonies to mark the day, which is a national holiday in Thailand. 

The King, who is not in good health, lives in Siriraj Hospital, across the river from the Palace. He travels in a motorcade with other members of the Royal Family when he leaves the hospital. Thais turn out in great numbers any time there's a chance to see the King in his motorcade and Sunday, for Coronation Day, was no different. 

What was different was the weather. It rained. Not just rain, but a "Noah's building an ark, the end times are nigh" thunderstorm. 

The King was supposed to arrive at the palace about 10:30 Sunday morning. It started to rain about 8:45. For awhile it was raining horizontally from north to south.
Not an iPhone picture. This is what the storm looked like from inside my police box.

I was caught in the open when the rain started, and since this is the dry season, I didn't have my rain gear with me so I took shelter in a police box. Me and eight Thais in a room built for one. It was cozy. On top of which, the only windows that completely closed were on the north side of the box (luckily), so we were only able to stay sort of dry because water was coming in through the open windows and sliding doors on the other three sides of the box. 

The rain stopped as quickly as it started. The pace of the storm slowed about 9:45 and by 10:00 it was just raining, not storming. I got out of my box to photograph the King's arrival. 
A pedestrian walks by the police box I hunkered down in, the roof line of the Grand Palace is across the street.

Several hundred Thais lined the street in front of the Palace waiting for the King. Most stayed under umbrellas or draped in ponchos. I tried to photograph the happenings but between the ongoing rain and the dampened spirits I was not happy with the pictures I was making. 
Thais wait in the rain for the King. Yellow is the King's color. I'm not sure if the yellow ponchos were because of the King or coincidentally what the poncho sellers had to sell

Right on schedule, police shut down the road in front of the Palace and the motorcade came down the road and drove into the Palace grounds. I watched the motorcade pull into the palace and realized the King didn't come to the Palace this year. The King normally travels in a specially equipped van (to accommodate his health needs). There was no van in the motorcade, just the Royals' Rolls Royces. 

Thai media later reported that the King (and Queen, who was also expected to attend) had both stayed at the hospital at the urging of their doctors. (The Queen is also hospitalized and not in good health.) 

I waited until the Royals left the palace. I think by now most Thais realized the King hadn't made the trip, and as the motorcade drove away, a woman next to me dropped to her knees and started praying. 
A woman dropped to her knees in prayer as the motorcade left the Palace

These are photos I made at Coronation Day in 2010: 
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