Thirty-nine fun things about the King
We've just been through weeks of chaos that was concluded just in time to celebrate the 86th birthday anniversary of His Majesty the King on Dec 5.
Watching His Majesty during the Grand Audience at Klai Kangwon Palace, the palace that is "Far from Worries" that day, the irony couldn't have been more prominent. There he was, facing various groups of people who were recently at odds with each other, and one could only imagine what was going through His Majesty's mind.
Then I found a post on Facebook that put a smile on my face. I have no idea where the post originated, and I would love to know if they are all factual, but I immediately felt that I would love to share this with others.
So, here is a selection of things you probably never knew about HM the King:
1. His Majesty the King was born at 08:45 hours.
2. The attending physician at his birthday was W. Steward Whittemore, MD, and his weight at birth was six pounds (2.7kg).
3. The name "Bhumibol" was bestowed by King Prajadhipok, Rama VII.
4. His Majesty's nickname was "Lek" or "Phra Ong Lek".
5. His Majesty is a former student of Mater Dei School, having studied there for a year when he was five years old. His name in the school registrar was "H.H. Bhummibol Mahidol", his registration number was 449.
6. As a child, he received weekly pocket money.
7. Even then, he would pick fruit to earn extra money, with which he would buy seeds to plant vegetables.
8. He used to keep several pets including dogs, rabbits, chickens, mynah birds, monkeys, and even snakes. When his pet snake died, he held a big burial ceremony.
9. His first pet dog as a child was a Thai dog named Bobby.
10. He started wearing glasses before he was 10 because his teacher noticed him standing each time he had to note down something from the blackboard.
11. He was sometimes naughty as a child, but when the Princess Mother got ready to punish him, he would negotiate the punishment, saying three smacks was too harsh, two is enough.
12. While living in Switzerland, the royal children would chat among themselves in French, but speak Thai with their mother.
13. He was taught about "giving" from an early age. The Princess Mother had a "box for the poor". Any profit from jobs was subject to 10% "tax" and at the end of the month a family meeting was held to decide where the money should go such as the school for the blind, the orphanage or charity projects.
14. His first camera was a Coconet Midget, bought with his own savings when he was eight years old.
15. During the World War II, he rode his bicycle to school every day instead of taking the car.
16. His ingenuity is derived from his "games". Whenever he wanted a toy, he would have to buy it with his own pocket money or make it himself. Once he pooled his pocket money with his brother to buy radio parts, which they assembled themselves and shared to listen to.
17. The Princess Mother taught him about Thai geography by getting the School of Fine Arts to make a jigsaw puzzle in the shape of Thailand.
18. His Majesty can play many musical instruments including the piano, guitar and saxophone, but the first musical instrument he took up was the accordion.
19. He became serious about music when he was about 14/15 when he bought a second-hand saxophone for 300 francs, half of which he paid with his pocket money, and half with a contribution from the Princess Mother.
20. He composed his first song, Candlelight Blues at the age of 18. To date, he has composed 48 songs.
21. He can compose anywhere, sometimes without any musical instruments. Once, when inspired, he grabbed an envelope, drew five lines and wrote the music there and then. It was Rao Su.
22. His Majesty's interest in photography takes after the Princess Mother and King Chulalongkorn, Rama V.
23. The manuscripts for Nai In and Tito were written with pen and paper, but Mahajanaka was done on computer.
24. He is adept at various sports, but his favourites are badminton, skiing and sailing. He won the gold medal at the 4th Southeast Asian Peninsula Games in 1967.
25. Once, not long into the race, he came back ashore and said that his dinghy hit a buoy which was considered a foul.
26. He is the first monarch in the world to have been awarded a patent for his Chaipattana Aerator in 1993.
27. He is a pioneer in alternative energy, having experimented with agricultural waste to make gasohol, diesohol and palm oil for more than 20 years.
28. His Majesty does not wear any jewellery except a watch.
29. After having his hair cut, his hair is either put into regimental standards to give to army units, or to compose into amulets to award to deserving citizens.
30. Three essential things when he travels are a self-made map, a camera and a pencil with rubber.
31. His Majesty does all his own work, including making duplicates of notes to give out during meetings.
32. When His Majesty saw officials and villagers waiting for him in the rain when his helicopter arrived, he instructed his royal guards to put away the umbrellas, and continued the visit in the rain.
33. When royal guests visit the Chitralada Royal Projects, His Majesty always acts as their personal guide because he knows every single detail.
34. Once when MR Kukrit Pramoj asked him whether he was ever discouraged, he answered, "Actually I should be discouraged, but I can't, because the stakes are very high. The stakes for me are the country and the happiness of the people."
35. The people are always his priority. When he was set to undergo surgery on July 20, 2006, he instructed his courtiers to set up a computer to monitor a storm which was approaching the country, so he could provide immediate assistance in case of floods.
36. He doesn't eat tilapia because he was the first to introduce the fish to Thailand, breeding them in his swimming pool at Chitralada Villa for distribution to the Department of Fisheries.
37. His favourite drink is Ovaltine.
38. His favourite television channel is the French news channel.
39. He listens to Jor Sor 100 (traffic radio channel), and has even called in to report on traffic situations under an assumed name.
Usnisa Sukhsvasti is the features editor of the Bangkok Post.
M.R. Usnisa Sukhsvasti is Bangkok Post’s features editor, a teacher at Chulalongkorn University and a social worker.