Foreigners join mourning Thais

Foreigners join mourning Thais

Tourists stunned by scale of ceremonies, say they're lucky to bear witness

Foreign visitors to the country are joining Thais in bidding farewell to the late King, stunned by the scale of ceremonies and proud to be 'at this moment of history'. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
Foreign visitors to the country are joining Thais in bidding farewell to the late King, stunned by the scale of ceremonies and proud to be 'at this moment of history'. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

As hundreds of thousands of Thai mourners swarmed the Sanam Luang ceremonial grounds Wednesday, ahead of the royal cremation ceremony Thursday for the late King, some foreigners also came to join the nation in bidding a final farewell to the beloved late King of Thailand.

Most foreigners wandering around absorbing the atmosphere were dressed casually, as Thais gathered to pay their final respects to the late King.

However, some foreigners were seen wearing black mourning attire as they waited to participate in the event.

"This is a moment of history," said Kristine Gould in her late 50s, who travelled on Wednesday from Chiang Mai province, where she has been living for 10 years, to participate in the ceremony with her friend.

"Even though we are Americans, a part of our hearts is Thai; we need to be here," Ms Gould told the Bangkok Post.

"Your king is our king," said Veronica Taylor, 60. Ms Taylor is an American who lives in Phuket. She said she has been living in Thailand on and off for over 40 years.

"I'm proud to be a part of this historic moment," she said.

The two American women were among a large number of mourners queuing up at a security checkpoint in front of the Royal Hotel, also known as the Rattanakosin Hotel, to watch the royal cremation ceremony.

Ms Gould said she was "so impressed" by how Thais have come together at this time.

"It's amazing. I think it's an example for the whole world, how they come together, how they serve each other, how they look after each other," she said.

Not far from Sanam Luang, the street and pavements along nearby Khao San Road, usually swarming with multitudes of tourists from all over the world, seemed less lively Wednesday.

Most foreigners interviewed along the areas adjacent to Sanam Luang said they were aware of the passing of the late King and Thursday's historic ceremony at nearby Sanam Luang.

However, although the majority of foreigners interviewed said they knew about the royal cremation ceremony, there were some that were not aware of the event.

A couple who travelled from Italy said they had no knowledge of the ceremony.

"We knew about the passing of the late King but not the royal cremation ceremony," said Nunzio Quatteone, in his late 40s.

However, they said they do not regret coming to Thailand during the royal cremation ceremony because they will have a chance to be part of this historic occasion.

"We are lucky to be here and feel the 'Thai energy'," said Fabienne Sarrus, 40, from France.

Some who knew about the ceremony were startled by its scale.

"I didn't expect it to be like this," exclaimed Felix Michalski, a native of Germany.

"I'm so amazed to see how all the people in the streets are coming to support the late King," said Mr Michalski, 25.

Mr Michalski and his Brazilian friend Falio Diluia, 23, also said they respect the people participating in the event and would probably attend the royal cremation ceremony Thursday.

Anna Walters, 22, from England, said she thinks it is quite an experience to witness such a historic event in Thailand.

She added that she can see the places she intends to visit next time she comes back.

Janjaree Sawangsang, a flight attendant who volunteered to provide information to foreigners in Khao San Road, said most foreigners approaching her for information were aware of the ceremony and were not hampered by the event.

"They understand and even expressed their empathy," Ms Janjaree, in her late 40s, said.

The orderliness of the scene captivated them. For others, the sheer scale and grandeur of the funeral pyre and associated religious structures built to honour the late King were "breathtaking".

"I feel safe and inspired. Everything is well organised," said Oksentiuk Myroskava, 28, from Ukraine.

Ms Myroskava said she thinks this kind of event "connects the country".

"It's amazing. They support each other with food and everything. People are also asking me 'do you need help?'" she added.

"Our countries would not respect our leader with this kind of reverence," added Ms Myroskava's Canadian partner Vince Rees, 37.

The couple added, "We are proud to be here."

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