BANGKOK – The evening before the Thursday cremation of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, thousands of Thais from all walks of life lined up along one lane near the Grand Palace hoping to be among the first to enter the ceremonial periphery as the checkpoints began opening.
It was a moment of unity for the whole nation. Shops and guesthouses on the world-renowned backpackers’ haven of Banglamphu and Khaosan Roads have offered food, daily items and assistance to the mourners.
Businesses offered mourners access to their toilets for free during the day and during the stay.
Many restaurants and bars on Phra Athit Road have handed out free medicines, bottled water and packages of instant noodles for the passersby and mourners, who had filled up spaces in front of the buildings.
Volunteers from the nearby temporary service booths brought out a tray of Pad Thai noodles to offer the mourners.
Those in mourning were seen to be carrying raincoats, plastic mats and umbrellas as they braced for a possible rainy night.
Many elderly citizens brought with them folding plastic chairs as sitting on the ground proved inconvenient for some.
Sunan, 60, a Bangkok resident, said she arrived at Phra Athit Road at 3 on Wednesday morning.
“I have waited here all day because I want to access the ceremonial ground by tonight.”
One member of the checkpoint staff told EFE that the gate would open at 8:00 pm to allow mourners to get into the inner part of the ceremonial area before the cremation on Thursday, which is due to begin with a lavish funeral procession at dawn.
Thanyaporn, 45, a teacher from the southern Nakhon Si Thammarat province, said she had come with a group of 13 friends.
They have been given food, water and raincoats since they arrived at 3:00 am Wednesday.
“I have sat here since then and I have been offered boiled rice, boxes of food and coffee all day.”
A staff member working at a bar on Phra Athit Road told EFE that he had been handing out chocolate and biscuits to the mourners throughout the day.
“One of the women from Khon Kaen gave me 500 baht (about $15) after I gave her a chocolate bar.”
“She told me to buy more chocolate and sweets for others as well.”