One thing I couldn’t afford to miss when in Bangkok is the Royal Crematorium. The royal cremation ceremony was held in October 2017. The Royal Crematorium was still on display as an exhibition until December. I had an observation of people paying the last homage of the late King Bhumipol in December 2016. I was eager to see how they transformed Sanam Luang to glorify the monarch. They have done a very good job.
I don’t use a DSLR camera for a photo shoot much these days. But the day I visited Sanam Luang to take picture of it, I had so much fun. Because it was spectacular.
I arrived the place in late afternoon and the weather was perfect with overcast cloud to diffuse sunlight. It was not so busy that we needed to queue up. That gave me some rooms to take photos without bumping with the crowd.
Then, I realised that it was impossible to get deep down in details of the crematorium while photographing because of each element was created through the royal tradition with ancient Buddhist and Brahma believes. From the Funeral pyre to the surrounding pavilions converted into exhibition halls. And I didn’t do any homework on any of them what so ever.
So, yes, I was in awe and overwhelmed.
It wasn’t just the structures and the decorations that amazed me, but also the people. As the day went into dusk, the magic started to emerge—the golden hour of sunset. That was when the crowd started to form. There were some top spots for photographers stationed. But most visitors used their mobile phones or tablets to take picture considering it was a one-off event in their lifetime.
This was one of the most fun photo sessions I had for a long time. The last one I had real fun could be sunrise in Sydney I took in 2016. It reminded how much I could engage with photo shooting when the subject was astounding like this.
One of my definite to-do lists when I was back in Bangkok last December was to pay respect to the late King. The main reason wasn’t for the sake of myself paying the respect but to see the people and their activities around it.
Totally, it took about six hours that day to eventually get into the Grand Palace for ten minutes to pay the homage to HM’s body. Most of that time was just a wait in Sanam Luang, outside the Grand Palace. That would be enough for me to get a glimpse of the mourning environment.
This picture did not really matter much to me until recently. First of all, I have just officially graduated a Master Degree here in Australia but decided not to attend the ceremony and it came to realisation that it would not happen to me again.
The young lad on the right is me and the other one is King Bhumiphol. I am old enough to had a chance of the lifetime to receive Bachelor Degree straight from the King of Thailand. Back then, he only performed this duty for the graduates from top two universities in Thailand—Chulalongkorn University and Thammasat University, where I obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism (Film and Photography).
That was probably the first time I wore a suit. Imagine how hot it would be in around March in Bangkok and, on top of that, we had chaotic photo sessions in the morning. When we all in the University’s main auditorium, the sweat slowly evaporated inside. Once the King arrived the hall and the chancellor reported, all graduates were called one by one. And imagine doing a repetitive actions for hours without a break.
Now, I could not find where that actual piece of paper is.
It is another special event. I actually plan to spend last night in Thailand on 80th HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej‘s Birthday to see the celebration. The sea of yellow t-shirts on the streets peaks today. That shows his power to unite Thai people. Even bar girls in Soi Patpong are covering their uniforms which rarely hide anything and come out in the front and wait for the commemoration from the telecast. Stall holders are happy to hand over their spare candles to anyone who does not have one and tourists and shoppers are more than welcomed to join the Patpong community to pay homage to the beloved king this evening.
When the auspicious time comes, 8:19pm, the nation stops and the whole country sing the royal anthem and two more praise-the-king songs in candle light together. The rest of the candles are put up the footpaths or anywhere that can brighten up the streets. After that, Patpong is back to its business.