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The Kingdom

March 3, 2014

His name is Bhumibol Adulyadej and his face greeted us minutes after our plane landed in Bangkok. I had no idea he’d be following us throughout our stay in Thailand but on the car ride to our hotel after clearing customs I saw him on virtually every street corner. It would be hard to imagine Queen Elizabeth’s face greeting me on every street corner in the UK.

    

I recognized him from the money I exchanged at the Hong Kong airport; Adulyadej is the King of Thailand, and the longest reigning monarch in the world. Approaching his sixty-eighth year on the throne, he’s ruled Thailand longer than Ramses II ruled Ancient Egypt. And it’s quite clear his people love him. In fact, the current government (Thailand is a constitutional monarchy and the King’s powers are ceremonial) is in disfavor for being discourteous to the monarchy.

    

I was expecting to see the Bangkok depicted in The Hangover Part II; the urban sprawl was present along with smog and oppressive heat, but the only jarring sight I noticed was an amazingly large billboard reminding visitors that it’s disrespectful to sport a tattoo of Buddha. Really? I had no idea. I’m not against tattoos, although I’ve yet to see one that improves the natural look of the human body.

    

We were picked up at our hotel by our guide, Ta Ta. As we headed out to tour the Royal palace I couldn’t resist asking questions about the man who’d reigned over this kingdom since 1946. First, the King is sacrosanct, infallible, and saying anything disrespectful about him is a crime punishable by imprisonment. Earlier, I’d joked with Ta Ta that many Americans probably come to Thailand because of their love for the 50’s musical The King and I. She covered her reaction quickly but actually winced when I asked if she’d seen the film. “It isn’t legal to see or own that movie,” she explained.

    

I was startled, especially since she’d explained that Thailand means free land. “Why?” I asked.

    

“It’s considered uncomplimentary to the monarchy,” she responded. “The King of Thailand (Siam back then) didn’t need the help of a British school teacher to save his country. He did so on his own with remarkable diplomatic skill.”

    

I knew the movie was based on a factual story but I never assume anything out of Hollywood to be completely true. But for a government to ban a movie? America seemed very far away. “You say that owning this movie is illegal? You mean this is a custom, not a law, right?”

    

She shook her head. “No. It’s the law.”

    

We were off to an interesting start.

    

A few facts about the King of Thailand. For starters, he was born far from Thailand, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He plays the saxophone, was a fierce badminton player in his youth and lost an eye in a car accident shortly before being crowned. His personal net worth is estimated at over thirty billion dollars and Forbes claimed he was the World’s richest monarch from 2008-2013. He became King when his older brother died in a shooting incident in the Royal Palace under circumstances never explained or openly discussed. Fortunately for the Thai people, Bhumibol Adulyadej has been as generous as he has been hardworking, and the country’s prosperity over the years has been due in large part to his efforts, which can’t be easy considering Thailand’s volatile politics. I looked forward to visiting his Bangkok palace, which the King recently opened to the public.

    

I hope His Majesty doesn’t show up because I’m often accused of having a disrespectful expression.

 

 

Grand Palace from the River Chao Phraya

 

 

 

 

 

Wat Phra Kaeo

 

 

Mrs. Chatterbox

 

 

The Chatterboxes and friend.



Comments

27 Comments
That's some friend you and the missus have. I wonder if it's illegal to listen to that song, "One Night in Bangkok?" Though I don't think it's disrespectful of the monarchy, more like Bangkok in general.
By: PT Dilloway on March 3, 2014
OMG, great pics. Interesting history as usual, I am surprised you were not warned about some of those laws before you left. I am very much enjoying your vacation etc. etc. etc.
By: Cranky Old Man on March 3, 2014
Wow, I almost always learn something when you blog and I most certainly did with this post. I had no idea about the King or how he is viewed by the people of Thailand. Very interesting. But the best part was seeing you and Mrs. Chatterbox. You two are adorable. I look forward to more of your adventures.
By: Oma Linda on March 3, 2014
oh you two had such an adventure- wonderful photos and aren't you two so happy! Thanks for all the travel history and stories- wonderful!
By: Kathe W. on March 3, 2014
Thank goodness you had TaTa to learn you and all of us something about Freeland. She takes great pics too! Why are you touching your friends foot? I guess it's allowed... eh. :)
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 3, 2014
What a crazy world we live in. And, wow....that architecture! Thanks for sharing your experiences, for you tell me about things and places I will NEVER visit.
By: Scott Park on March 3, 2014
we hear of queen elizabeth and her crew all the time, but this king - never. interesting about the movie, though.
By: TexWisGirl on March 3, 2014
I agree with one of the other comments, I learn something new in every one of your posts. Against the law to sport a tattoo of Buddah, against the law to own a movie or speak ill of the king. Seems they are very heavy on the laws. I think I need to be in the depths of obscurity here in the U.S. where I can bad mouth whoever I choose. Love your pictures and am looking forward to hearing more.
By: Cheryl P. on March 3, 2014
Wow he looks a bit like Liberace. Not you, the King.
By: LL Cool Joe on March 3, 2014
I've learnt something new - as always. I'm not a great lover of royalty; a characteristic that probably puts me in the minority here in the UK. I share your view on tattoos.
By: Bryan Jones on March 3, 2014
I found Thailand fascinating!!
By: fishducky on March 3, 2014
It's sometimes difficult to get our heads around customs and views that are different than ours.
By: red on March 3, 2014
Cool information about Thailand. Love the picture of you and Mrs. Chatterbox and your fierce-looking friend!
By: Pixel Peeper on March 3, 2014
I had no idea. Is it Thailand where they cane people for things like littering? The King and I is very loosely based on a true story. It's pretty shocking that it's illegal. I love musicals. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on March 3, 2014
Well, Thailand may have some different customs, but it certainly looks as amazingly interesting as i'd always thought it would.
By: mimi on March 3, 2014
I remember reading a few stories about foreigners, including at least one American, sitting in Thai jails for saying or writing 'derogatory' things about the Thai king. I believe that 'crime' carries a 15 year sentence.
By: Daniel McBane on March 3, 2014
That architecture is amazing. It also dwarfs Mrs. C., who looks like a little latchkey kid who forgot her key.
By: Val on March 3, 2014
Some great pics.; some great times ... AND you didn't get shot in the palace!
By: tom sightings on March 3, 2014
I think the pictures are fabulous! It's awful about the third world mentality, though, isn't it? Things i see in Egypt remind me all the time why there's a difference between first world and third world countries. It has far less to do with prosperity than ignorance and a stubbornly foolish mind-set. Mrs. Chatterbox is adorable! :)
By: Lexa Cain on March 3, 2014
A thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating post. I didn't know that about the King. I love your personal approach to relating it and the pictures are just gorgeous.
By: Tom Cochrun on March 3, 2014
I love traveling vicariously through you and Mrs. Chatterbox. We've been to so many places and had so many adventures. :)
By: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick on March 4, 2014
Those are some great pics. The architecture looks so alien - as though it has absolutely nothing in common with other architecture we see. I can't even imagine being able to keep people from saying bad things about me...
By: Katy Anders on March 4, 2014
Beautiful architecture! And - fun post.
By: jenny_o on March 4, 2014
I didn't know half of this stuff! Thanks for enlightening me today :) Thank you also for coming to visit my blog. I have the follow button fixed finally :)
By: Melynda on March 5, 2014
I suppose it's difficult to understand an intolerance for freedom of expression but it's not my place to judge how others run their lands. That's part of what makes for an interesting world. You sure visited a beautiful spot. I love the photos and look forward to more.
By: TheSmittenImage on March 5, 2014
Fascinating and informative with some great photos! I like it!
By: John on March 5, 2014
i learn the most interesting things here. i would not have imagined banning that movie.
By: lime on March 26, 2014

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