I had twenty-four hours notice to leave the country.  For reasons I’ll never understand, my visa extension was denied by the authorities and leaving and reentering Vietnam was the only way to avoid hefty fines (or worse) for overstaying my visa.

Bangkok was calling me

So last Friday I flew to Bangkok for a visa run.  I stayed for four days even though I received the official letter of return just a few hours after leaving Vietnam.  I figured there was no point in hopping on a plane and turning around without seeing something of Thailand.  I’m glad I stayed.

One of the first things I noticed about Bangkok was the number of tourists.  I’ve heard that Bangkok is the most visited city in the world by tourists.  It seemed that half the people I encountered were travelers.  Because of this, getting around and finding things to do was incredibly easy.  

Another early observation was the image of King Bhumibol Adulyadej that was everywhere.  The king passed away on October 13 after 70 years as monarch.  It is difficult to truly understand the relationship Thai people have with their king, but from what I understand Bhumibol was loved by everyone.  The country is in an official state of mourning for one year and most Thais wear black every day.  Outside of every shopping center is a huge billboard-sized poster of the king set upon an altar with flowers surrounding it.

These homages are also found in parks, inside buildings, at the market, in metro stations, everywhere.  Newspapers and magazines still run full-page remembrances of the king. Even ATM machines have his image on the screen before you insert your card.  

Despite the period of mourning, the country is open for business.  I enjoyed visits to temples, markets, historical sites, museums and lots of delicious street food.

I’ve heard from seasoned Southeast Asia travelers that Bangkok is not necessarily worth a visit.  In fact, some have said to skip Thailand altogether and spend time in countries that are currently not as touristy (Myanmar, Laos).  I am so glad I had this unexpected trip to Bangkok and even hope to return later in my travels.  

The bridge over the River Kwai
13,000 POWs and up to 100,000 civilians died working on the bridge and railroad for the Japanese during WWII.
The film version is great, but is mostly fiction.
Today the bridge and railroad are tourist attractions.
Monks are not allowed to touch others, so it’s important to leave a seat empty next to one.
Water taxis are a cheap and easy way to get around Bangkok’s canals and rivers.
The awning comes up as the boat speeds up – water splashes everywhere.
This reminder was seen in several places.
This reminder was in a temple.
Wat Pho – the temple that houses a large reclining Buddah
Reclining Buddah

A Country in Mourning

Remembering the king
At the palace
Streets were closed off and mourners were everywhere.
The police helping visitors
People are dressed in black all over Thailand, not just at the palace.

As I walked around the closed streets surrounding the palace, I found hundreds, maybe thousands, of people waiting patiently in long lines for a chance to enter the palace grounds and visit the King’s body.  Tents were set up for blocks and blocks with people handing out free water, drinks and food to the mourners.  Some visitors waited all day to enter the palace, and based on the traditional dress many were wearing, I imagine they came from long distances.  Here’s what I witnessed as I wandered around the outskirts of the palace.

Comments (18):

  1. Paula Agins

    December 19, 2016 at 09:58

    What an unexpected adventure! Happy it turned out well. Count down going on here for Christmas break. Merry Christmas Tim 🙂

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:18

      Merry Christmas, Paula! Enjoy the time off.

  2. LInda Wight

    December 19, 2016 at 10:48

    What an amazing time in Thailand. Glad you were able to see it. I’m glad your visa was straightened out. Hope your studies are going well. Everyone is missing you not being home for Christmas. The pictures are great. Stay well. Study hard. Haven’t had a chance to read the students’ poetry yet. Merry Christmas again. Hope it turns out to be a good day for you. love Linda n Conrad

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:20

      Merry Christmas, Linda and family! I’ll be having a Mexican Christmas dinner with fellow Fulbrighters. As much as we love the food here, we’re all missing Mexican food!

  3. Cindy Cassidy

    December 19, 2016 at 12:33

    Gosh…even when you hit a speed bump, you have the King Midas way of turning it into an adventure in your journey. What amazing pictures of those in mourning, and capturing the spirit of how their monarch is being honored over the course of the year. Happy Holidays to you Tim and a prosperous, adventurous new year! Hugs, Cindy

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:21

      Thanks, Cindy. Hope you have a great break and enjoy time with the family.

  4. Lori Liguori

    December 19, 2016 at 14:33

    So cool, Tim!!!!!! Merry Christmas!!!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:22

      Merry Christmas, Lori! Enjoy the time off.

  5. Sharon

    December 20, 2016 at 01:55

    Being flexible in a journey is important, but it is astonishing that you did this so routinely! An amazing side trip journey for you! Merry Christmas!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:23

      Thanks, Sharon. I think I learned a little bit about flexibility in Brazil! Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

  6. Monica Schnee

    December 20, 2016 at 03:46

    A historical time to be in Thailand – glad you had a visa mishap. It turned out to be a great adventure. Have a great holiday and enjoy your travels – we will both be finished soon and look back on this time with great fondness and sadness that it was too short.

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:24

      Just two weeks left. It’s hard to believe. Seems like yesterday we were meeting in Washington and had so many questions.

  7. Susanne Murphy

    December 21, 2016 at 11:37

    Thank you for the wonderful pictures, and Merry Christmas, Tim

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 22, 2016 at 21:25

      Thank you, Susanne. Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  8. Deidre

    December 25, 2016 at 16:41

    I am in awe of your last two blogs. Just loved seeing the students jgiving you gifts. They seem so joyful and genuine! Your detour was amazing. What an experience! Miss you and wishing you a peaceful and restful Christmas! Hopefully you will get a few days to relax a bit. You sure have been on the go! Deidre

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:27

      Yes, it’s like the end of the school year for me – so much to do and deadlines fast approaching. I am taking a few days over New Year’s for an adventurous photo tour in the mountains. I’ll be roughing it, sleeping on buses, riding on motorbikes. There will be many photos and stories to share.


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