The cinema experience in Bangkok is similar to seeing a movie in the States except for two details. First, the movie theaters in Bangkok are massive and extemely luxurious. Second, we had to stand for a two minute tribute to the king of Thailand before the movie started. Everyone stood in the theater as we watched a video with pictures of this man growing crops, waving to the people, playing saxophone and taking pictures (two of his biggest hobbies). It was weird.
His picture is everywhere. I doubt you could walk two blocks in Thailand without seeing an elaborate tribute to the King and Queen. Thailand’s history is littered with periods of political unrest, uprising, and reform. Constant throughout much of this time is the reign of King Rama IX, who just so happens to be the longest serving current head of state (reigning since 1946).
In England, people openly make fun of the royal family. In Thailand, such behavior would land you in jail. Everyone absolutely adores the king and queen. The king, however, is a sick old man who hasn’t made a public appearance in ages. Rumors exist that he might not even be alive anymore, which doesn’t surprise me. The entire country would sink into depression if the king’s death was announced. I can’t imagine the operation involved in changing the millions of king portraits around the country to pictures of the new guy.
The king and queen are loving rulers of their people, so their unanimous adoration in Thailand makes a bit of sense. Still, it’s wrong that the people of Thailand are brainwashed and legally obligated to love their monarchs. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to experience a political culture so different than my own. With that said, I’m stoked for a taste of communism on my next stop.