The Royal Cremation, Bangkok

We arrived from Hanoi and realized we had enough time to visit the Royal Cremation site before departing to our work site. Also fortunate: we had our all-black teacher clothes. The streets of Bangkok were freakishly silent and the trains were open with no fee. We waited in line on darkened Bangkok streets for about three hours and Thai people around us were very kind: making sure we had water and hand fans to cool ourselves. After showing our teacher ID cards (everyone else showed their microchipped National ID card) we entered the cremation area. We queued in neat, heavily-monitored (a guard instructed me to tuck in my shirt) lines, then under the spotlight we each selected a small sandalwood flower from a golden tray, bowed deeply to an image of the King with our hands held at our sides. Sandalwood is used because its fragrance when burned is believed to help the soul make its way to heaven. We laid the flower in a bowl and processed to the area where massive floral displays honored the King. The cremation fire was lit at 10pm. It’s morning now, and the monks are locating relics in the ashes.

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