Pattayans turn up in record numbers for final goodbye to King Rama IX

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Officials in dress white uniforms and black armbands say their final goodbyes at Wat Chaimongkol.
Officials in dress white uniforms and black armbands say their final goodbyes at Wat Chaimongkol.

Tens of thousands of Pattaya-area residents braved long lines, hot sun and intermittent rain to pay their last respects to HM the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Pattaya’s mirror royal cremation ceremony.

Lines stretched for more than a kilometer outside Chaimongkol Temple early Oct. 26 as mourners waited with artificial sandalwood flowers in hand to lay upon Pattaya’s scale replica of the royal crematorium in Bangkok. Police, soldiers and volunteers checked the massive crowd for weapons and also that mourners were dressed appropriately in black.

Banglamung District Chief Naris Niramaiwong led the first offerings to the late monarch at 7 a.m. with top area officials and civil servants laying their pulp flowers on the crematorium. The temple was packed, but the crowds remained reserved with many crying.

Finally, the gates opened to the public at 9 a.m., but the crowd far outsized the large temple, meaning even those who arrived at 7 a.m. couldn’t get inside until almost noon. Those arriving at 9 a.m. spent more than five hours in line as authorities admitted only 200 mourners at a time every five-to-10 minutes to manage the crowd inside.

Inside, mourners lined up nine in a row – later expanded to 18 to accommodate the crowd size – to lay their flowers. Mourners were instructed to hold the artificial daffodils above chest-level and use their right hand to offer the flower while bowing.

Ten monks were summoned to chant religious funeral rites after 15:00.
Ten monks were summoned to chant religious funeral rites after 15:00.

When exiting, each was given a pamphlet about the life of King Rama IX. People also could view a royal history exhibition and take photos at designated booths. A temporary cafeteria served meals, beverages and sweets for free.

So many people turned out to Chaimongkol that a late, urgent call went out to Jittapawan Temple to open its doors until 9 p.m. for overflow mourners. Flowers left there eventually were transported to Chaimongkol for that night’s cremation.

A last minute call was made to Wat Jittapawan to set up and let people offer sandalwood flowers as an alternative for those who couldn’t make it to Wat Chaimongkol.
A last minute call was made to Wat Jittapawan to set up and let people offer sandalwood flowers as an alternative for those who couldn’t make it to Wat Chaimongkol.

Official ceremonies got underway at 3 p.m. with Naris lighting the Bucharattanarai candle with Pattaya Mayor Anan Charoenchasri and his deputies. All inside the temple then observed 89 seconds of silence. Flower offerings were halted for the ceremonies, with mourners let in again starting at 5:30 p.m.

At 11:30 pm, a large LCD screen began to show the finale of the royal funeral at Sanam Luang with HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun leading the cremation of his beloved father. Pattaya officials mirrored the goings-on in Bangkok, burning the wood-pulp flowers.

Even after proceedings ended, mourners who couldn’t make it inside Chaimongkol earlier persisted, laying their flowers which later were brought to the crematorium.

Residents were organized in a proper line to offer sandalwood flowers.
Residents were organized in a proper line to offer sandalwood flowers.
An alternative area was set up for disabled or elderly residents to offer sandalwood flowers.
An alternative area was set up for disabled or elderly residents to offer sandalwood flowers.
South Pattaya Road was decorated with murals paying homage to the late King Rama IX.
South Pattaya Road was decorated with murals paying homage to the late King Rama IX.
Late afternoon and still there was a very long line of people waiting to get into the temple.
Late afternoon and still there was a very long line of people waiting to get into the temple.
Banglamung District Chief Naris Niramaiwong begins the final part of the ceremony by lighting the sandalwood flowers to coincide with the cremation in Bangkok.
Banglamung District Chief Naris Niramaiwong begins the final part of the ceremony by lighting the sandalwood flowers to coincide with the cremation in Bangkok.
Marking the end of the ceremony, the sandalwood flowers are cremated at the same time as the Royal Cremation in Bangkok.
Marking the end of the ceremony, the sandalwood flowers are cremated at the same time as the Royal Cremation in Bangkok.