The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej has the entire country of Thailand in mourning. As a tourist, this will likely affect your plans somewhat and has the potential to cause major travel issues. Many people seem to be struggling with the best way to adjust their travel plans and enjoy their holiday while Thailand is mourning the loss of their king. We put this guide together from our experiences while living in Thailand during this difficult time.
If the King’s death does impact your travel plans, we urge you to put this in perspective. Instead of viewing this as a negative thing, consider it a once in a lifetime glimpse into the culture of the country you are visiting.
A Few Things To Remember While Traveling In Thailand Immediately After The King’s Passing
Remember the king has been in power for the past 70 years, which has been the entire life of most Thais. So, this is a sad and potentially vulnerable time in the country. While his passing may not mean as much to you, keep in mind it will be weighing heavily on the Thai people you encounter while visiting Thailand during the mourning period of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
A few basic tips:
- Be respectful and wear muted colors. Most Thais will be wearing black for at least a month if not an entire year. While it may not be practical to wear black every day, try and avoid bright and playful colors out of respect. On the beaches, this will not be expected as much. However, in town, try to be a bit more modest than normal Thailand standards.
- Assume everyone you encounter is grieving the king’s loss at some level and treat them appropriately.
- Avoid discussing the king or royal family with Thai people. This should never be done in a very public place or in any negative way. In general, public conversation about the royal family should never be done in Thailand, but it is especially sensitive during this time of mourning and change. There are laws in Thailand called the Lèse majesté that carry a significant penalty for both you and Thai people and is taken quite seriously in Thailand.
Is It Safe To Visit Thailand After The King’s Death?
The short answer is yes. If you have travel plans bringing you to Thailand already booked, you should still visit Thailand. There may be a minor period of adjustment in the country after the new king is crowned, which might make your visit a little more challenging. However, for the majority of tourists, you will likely only run into minor problems when visiting the main tourist cities in Thailand. In summary, still come to Thailand, but be respectful and a little patient.
If you haven’t made travel arrangements yet to Thailand after the king’s death you may want to alter your plans to avoid certain cities in Thailand or choose another destination altogether. This is not so much for safety, but for significant closures during the main mourning period which is October 13th, 2016 to November 13th, 2016. It is still early in the process and difficult to tell what the total impact will be on the country.
What Places Should I Avoid When Visiting Thailand After The King’s Death?
These are somewhat uncertain times and a massive change like this could lead to issues in the country to stay up to date with foreign advisories for tourists in Thailand. This list is simply an assumption, and we should not be the only site used while finalizing your itinerary.
Bangkok – The most heavily affected area with closures and ceremonies will be the capital city of Bangkok. The King’s funeral and other happenings with the government will likely take place here. Attractions like the Grand Palace will likely be closed to normal visitation for ceremonies to be held here. Various other locations and roads in the city may be closed as well. If you can avoid Bangkok until the end of your travels it may give more time for the ceremonies and grieving period to finish. It would be best to save visiting Bangkok until at least a month after the king’s passing which is November 13th, 2016. Bangkok is our favorite city in the world and a city we always recommend spending at least 3 days in Bangkok.
Hua Hin – This coastal resort town has been a favorite of the King and Royal family for many years. If there is a tourist area that would be further affected by the king’s passage, it would be Hua Hin. Recently in August 2016, there were some outbursts of violence in Hua Hin and other areas. It may be best to avoid this area temporarily. As always, if you choose to visit Hua Hin, check with governmental advisories prior to your trip.
The Best Places to Visit in Thailand After the King’s Death?
For the most part, cities that rely heavily on tourism will continue to operate as usual. There may be individual restaurants or attractions that are closed temporarily, however most things in the beach resort towns of Thailand will continue as normal.
Koh Lipe – This small island in the far south relays almost completely on tourism and is unlikely to have major closures. The island is also large enough that if there are prolonged closures in some restaurants, there will be open enough to serve the travelers visiting Koh Lipe. Stay in a Koh Lipe Beach Resort and relax in paradise away from the happenings in Bangkok. Don’t forget to head over to the nearby island Koh Adang to hike up to the best viewpoint of Koh Lipe.
Chiang Mai – The “Rose of the North” is located 700 km north of Bangkok surrounded by mountains and green countryside. Stay in a Chiang Mai hotel right inside the Old City which has over 30 temples or in the trendy Nimman area just a 5 minute Tuk Tuk ride away.
Phuket – Thailand’s biggest beach destination will run for the most part as it always does. However, stay abreast of important ceremonies like the funeral of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and the crowning of the successor. These events will likely result in further closures.
Nearby Destinations to Consider Visiting if You Wish To Not Travel In Thailand After The King’s Death
If you already booked a trip to Thailand and you don’t want to travel around Thailand after the King’s passing consider this a time to explore a destination you never planned on visiting. What most people don’t realize is once you’ve arrived in Southeast Asia it is super easy and cheap to fly to nearby countries.
There are several budget airlines that operate out of Bangkok (BKK and DMK airports), and we have flown several of them over the past four years. Our personal favorites are Air Asia (which we have flown at least 50 times), Thai Smile, and Jet Star. It is not uncommon to get the below flights for under $30 each way. We suggest purchasing one-way tickets and hitting a few of the below Southeast Asia destinations.
Indonesia – If you had your heart set on the full moon party in Thailand, head to Kuta beach in Bali instead. If you aren’t looking for a party scene, don’t worry there are a ton of things to do in Bali that don’t involve partying. For a unique experience head to Tanjung Puting National Park spot wild Borneo Orangutans and spend the night on a boat! Other areas to check out when traveling in Indonesia: Wakatobi, Gili Islands, and Komodo National Park.
Cambodia – If you had your heart set on the Grand Palace head to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat for sunrise. Sure it’s not exactly the same but the temples at Angkor Wat are amazing. The best tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap showed us around Angkor Wat for 3 days. Other cities to check out when traveling in Cambodia: Phnom Penh, Koh Rong, and Sihanoukville.
Vietnam – If you had your heart set on a cooking class in Thailand head to Hoi An Vietnam. One of our favorite things to do in Hoi An was taking a cooking class, we literally went in the kitchen at our favorite Hoi An restaurant and learned from the Vietnamese grandma. Other cities to check out when traveling in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. *BONUS Vietnam is super cheap here is a look at what $5 a day in Vietnam got us.
The Philippines – If you had your heart set on sitting on the beach and being in the water most of the day head instead to the Philippines. The Philippines are simply amazing and typically overlooked when tourists are booking a trip to Southeast Asia. The best place in the Philippines, according to us, is El Nido. There are a ton of things to do in El Nido and no matter where you go you are bound to find a gorgeous beach. Other islands to consider when traveling in the Philippines: Coron, Boracay, Siargao, and many more!
FAQs About Tourism In Thailand After The King’s Death:
Is the full moon party canceled in October? Yes
Is the full moon party canceled in November? Likely
Likely, the full moon falls on November 14th which is only one day past the one month mark for the initial mourning period and has a high probability of being canceled. This may change, and we will try and update this as changes happen.
Is the Chiang Mai lantern festival Canceled? NO
Initially, the Chiang Mai Lantern Festival called Yi Ping was canceled. As of October 18th, it is back on. However, will not have the entertainment portion like in years past with live music and fireworks.
What should I wear in Thailand after the King’s death?
Wear muted colors (black is best, but not always expected from tourists) whenever possible with shoulders cover in city settings.
Is the Grand Palace Closed? YES, until at least October 20th, 2016
The Grand Palace will likely serve as the venue for many ceremonies in the days and weeks to come. Check with local governmental websites for the most up to date information.
Should I book my winter holiday to Thailand?
Our personal opinion is the king’s passing should not have a significant impact on tourist activities in Thailand. This is especially true after the initial morning period of the first month which is expected to conclude on November 13th. However, the king was known as the glue that held Thailand together and there is always potential and especially with a major change like this for problems to erupt. If you have not booked your holiday yet we would suggest waiting until after the crowning of the king’s successor and other important ceremonies to play out. Consider booking in early November when the picture becomes clearer on how the country will take the loss.
The above text is strictly an opinion and should not be the only source of information used in deciding whether or not to travel to Thailand after the passing of the king. We can not be responsible for any loss or issues that may occur when using the advice. However, we hope this helps and if you have any specific questions on traveling to Thailand after the king’s death please leave them in the comments and we will try to respond to them if we have any information.