From my perspective, royalty seems terribly outdated. This notion of Marie Antoinette losing her head never fazed me one way or another. I could be wrong, but France appears splendid in spite of beheading their queen. Prince William, Kate Middleton and Prince Harry must have on permanent retainer the best public relations team infinite money can buy. Let’s be real; after all the highly orchestrated do-gooder photo ops are complete, they’re still bloody royals. People criticize reality television stars, especially those who become moguls; Duck Dynasty to the Kardashians — America’s royals without ancient regal lineage.
Rated number six on Tripadvisor’s list of approximately seven thousand two hundred restaurants in Bangkok, just across from this city’s Reclining Buddha, adjacent to the Grand Palace you’ll find Ama. I’ll be honest; the food was on par with cafeteria style dishes found in any Bangkok peripheral shopping mall. This was by no means reflection on our friends’ suggestion; they’d never been to Ama before either. When the check arrived, Jeanette and I excused ourselves to withdraw some baht from a nearby ATM after discovering Ama doesn’t accept credit cards. Our barefoot Thai waiter sporting dreadlocks directed us outside, pointing but thirty feet away, across from the expansive Grand Palace wall.
A cripple on the sidewalk selling trinkets plopped underneath three busy ATM machines could’ve caught anybody’s attention. He was wearing an antelope-like skin skull cap; this animal’s esophagus jutting upward six inches, that of which was wrapped by costume pearls, along with silver and gold necklaces. No shirt nor shoes; his eyes cast a feral glare. The single visible covering was his tray of pathetic souvenirs. The man’s limbs, joints specifically, were anatomically incorrect; his body resembled a human swastika.
Ama’s facade is wide open, welcoming famished visitors from Maha Rat Road. Observing wilting tourists scamper for shade and cold drinks, besides our lovely companions, was itself entertaining, though not enough to go back. We’ve been in Bangkok a month now; rather peculiar, the only black person I’ve seen so far made her diagonal, hurried way across that intersection in front of Ama. She could’ve doubled for Lisa Bonet, round, yellow reflective John Lennon sunglasses to boot. Other than hanging around this touristy neighborhood, a dead giveaway the girl wasn’t an expat, were her balloony pants blazoned with repetitious elephants.
Buckingham Palace architects and landscape designers made no bones about the Duke of Buckingham, John Sheffield’s disregard to forbid commoners from viewing, with contemplation, a royal life beyond the ornate gates. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, through Majesty’s His and Hers till this very day are apparently quite snug living in their unobstructed castle. Nine decades ago, when King Ananda Mahidol lived in Bangkok’s Grand Palace, no one would’ve ever realized the royal family occupied it if they hadn’t been informed beforehand. Block after blocks, the Grand Palace’s lofty, reinforced walls kept commoners at bay. Clearly, Thailand’s royal family didn’t fully trust the public wouldn’t attempt a revolution. Those royals residing in the epicenter of Bangkok’s swelling population had different thoughts than John Sheffield. Why live amid peons working around the clock to make ends meet? These days Thailand’s royal family lounges about in palatial digs throughout their sovereign turf.
Allegedly on October 13, 2016 King Bhumibol Adulyadej who reigned since 1946 died of a lengthy, mysterious illness; for years it was widely reported he convalesced under twenty-four hour care at an undisclosed hospital. The king’s estimated net worth is 30 billion dollars. I said allegedly for the basic fact King Bhumibol was last photographed two years ago when he was eighty-six. Most photos depict a man much younger, mid 30’s to early 40’s. Behind hushed doors some Thai believe he passed long before the October announcement. King Bhumibol is so revered, his status, from my observation, feels parallel to Krishna or Jesus’ devotees. With hands in prayer position held slightly below the chin, Thai subjects bow their heads, referring to King Bhumibol as “my king.”
Presently, incalculable government buildings are festooned with mourning black and white fabric, intermittently ruched to create synthetic blossoms — now dingy after being exposed to the elements. Thai militia stand at attention; their fitted polyester brownish olive-green uniforms look like torture to wear in Thailand’s year-round varying ninety degree temperatures. Soldiers are strapped with semi-automatic rifles, menacing tanks at the ready behind government blockades. Protocol stated mourning shall continue for one hundred days, however, was recently extended an entire year. Subservient Thai wear black or black with white; mourning attire and petite black ribbon pins are sold at every turn. For once, famiglia di Schiavo isn’t the oddity wearing predominantly black ensembles. Government theory believes this prolonged mourning period should help prevent another coup d’état attempt in Thailand; ensuring the king’s son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, will relish his reign too. Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok’s international airport was sealed off and shut down in 2008 by the Red-Shirts, no job too tough when poverty-stricken people are fed up. Thailand isn’t as stable as when King Bhumibol was invisibly capo dei capi. His son has a checkered reputation at best which adds fuel to murmurs of difficult days ahead for Thailand.
Johnny Rotten shouted masterly on “God Save the Queen” one verse I hear as particularly apropos: There is no future in England’s dreaming. Fortunately, for Jeanette, LouLou and my sake, our Bangkok departure is months before the year of mourning comes to an end. I’d hate to be anywhere near Suvarnabhumi if bazillions of enraged Thai bum-rush Thailand’s main artery.