Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

Thailand's King

I've never been to a country with a king, and I've never had any experience with a place where the country's leader is revered by the entire population. But here, in Thailand, it seems that their king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, is also very well loved. I don't say this just because the king's portrait is hung in so many places, both public and private, throughout every part of the country I visited—admittedly, a small part of Bangkok and the towns that my various tour buses and boats travelled through. Nor because his portrait is on currency of every denomination. I say it because at framing shops you can buy his portrait, or one of he and his wife, to hang in your own home in a way that framing shops in the United States sell framed pictures of the Grand Canyon or New York City.

I was warned before I left home that the Thai people are very friendly and that they are very accommodating to foreigners, but that their patience is pressed if there is any sign of disrespect for their king. At public events, such as at a movie at a theater, people stand for a song in honor of the king, and failing to perform this gesture can get you into hot water. For this reason, and because he is in very fragile health, I was careful when I asked about the king. From everyone I asked, and also those who I didn't ask, such as various tour guides, I learned that "He has been very good for our country," and that "He is a very good man, and he cares about the Thai people." Born in the United States, educated in Switzerland, he has also been a photographer, inventor, and jazz saxophone player.

With the king's health failing, I asked who will be next, and learned that the king's son is not well liked, and the king himself has not yet said who will be next.

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Thailand's King

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King's Portraits

King's Portrait on Calendar

King's Portrait on Calendar

Portrait Display, Chulalongkorn University

Back of Portrait Display, Chulalongkorn University

King's Portrait, Billboard

King's Portrait, Banner

King's Portrait, Banner

King's Portrait

King's Portraits

Shrine with Portrait

Shrine with Portrait

Monument with Portrait

Banner, Royal Couple

Royal Couple

Royal Couple