Two days before I left for Thailand, I considered cancelling my trip. Only for a brief second, because I quickly talked myself out of it by telling myself I shouldn't jump to conclusions. I was at work, but I was glued to my cell phone as my boyfriend and I were frantically texting back and forth, sharing BBC articles and government information pages, trying both to inform ourselves and convince ourselves that we would be fine on our trip. But when a country's beloved king of 70 years passes away, you can never be too sure what will come next.
My mind first began to worry about political unrest. With the absence of power, will there be a coup? Will there be a violent transition? Will tourists be entirely unwelcome during such a difficult time? Then I began to worry about closures and cancellations. Will any bars or restaurants be open? Will our tour to the runs be nixed? I had no idea. I did know that my trip would likely be rather different than I had imagined. And after a few hours of reading continually updated resources, I knew I'd be safe, but I doubted it would be the vacation I had imagined. I felt selfish for being disappointed.
When I arrived in Thailand, it was already close to midnight. After checking into my hostel in Bangkok, I decided to head out to grab some street food. I threw on my orange cotton pants and white tank top and headed down the street. As I approached the street food stand, I quickly noticed that I was walking into a sea of black clothing. I felt so out of place. I had read that wearing black was likely customary after the death of the king - I assumed mostly in the temples and other religious or government buildings - but had no idea that the general population of Bangkok would be wearing all black, all the time.
Although I was slightly unprepared, I never experienced any kind of hostility or disappointment from the Thai people for not wearing black. They seemed to be appreciative when tourists did participate in the mourning tradition, but didn't judge or look down on the tourists who didn't. But dressing conservatively at the temples was more important than ever, so long skirts and covered shoulders was an absolute must - even in the 90-something degree heat.
Aside from the dress code, music and overt celebration was frowned upon. Even the touristy bar scenes were quiet with both lack of music and chatter. But within the two weeks we were there, this had already started to change - the music slowly began to return to the public, along with the smiles and chipper conversation of the locals.
Throughout our trip, we remained respectful of the Thai people during their time of mourning, who were incredibly resilient and determined in moving forward and onward with their lives and the future of their country. Few stores, bars and restaurants were closed, and for the most part, activity continued as usual. Towards the end of my trip I felt especially silly for being as worried as I was, because I ultimately felt fortunate to have experienced - firsthand - a monumental moment in a country's history such as this.