Lights out, vol­ume down in Bangkok’s party heart

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

With sol­diers clos­ing down Bangkok’s no­to­ri­ous go-go bars and tourists forced to sneak sips of beer from pa­per cups, Thai­land is di­al­ing down its rau­cous party scene out of re­spect for the coun­try’s late monarch.

The pass­ing this week of 88-year-old Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej has thrust the Bud­dhist na­tion into a pe­riod of pro­found mourn­ing, with masses of tear­ful Thais fill­ing the streets to pay re­spect to a king wor­shipped as an ex­em­plar of moral virtue.

Like nearly all of their com­pa­tri­ots, Thai bar girls swapped their nor­mally racy at­tire for more mod­est black dresses and shoes when they showed up to work Fri­day night. In Bangkok’s Soi Cow­boy-a famed al­ley­way of luridly lit go-go bars and a barom­e­ter of the city’s ad­her­ence to tem­per­ance dur­ing coups, street protests and re­li­gious days-pa­trons who trick­led through were soon dis­ap­pointed.

At around 10pm sol­diers pulled the plug on the blind­ing neon lights as they en­forced an early clos­ing time in com­pli­ance with govern­ment or­ders to “tone down” cel­e­bra­tions as the na­tion grieves. “Sud­denly the army came. It was a group of five guys,” said Geroem Bon­ami, a 31-year-old tourist from Bel­gium. “We were asked to pay and they started to tidy up ev­ery­thing and the girls dis­ap­peared.”

Min­utes af­ter the ail­ing monarch’s pass­ing was an­nounced on Thurs­day, Thai­land’s junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha took to na­tional tele­vi­sion to de­clare a one-year of­fi­cial mourn­ing pe­riod. He also asked the pub­lic to re­frain from cel­e­bra­tions for at least 30 days, and dozens of events-from con­certs to fun runs, wed­ding par­ties and re­li­gious fes­ti­vals-have been can­celled since. Tele­vi­sion net­works are also un­der or­ders not to broad­cast any overly joy­ous im­ages-such as danc­ing­with one ma­jor chan­nel say­ing it would not be air­ing its roar­ingly pop­u­lar soap opera se­ries.

‘No mu­sic, no party’

While the mil­i­tary regime has not is­sued an all-out ban on al­co­hol, which is com­mon on Bud­dhist hol­i­days, many shops have opted to stop sell­ing drinks and bars around the cap­i­tal are tak­ing spe­cial mea­sures to show that no one is hav­ing too much fun.

On the Khaosan road, a grubby cen­tre for for­eign tourists a stone’s throw away from the king’s palace, bars si­lenced the nor­mally pound­ing mu­sic and served al­co­hol in pa­per cups in­stead of beer tow­ers and buck­ets. “There’s no mu­sic tonight and no party be­cause all the peo­ple are so sad. Ev­ery­where in Bangkok, you can­not have loud mu­sic,” ex­plained Ret Ch­huon, a Thai bar­man, adding he was wor­ried about an ex­tended loss of cus­tom. “But we must do this be­cause the king has died and we are so sad.”

For­eign gov­ern­ments have urged their ci­ti­zens to act re­spect­fully as the king­dom mourns, while Thai tourist au­thor­i­ties have asked trav­el­ers to dress in som­bre and ap­pro­pri­ate cloth­ing.

An­a­lysts have warned that any pro­tracted clam­p­down on the party scene could drive vis­i­tors away and hurt the tourism sec­tor-a cru­cial pil­lar of the king­dom’s econ­omy. On the Khaosan Road some vis­i­tors said they were happy to keep it low-key, but would likely leave Thai­land if the party didn’t rev up again soon. “If af­ter a cou­ple of days there are still no par­ties and al­co­hol, I might leave Thai­land, said a 24-year-old Dutch tourist who only gave his name as Kaz. Oth­ers were sim­ply awed by the mass out­pour­ings of grief. “It hasn’t put a downer on the hol­i­day,” said Bri­tish tourist Cal­lum Knight. “We got to see a part of his­tory.” —AFP

Thai police per­son­nel are sil­hou­et­ted as they keep guard out­side the Grand Palace, where the body of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej is ly­ing in state yes­ter­day. — AFP

Bud­dhist faith­ful pray at a shrine near an im­age of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej (top L) at a mall yes­ter­day.

Mourn­ers have food in a restau­rant yes­ter­day next to pho­tos of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej.

Mourn­ers browse black dresses in a shop next to pho­tos of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej yes­ter­day.

A woman sits alone yes­ter­day in a restau­rant bar near soi cow­boy. — AFP pho­tos

Peo­ple take pho­tos with their phones of an im­age of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej at a mall yes­ter­day in Bangkok.

A mourner cries in the street whilst pay­ing her re­spects to the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej out­side of the Grand Palace yes­ter­day.

A woman holds a por­trait of the late Thai King Bhu­mi­bol Adulyadej out­side the Grand Palace yes­ter­day.

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