‘Ah’, she beamed, ‘you loved my King too!’ Dressed all in black, I stood in the restaurant, waiting to be seated. She took my arm and we headed to a corner table, near a fan. ‘Thank you for showing your respect’, she said.
The black ribbon on her white shirt quietly proclaimed her grief, just as it does for every Thai at the moment. In this first month of the year of mourning for King Bhumibol Adulyadej, all citizens are wearing black or white. There is deep sadness in the land of smiles.
In grieving the loss of their father, the King, Thais are respectfully acknowledging a much loved monarch who served his people faithfully for seventy years. Photos are everywhere, billboards on the roadside, videos on public transport and memorials in business premises. Tears are openly shed. Taxi drivers show his picture, people wear memorial lockets and the street market stalls are full of black clothing.
While most tourists are following protocol and wearing black, white or muted colours, every now and then a bright t-shirt seems shockingly out of place.
Showing respect takes little effort, yet it makes all the difference. It says, ‘I am the outsider here, in your place, I see you. I feel for you. I stand with you.’ It’s a position we can take anywhere, every day.