Thailand remains open for tourism despite being in mourning for its beloved King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the country’s tourist board has insisted.
In a statement to the media, the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s (TAT) Chris Lee said: “There has been some incorrect reporting and we would like to clarify [the situation]. Our tourism activity will not be affected. We will just show sensitivity.
“There are two periods of mourning,” added Lee. “The first is a one-month period of mourning, up to November 13, which applies to everyone. At that time bars are still open, alcohol is still being served, but they may close early.”
Lee also sought to dispel any rumours created by misinformation. “Despite reports, tourists don’t have to wear black on the beach. It’s simply that the Thai authorities are asking people to be respectful. For example, that they do not wear any ‘flamboyant clothes’ in public areas.”
The death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, until last week the world’s longest reigning monarch, was announced on October 13. He was 88.
“His Majesty is considered to be an almost god-like figure to his people,” said Lee Cobaj, Telegraph Travel’s Thailand expert. “The atmosphere across Thailand is one of deep loss, with friends and families gathering together to mourn and pray for their King.”
Over the weekend, Bangkok’s Red Light District shut down for the mourning period and Khaosan Road – a notorious party spot, popular with backpackers – was also subdued. Holidaymakers could still enjoy a quiet alcoholic drink in discreet paper cups, but only until midnight on police orders. Nightclubs were closed and music was banned.
The island of Ko Phangan, famed for its Full Moon beach party, announced that the festival – which was due to take place on October 17 – had been cancelled.
The period of mourning has divided opinion among holidaymakers. Tourist Danny Cheaton, an electrician from Burnley,said he was sanguine about the toned-down atmosphere. “I’ve been here before and this street is usually chaotic,” he said. “But things are better than I was expecting.”
But other tourists have complained to UK media that their holidays have been “ruined” by the restraints on entertainment. Liam Pearce, a welder from North Wales who is due to visit Thailand for a two week holiday, told MailOnline: “I’m really disappointed. It’s basically my whole holiday ruined… My friends are out there already and they said the only places open at night are pharmacies. That’s hardly going to be much fun.”
TAT has released details of the expected disruption at popular tourist sites. The Grand Palace and The Temple of the Emerald Buddha – where the king’s funeral took place – will be closed until October 20, but most attractions are open as usual.
In addition, TAT has produced guidelines for tourists who are due to visit Thailand during the mourning period. Recommendations include wearing “sombre and respectful clothing when in public” and refraining from “inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour”.
“All transport, banks, hospitals and other public services will be operating as usual,” continued the statement from TAT. “The related authorities have stepped up safety and security measures for all Thais and visitors to facilitate their travelling around the country.”
Smart Traveller have issues a high degree of caution for travellers heading to Thailand “due to the possibility of civil unrest and the threat of terrorist attack, including in Bangkok and Phuket.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has also issued guidance for Britons visiting Thailand. “You should respect the feelings and sensitivities of the Thai people at this time,” it said.
“Access to entertainment, including restaurants, bars and shopping areas may be restricted and you should behave respectfully when in public areas; if possible, wear sombre and respectful clothing when in public; check local media regularly and follow the advice of local authorities.”
The Telegraph, London
See also: Tourists warned not to behave badly
See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Thailand