Thailand’s newly crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn began a royal procession around the capital on Sunday to visit Buddhist temples and greet his subjects as part of elaborate coronation ceremonies held over three days.
“Long live the king!” shouted well-wishers who lined roads for hours under Bangkok’s blazing sun, hoping for a glimpse of the constitutional monarch who is revered in Thai culture as a living deity.
King Vajiralongkorn was carried through the streets by 16 men bearing his gilded palanquin. The monarch was clad in gold-embroidered vestments and wearing the same black military-style hat that his father wore at his coronation 69 years ago.
Conch shell horns heralded the parade, which was accompanied by two horseback cavalry soldiers, a military marching band and royal guards in a mixture of ancient Thai and modern Western-style uniforms.
Spectators all wearing yellow, the colour associated with the king, gathered from early morning along the 7 km (4 mile) route from the Grand Palace to three royal temples, where the monarch, who will be appearing in public for the first time since his elaborate crowning, will pay homage to each temple’s main Buddha images.
“I want to see the coronation for once in a lifetime because the last one when it happened I was still very young,” Samran Moryaidee, a 77-year-old man, told Reuters as he stood in the steamy heat.
The Thai government, which is spending 1 billion baht ($31.4 million) on the weekend’s coronation ceremonies, has said crowds of at least 200,000 people were expected.
“I feel like I have to be here to show the world just how much we worship the king,” said Donnapha Kadbupha, a 34-year-old woman, who had come eight hours early to make sure of her spot along the procession route.
The government provided free buses for people living outside Bangkok to come to witness the spectacle, and bus and train travel to the site was free in the capital.
Newly crowned Thai king carried through Bangkok in royal procession