Hotels and guesthouses around the Royal Cremation site enjoy full occupancy as Thais turn out in their thousands
WITH MORE THAN 200,000 Thais expected to converge on Bangkok to witness the Royal Cremation of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej from October 25 to 29, finding a place to stay in the immediate area presents an enormous, if not insurmountable, challenge.
Some individuals have drawn on their experience of the long queues faced while waiting to pay respect before the Royal Urn over the past few months and have booked hotel accommodation around Rattanakosin Island well in advance to ensure they have a fast-track pass to the event and can pay a final tribute to their beloved monarch.
Among them is Supris Netekien, who drafted his itinerary for the royal funeral early this year and reserved a one-night stay in a Bt9,000 Family Room at the Inn A Day boutique hotel.
Inn A Day boutique hotel on Maharat Road (near Tha Tien pier) has 11 rooms, all of which have been reserved since April.
“I came to pay respects to the Royal Urn in March and got an idea of how Sanam Luang would be during the royal funeral. I started looking at accommodation around the area but even that early and before the exact dates had been announced, places were fully booked. It’s worth paying that much to be so near to the Royal Palace, Sanam Luang and Tha Tien pier and I will share a room with three friends. Thanks to its prime location, this hotel is very convenient for us to come back and recharge our batteries before the Royal Cremation starts on the evening of October 26 and of course it also solves bathroom problems,” says Supris, the public relations director of Supremo Company.
“This trip is driven by our heart. King Bhumibol wrote in his diary-style work entitled ‘When I Left Siam for Switzerland ‘that ‘my place in the world is to stay amidst my people’. So, I’m coming to attend the ceremony as his people. Actually, we can watch the ceremony on TV but the feeling is different. This is the last chance to pay respect to our beloved King.”
Unlike with major sporting or entertainment events, most hoteliers and guesthouse owners have obviously felt it inappropriate to up their room rates during this time of mourning.
Entrepreneur Veraus Chinitsarayos, who transformed his family’s coconut sugar shop and factory into the Inn A Day boutique hotel three years ago, says he has stuck to his flat rate.
In keeping with the surrounding Tha Tien community, his property offers 11 rooms on different themes with beautiful view of the Chao Phraya River and Wat Arun and is very popular with foreign tourists.
“During the week of the Royal Cremation, occupancy is 100 per cent. All the rooms havebeen booked by Thai customers since April, especially for the period October 25 to 27. Most of my guests are foreign tourists, interested in the Thai lifestyle because our location offers easy access to many landmarks like Wat Pho, the Royal Palace and Wat Arun,” Veraus says.
“The prices are fixed at the same rate all year round. We’re a small boutique hotel and have no extra benefits – early check-in and late check-out are impossible because all rooms are already booked, although we do allow guests to drop off their luggage with us before check-in time.”
The breakfast buffet is served from 7.30am and guests needing to leave earlier are given a complimentary snack box.
Chanyut Pawakang, a reporter with the Nation’s sister paper Kom Chad Luek, says he found a room in Samsen Road but was unable to book anything nearer. He’ll be paying Bt2,000 for two nights in a small room but says it’s more than worth it for what it will save in travel time.
“The room rate is higher than usual, normally it’s Bt500 to Bt600, but we have no choice. Our schedule will start in early morning and we have to make sure we arrive at the ceremony on time. This is the best way to shorten the distance and save time,” he says.
“We have to capture every moment of the cremation for the people who are unable to attend. It’s also our last chance to work for the late King Bhumibol. It’s an honour.”
With a prime location near Bangkok’s thriving backpacker scene and many of the city’s bestknown landmarks, the newly opened Ibis Styles Bangkok Khaosan Viengtai hotel has been fully booked since April.
A 10-minute walk from Sanam Luang, the rebranded Ibis Styles Bangkok Khaosan Viengtai has been enjoying near full occupancy since its opening in April. Particularly popular with Asian tourists, it offers 215 well-designed rooms in three categories priced from Bt2,300 to Bt3,000.
“We are fully booked from October 24 to 26. Our rooms range in floor area from 28sqm to 80sqm and we provide parking for 50 to 100 cars as well as restaurants, a bakery, meeting rooms and a swimming pool,” says general manager Pierre-Yves Viou.
“We’re creating special lunch boxes, which guests attending the ceremony can order one day in advance. They’ll be available from October 24 to 26. Requests for late check-out will be considered case by case and we will provide an updated map so that guests can design their own route.”
The four rooms offered by A Day in a Life Home & Gallery on Tanao Road have been reserved since March. The guesthouse is planning to provide “survival” bags for its guests and members of the public.
Hostels and guesthouses have sprung up all over the Trok Sake and Rajdamnoen area in recent years, among them A Day in a Life Home & Gallery on Tanao Road, which is housed in a converted Thai wooden house built in the reign of King Rama VI.
Run by Siriporn Thongyou and her boyfriend, who operate a restaurant in Phra Nakorn district, it offers two shared rooms (Bt950 per person) and two private rooms for couples and families (Bt1,200 and Bt2,500).
“Foreign tourists like our house. We have air-conditioning but no television in the room. Guests also share a bathroom, a living room, an open kitchen and a dining area in the courtyard. Thai customers don’t really understand our style but we have accommodated many Thais from the countryside who have come to pay their respects to the Royal Urn. We just finished turning an old medicine room into a private guestroom with en-suite bathroom,” Siriporn says.
“Our house is full during the ceremony. We plan to create a collection of survival bags packed with herbal inhalants, water and a funeral wood flower for guests and other mourners who want to attend the ceremony.”
Hanu Hostel Bangkok on Trok Sake has a long waiting list for its seven dorms and three private rooms.
Opened just six months ago, Hanu Hostel Bangkok on Trok Sake, offers dorms and private rooms ranging in prices from Bt379 to B2,200 including breakfast.
“We have a choice of mixed and female-only dorms, equipped with 70 comfy beds with lockers and a shared bathroom. All rooms and beds have already been reserved by Thai mourners, probably because our room rates are affordable. In recent months, guests have come to take advantage of the bathrooms and lockers after paying respect to the Royal Urn,” manager Ployprom Chunthapun says. “During the ceremony, early check-in and late check-out can be considered case by case.”
And in what is bound to become a life saver for many, the Thai-Japan Bangkok Youth Centre will open its doors and welcome a maximum of 500 to 600 guests to stay overnight for free on October 25 and 26. The accommodation is available on a first-come, first served basis – no advance bookings. The centre is also one of the funeral sites allowing mourners to place the funeral wood flower for the late King Bhumibol.