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"Bangkok on a December night. There was magic in the air."
- Rasee Govindani

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'Tis the season to be jolly and all that
by Rasee Govindani, 18, Bangkok, Thailand
Dec 16, 1999

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On the fifth of December, which is His Majesty the King of Thailand's birthday, the Bangkok Train System (BTS), or what we call the sky-train, officially opened for service. I was able to take my first ride on it last night, after I got off work. Being particularly sensitive to motion sickness, I don't know if I would take the train on a regular basis, but what held my fascination was the elevated view I saw from the windows of the train. Bangkok on a December night. There was magic in the air.

I've always believed December to be the best month to visit Bangkok. The heat gives way to a wonderful coolness that envelopes the city, making it feel more and more like the holidays. The month starts off with the birthday of His Majesty the King, on the fifth, which is a national holiday and also an extremely important day for Thai people. Instead of measuring his age by years or decades, the Thais count the King's age in cycles--each cycle consists of twelve years. This year, His Majesty turned 72, so it was considered his sixth cycle anniversary. Thai people love their king and every building, every mall, every home was decorated with the Thai national flag (red, white and blue) and the King's official flag (yellow with him emblem in the center), and lights covered every available space.

Preparations for this day had begun months in advance--from charity concerts to exhibitions to articles on his life to blood drives in his honor to a million other activities arranged by one organization or the other.

On the fifth itself, the more patriotic Thais crowded around the palace to hear the king's address. Others, like me, stayed in and watched all the special programs on television.

About two weeks prior to the day, large signs had been set up on the street I live on, urging all residents to come out to the main road at 19:59 to hold up candles in respect to the king. My very patriotic nanny, her daughter, my brother, and I locked up our house and with candles in hand, walked down to Major, a mall just across the street.

A huge crowd had gathered outside and the mall distributed yellow candles to those who were there. We lit the candles, and along with the thousands of Thais all over the country, we sang a song in praise of the King at 19:59. Cars stopped by the streets and candles were held up. A sense of unity was shared by the strangers that stood there for those five to ten minutes, together expressing love and gratitude to a king that had sacrificed so much to keep Thailand safe and wonderful. I felt so proud to be Thai.

And the festivities continue..

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