In honor of Thailand’s late king, some Thais are collecting portraits of the monarch, some are purchasing commemorative banknotes and some are getting tattooed. The death of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej last week, after a reign of 70 years, triggered an outpouring of grief. Many Thais have been wearing black, praying at temporary shrines and taking part in activities such as alms giving.
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“I wanted to have a memory in my heart about the loss of our king. He’s not going anywhere, he’ll always be here,” said Supreeda Sorapakdee, 42, as he pointed to his left chest. On it is a new tattoo of the number 9 in Thai with a silhouette of the king. Bhumibol’s title was King Rama IX.
“This tattoo goes right above my heart,” he said.
Sak Lai Tattoo Studio, where Supreeda got his tattoo, has had more than 10 customers requesting designs related to the king since his death on October 13.
Fifteen more have made appointments for the coming week. Other tattoo parlors in Bangkok are also facing completely filled schedules.
“I feel like this is a phenomenon that cannot be found in any other country,” said Leck NY, owner and artist at Sak Lai Tattoo.
“People want to record the memory of their love, respect and loyalty for the king onto their body. This is different from other ways of expressing love, it’s a deeper and more personal expression because it’s with you forever.”
Quotes about the king are also popular designs.
Another tattoo studio, Inkception, has had more than 20 customers for king tattoos and has a stream of bookings.
“Some people come in without having ever been tattooed before, and they come in requesting a tattoo related to the king,” said Inkception tattoo artist Pornthep Nutamarn as he finished a design on a woman’s arm reading “King of Kings 9.”
“It’s like a memory, so that any time you see it, you can remember his majesty.”