Thailand held an insanely lavish, $90 million funeral for its king — here’s what it looked like

Artillery perform a salute in front of the funeral pyre for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.

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Artillery perform a salute in front of the funeral pyre for the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand.
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Reuters

Bhumibol Adulyadej, the king of Thailand, died more than a year ago – but the most dramatic element of his send-off is just beginning.

Adulyadej, the longest-reigning monarch in recent history, has been lying in state in his home country for the past 12 months, and is finally ready for his official funeral rites.

An entire new Royal Crematorium has been constructed, with around 20 buildings, to host the ceremony. According to the Reuters news agency, the ceremony is expected to cost around $90 million (£68 million).

The monarch occupies a huge part of Thailand’s national life – when he died large parts of the country virtually shut down. So his send-off is going to be tough to beat anywhere in the world. Scroll down to see what it was like.


Bhumibol died on Octber 13, 2016. He was 88, and had ruled Thailand for 70 years. His death prompted huge mourning — here a black-clad Thai woman walks past a portrait of him.

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Getty Images

There is a dark side, however, to the reverence to the Thai royals. The country has a strict “lèse-majesté” law which outlaws criticism of the monarch. Offenders can end up with lengthy prison sentences.


The funeral was an enormous undertaking. Architects spent months constructing this funeral plaza especially for the event.

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Reuters

This graphic shows the extent of construction at the funeral ground.

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Reuters

The focus of the ceremony was the Great Victory Chariot, seen below with an escort of guardsmen.

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Reuters

Here’s the procession from a different angle.

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Reuters

The chariot, which dates to 1795, is lavishly decorated with religious iconography, as this zoomed-in photograph shows.

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Reuters

Thai royal ceremonies incorporate imagery from both Buddhism – the official national religion – and Hinduism.


The victory chariot is dragged by people. Below is a group of soldiers charged with the task.

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Reuters

The full pomp of the country’s military was on display — these are members of the Thai Royal Guards.

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Reuters

There were a lot of different uniforms around.


Thai people came in their thousands, mostly dressed in black.

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Reuters

The government has said it expects around 300,000 people to attend the funeral in person. There are strict protocols in place, including a ban on cell phone filming and selfies.


It was 30 degrees in Bangkok for the start of the ceremony, so officials laid on massive fans to keep mourners cool.

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Reuters

Mourners also brought black umbrellas to shield themselves from the heat.

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Reuters

Umbrellas were also useful when the weather turned.

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Reuters

Bhumibol’s successor (and only son) Maha Vajiralongkorn looked on during the rites.

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Reuters

Monks are an important part of the ceremony, and were chanting throughout.

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Reuters

There were also noisy artillery salutes from the military.

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Reuters

Here a high-ranking monk accompanies the funeral urn as it was lifted into the pyre by elevator.

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Reuters

The most solemn moment of the celebration is yet to come, late on Thursday night.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn will bring the funeral to its climax when he lights the funeral pyre containing his father’s remains.

In the meantime, you can watch a livestream of the ceremony as it unfolds here:

Business Insider will add more photos as the ceremony rolls on.