They came – some alone, others with family – dressed in the brightest hue of yellow possible that matched the festive buntings and freshly painted kerbs.
Thousands of Thais from across the country descended on the inner Bangkok on Sunda to catch sight of newly anointed King Maha Vajiralongkorn in a symbolic procession around the capital.
Rice farmer Tin Chamnansue, 62, travelled overnight with her sister from northern Sukhothai province to camp out on a lawn outside Bangkok’s Grand Palace.
They did it without informing their adult children, who they were sure would be afraid for their health in sweltering heat that threatened to wilt the yellow floral displays specially erected in the area.
“I’m proud we have a new king,” she told The Straits Times. “On normal occasions, we would not be able to get this close.”
Less than two years ago, these same roads were filled with grieving Thais gathered for the cremation of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who was revered as the father of the nation.
On Sunday afternoon, his son and newly consecrated monarch Maha Vajiralongkorn, 66, emerged from the Grand Palace on a palanquin for a more joyous procession, having promised on Saturday to reign with righteousness just like his father had vowed.
As a marching band played tunes composed by the late monarch, King Vajiralongkorn sat stiffly aloft his moving throne, nodding and sometimes giving salutes.
The procession began in the afternoon and is expected to take several hours.
Hundreds of soldiers and officials – including Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha – formed part of the creeping convoy that traversed a 7km route through the regal boulevard of Ratchadamnoen Road and stopped by three ancient temples – Bowon Niwet, Ratchabophit and Phra Chetuphon – closely associated with royals.
Thailand’s monarchy is shielded by a strict lese majeste law and supported by a culture that sees kings as demigods.
Mr Ming Jinapaeng, a street food seller from Bangkok who came to pay homage to the new monarch with his wife and daughter, said: “We are just commoners, we are just dust. Whatever happens, we respect the monarchy.”
King Vajiralongkorn was officially crowned on Saturday in an ornate ceremony steeped in Buddhist and Brahmin rituals. He had been king for over two years, having ascended shortly after his father’s death in 2016. Briefly after his anointment on Saturday, he installed Queen Suthida, a former flight stewardess who later became deputy chief of his bodyguards unit.
Compared to his father, who was considered the patriarch of the country, King Vajiralongkorn has been relatively more aloof.
Yet he has been assertive, leaning on the military government to make legal changes that would allow him to reign directly from Germany – where he keeps a home – as well tightening personal control over the Crown Property Bureau, which oversees multibillion-dollar assets.
His political inclinations remain a matter of debate in a constitutional monarchy where the palace wields an enormous influence.
Coup-prone Thailand is now in political limbo, having held an election on March 24 but not been able to form a new government until after the main coronation ceremonies end on Monday (May 6), when official results are due to be released.
Until then, it will be controlled by a five-year-old military government led by former coup leader Prayut Chan-o-cha, who is trying to return as premier in the new government.
Earlier on Sunday, King Vajiralongkorn bestowed new titles on members of the royal family, including two of his sisters, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn and Princess Chulabhorn Walailak. His elder sister Ubolratana Rajakanya was not mentioned in the ceremony.
Princess Ubolratana, who renounced her royal titles in 1972, tried to take part in the country’s election in March 24 as a prime minister nominee of a political party linked to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The king intervened, saying that she remains a senior member of the royal family and should be above politics. Her nomination was swiftly voided, and the party dissolved.