Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her 76th birthday today, a holiday you couldn’t forget unless you are a blind hermit. Huge poster-size pictures of Her Majesty have been hanging outside every office building, shopping mall and on every billboard for weeks. There are shrines built around her picture on the streets. Her photo is illuminated with spotlights so you can see her royal visage at all hours.
In fact, her birthday was a national holiday on which none of the Thais had to work. Even the street vendors were at home celebrating (I’m not sure exactly what celebrating the Queen’s birthday entails. I imagine it’s like President’s Day for us where you sleep in and then watch bad daytime TV).
This reverence for the Queen is part of a larger obsession with the monarchy in Thailand that is so foreign to an American, even one who has lived in England. When 11,111 monks and a large crowd of merit-makers (the Buddhist idea of doing good deeds to earn merit that will serve you later in life or in the next life) gathers to celebrate your birthday, you know you’re beating Elizabeth’s old butt.