My Paradise: Being a ‘gardener’ in Thailand

My Paradise: Being a ‘gardener’ in Thailand

by Rob Zuckerman
Stripes Okinawa

I have family in Thailand. Not blood relatives, but close enough. I first met my Thai brother when he was studying in the U.S. and we have been tight for over 25 years.


I have visited him and his family regularly since 1992. I stopped by Thailand for several days in November of 2017. It was great as always seeing my Thai family. They are truly amazing people and I am honored to be thought of as a family member by them.


I was particularly fortunate to be included in a very rare opportunity of cultural significance this last trip.


During my recent visit, my Thai brother made arrangements for he, his son and me to enter the funeral grounds of Thailand’s revered king, Rama IX, early in the morning before the area opened to the general public. (His Majesty Rama IX passed away only three days before I arrived in Bangkok for a visit in October of 2016, after his more than 70-year reign. I have never seen an entire nation in mourning as I did back then, with the entire population dressed in black.) 

As many of you know, Thailand has had its share of coup de tats, with the military taking over temporarily at times.  Rama IX was so respected by all Thais that he, and he alone, could tell the public to calm down and things always returned to normal. It is because of this amazing public reverence for his father, that Rama X waited an entire year to take the throne after his father’s passing.


So, during my recent visit, the official funerary rites were already complete and lines stretched around the streets of central Bangkok for Thais and others to come pay their last respects and see the elaborate golden compound near the palace grounds. People waited in line for three to six hours simply to enter this revered area. Nobody was permitted to touch a thing in sight, only look, although photographs were permitted.


Well, my Thai brother, nephew and I didn’t have to wait in line and were even issued “Exhibitor” badges. As I wrote before, they made arrangements for us to enter before the grounds opened to the public. We went in as gardeners. That’s right, GARDENERS!!!!! We were able to enter and get out in a reasonable amount of time.


And, yes, we did some gardening. We were each permitted to plant a single yellow flower in the rear garden of the compound for a mere 20 Thai Baht donation, or roughly 75 cents. It was quite an experience and the grounds were beautiful.


It wasn’t your everyday tourist experience. But, not every foreign visitor has an amazing Thai family either. 



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