Bangkok: A royal convoy led by a van carrying the remains of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej drove to the Grand Palace in Bangkok's historic centre on Saturday where the body will remain for people to pay respects to the monarch revered by many Thais as their father and a demigod.
Bhumibol died yesterday at age 88 at Siriraj hospital, which had been his virtual home for years as doctors treated him for various illnesses afflicting his lungs, liver, kidneys, brain and blood.
The convoy drove the short distance across the Chao Phraya river to the sprawling Grand Temple complex, a major tourist attraction replete with resplendent palaces, museums and temples.
Thousands of people sat four to five rows deep on both sides of the road, sobbing openly and bowing deeply as the convoy passed. Most held portraits of the king in regal yellow robes.
Some without portraits pulled currency notes from their wallets -- all bank notes carry the king's face. Many had camped 24 hours since yesterday.
Most Thais had known no other king. Bhumibol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, had been on the throne for 70 years.
His son, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is to ascend the throne, followed the king's body in a yellow Mercedes van. Accompanying Vajiralongkorn was his consort, Lt. Gen. Suthida Vajiralongkorn na Ayudhaya. Behind them were dozens of cars.
The body will lie at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, or Wat Phra Kaew, inside the Grand Palace complex for an undisclosed duration. No date has been set for the cremation.
"I wanted to send his majesty off for the last time. When I got here the atmosphere was so sad, and everyone had the same emotions," said Win Weeraprateep, 27, an office worker waiting along the convoy route for two hours.
"When I heard the news (of the king's death) I lost my breath. I couldn't believe that it was real. I didn't want to work, I didn't want to have fun," he said. "I just don't want to do anything anymore."
Today marked the first day in 70 years that Thailand has been without a king as Vajiralongkorn asked for more time to mourn with the rest of the nation before ascending the throne.
The constitution says that in the absence of a king, the head of the Privy Council will become the regent, but it is vague about the situation in which the heir apparent hasn't taken over.
The government declared a public holiday and people across the shaken nation donned black, their eyes swollen and red with hours of weeping. Many were still sobbing, in building halls, elevators, shops, in spontaneous outbursts of emotion that reflected the deep love and respect Bhumibol commanded.
The momentous news of his death, announced in a palace statement, had long been both anticipated and feared. But the nation remained stable and life continued largely as usual with most shops, banks and tourist sites open.
A one-year mourning period for the government has been declared together with a 30-day moratorium on state and official events.