May 18, 2024

Especially if you happen to be Bhumibol Adulyadej, more commonly known as Rama IX. The king of Thailand – no Yul Brenner jokes, please – has reigned since June 9, 1946, making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. (The Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since the founding of the Kingdom of Sukothai in 1238.) Today is the king’s 85th birthday and for the past ten days I’ve been greeted by billboard-sized photos of his majesty everywhere I go. This little shrine outside my hotel was the most demure example I could find.

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