I arrived in Hua Hin, Thailand, this past December just in time to celebrate the 88th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The King, who is also known as Rama IX, is so revered in Thailand that they hold a five-day celebration for his birthday. Streets and buildings were draped with white lights and stages were setup for musical performances, but the highlight of the festival was carving what was reputed to be the world’s tallest ice sculpture of Buddha.
Since Hua Hin is the location of the King’s summer palace, the town has always gone all-out for his birthday, however this year’s celebration was more intense than usual due to the King’s declining health. As darkness fell and finishing touches were applied to the monolithic Buddha, locals gathered in front of the historic Hua Hin Railway Station for a candlelight ceremony to pray for the King.
Many in the crowd were visibly emotional as they held their candles and prayed for their beloved monarch. King Bhumibol is the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, having served from June of 1946 until the present day. He is also the world’s longest-serving current head of state.
The project was the brainchild of ice sculptor Alongkorn Timcharoen, who, along with his team, has won many awards in the art of ice sculpting. Not long after I arrived I met the master sculptor’s wife, who was kind enough to tell me about her husband’s many awards and more than 20 years of training. I arrived shortly after noon, just as the large slabs of ice were being taken off the truck, and stayed until nearly 8 p.m., when the sculpture was finally completed, all of which has been condensed into the above three minute video. Enjoy!