Tomorrow, the highly-anticipated ‘Bike for Dad’ day in Thailand will see 600,000 of the country’s finest (approximately 100,000 in Bangkok, 500,000 throughout the country, and 10,000 overseas) embarking on bicycles rides to celebrate the 88th birthday of King Bhumipol Adulyadej and show their gratitude to His Majesty. According to General Prayut Chan-o-cha, this event has been described as an opportunity for riders to promote exercise, Thai culture and national unity while cycling and shouting “Long Live the King.” Thirty-thousand police and security forces will be supporting the event in Bangkok, particularly in light of the August 17 bombing at Bangkok’s Erawan shrine. In the capital, 84 roads will be closed for the majority of the day and commuters not participating in the ride are urged to either stay home or travel via BTS or expressways (both of which are free all day in light of Friday’s event).
Thailand is a fascinating place to live in. This race- its organization, the momentum and promotion behind it, and the city’s embrace of ‘Bike for Dad’- is a study in itself. I’m not sure where I’ll be during the race tomorrow- anywhere near the course is sure to be jam packed and at a standstill- but I’m hoping I can find somewhere to spectate.
*Side note: I’d never heard of a link between celebrating a monarch’s birthday and bicycling. But after a little research, I found that we Americans used to do the same thing for Presidents Day in the U.S. In the 1890s, Americans used to pedal en masse on February 22 on what was officially marked as Bicycle Day. Seeking activities to do on their day off, Americans turned to the newest craze of cycling. In the style of typical American opportunism/consumerism, merchants would peddle (I know, I had to do it) their newest bicycle models to consumers in hopes of boosting sales ahead of the holiday. Soon afterwards, however, Americans became bored with biking, industry began producing cars, and now we associate Presidents Day with deals on new cars. But, at one point, we also biked in honor of our leaders. Celebrate.