HUAY HOM, Thailand (AP) — As Thailand prepares to cremate its king of 70 years, an era comes to an end amid tears, nostalgia and anxiety.
Bhumibol Adulyadej (POO-mee-pon AH-dun-yaa-det) is regarded with great reverence for his decades of work on behalf of the have-nots and as a unifying figure in times of turmoil and violence.
In northern Thailand, villagers still haven't forgotten the day Bhumibol descended by helicopter into their remote, impoverished mountain valley.
The king, they recall, brought electricity and a road that replaced the trail they trudged over for eight hours. Coffee growing was greatly expanded and soon supplanted opium harvests, reaching such high quality that Starbucks is now a steady customer. The village even reaped profits from the royal-assisted raising of sheep and wool weaving, a rarity in tropical Thailand.