BANGKOK — After a journey of more than 500 kilometres from his hometown in northern Thailand, 63-year-old Sa-ing Hanprakhon reached his destination: the portrait of His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok.
He then bowed to the portrait of King Bhumibol, like thousands of other Thais have done in the past week, to show his respect and wish the King a speedy recovery.
"I pray that the Buddha, the Buddhist Church, and the Tripitaka, along with all the holy things in this world, will bless the King and help him recover speedily," Sa-ing told reporters after he paid homage to the monarch's portrait. He also presented the altar with a flower he brought from his hometown.
King Bhumibol was checked in to the Bangkok hospital on 3 October with a high fever and rapid heartbeat. The king later underwent a surgery to remove his gallbladder, which was said to be infected. The Royal Household Bureau says his condition is gradually improving.
Sa-ing left his home in Den Chai district, Phrae, at 5 am on 12 October and spent the next 11 days walking over 533 kilometres on highways to Siriraj Hospital in Bangkok. After news of his quest surfaced in the media, local police and volunteer medics accompanied him on his journey for his safety.
Sa-ing told reporters that he was deeply touched by residents in the provinces along the way who asked him to pay respect to His Majesty the King on their behalf.
"Everyone sent out their heart to His Majesty," Sa-ing said, "From toddlers to old folk. Even people on their wheelchair also sent out their hearts."
Sa-ing will not have to repeat the grueling journey back to Phrae, as his family was waiting for him at Siriraj Hospital to pick him up and drive him home in a car.
His Majesty the King's frail health is a cause of great anxiety for the Thais because the monarch is widely credited for bringing stability to the Kingdom in his long reign. He is also revered as a demi-god by many of his supporters.