3. March 2017 15:06 by Eric Moya Dispatch, Thailand: Smiles amid the sadness 3. March 2017 15:06 by Eric Moya -- -- -- -- -- At the invitation of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, destinations editor Eric Moya is traveling throughout the country to experience off-the-beaten-path destinations and activities. Read his first dispatch here; his second dispatch follows:The 20-something Filipina was all smiles as she took our drink orders at the Koh Kood Paradise Beach Hotel's beachside bar. As my fam trip colleagues enjoyed their Chang beers and strawberry daiquiris, I chatted with her about the band we were listening to over the bar's sound system: Boyce Avenue, which performs original music but is probably best known for its stripped-down covers of pop hits by the Backstreet Boys, Bruno Mars and many more. Our bartender was a performer herself. She mentioned she'd been working at the hotel's bar for a few months, but before that she sang in a cover band in Bangkok. Opportunities to perform, however, began to dry up upon the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej in October, with Thais in less of a partying mood as the country entered its one-year period of mourning. Thailand's reverence for its royals cannot be overstated, and a visit to the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall in Bangkok helped me understand at least some of the reasons for that undying devotion. For Thailand, a huge point of pride is that it's the only major Southeast Asian nation to never be colonized. As exhibits at Rattanakosin explain it, each of Thailand's kings, particularly near the turn of the century, helped the country participate in the contemporary world via diplomacy, infrastructure improvements and other measures. It modernized, but mostly on its own terms. And so, nearly five months in, the mourning period for King Bhumibol is still very much in evidence. Memorials in tribute to the king are seemingly on every other street corner in Bangkok and at its major attractions. Even at the airport. Throughout Trat province, in fishing villages and beach towns, I spotted them too. Many citizens wear black despite the sticky, sweltering climes. So our bartender, faced with dwindling gigs, found work on Koh Kood. Because while the people of Thailand mourn, the show must go on for its tourism industry. That was the case in Bangkok's infamous Soi Cowboy district, where throngs of international visitors went about their search for kicks at topless bars, karaoke venues and various internationally themed watering holes -- an Irish pub here, a Western saloon there. Nary a Thai reveler in sight (though to be fair, my understanding is that that's not unusual for Soi Cowboy). I'm writing this from my room at the Emerald Cove Koh Chang. Last night, it seemed to be business as usual along the island's main drag, for the myriad massage parlors, tattoo shops and bars and restaurants drawing tourists from Europe, China and beyond. But that's the thing. In this country in mourning, I've never felt unwelcome. The bands in Soi Cowboy's bars played on, and service in restaurants and hotels has been attentive and friendly. Of course, there are the practical financial benefits of keeping tourists happy. But part of me likes to think that, even amid a time of great sadness, Thailand is determined to remain the Land of Smiles.