One night in Bangkok...
Trip Start May 18, 2003
272Trip End Ongoing
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I arrived in Bangkok this morning on the overnight bus from Krabi. And yes, I am only planning on staying one night. It was quite impossibe to get any sleep on the bus as I was sitting next to a chap who just couldn't sit still for more than fifteen minutes. The bus was full, so I could move seats. Oh well, I can't expect a luxury journey for 400B. After being dropped off just around the corner from Thanon Koh San (so that the waiting taxi and tuk-tuk drivers can pick up easy fares with newcomers to the city) I walked the short distance to UTC (United Travellers Connection) for some very early breakfast (at 5:30am) and a bit of a snooze at the table. Well other people were doing it first so I didn't feel so bad.
By 8am I felt well enough to function again. UTC have a bag storage facility upstairs(free for up to 3 days) so I checked in my larger bag for the time being. I walked to Shanti Lodge, checked in (100B for a dorm bed) and walked down to where the demonstrations are being held against Mr Taksin, the current Priminister for Thailand. My timing could not have been better - I arrived just in time to witness a stand off between the Thai Chief of Police and the guy leading the campaign against Taksin (who was gonna be PM at one stage). Standing about four feet away from these men (in amongst the reporters) I heard them exchange words with regard to the right to peacefully demonstrate. The police let the demo continue, as they have done everyday, to the cheers of all the crowd (many of whom have been camping here for days). The atmosphere at the protest was more carnival like than anything. I met some really nice Thai people and a bloke from Oregan. One of the Thai's gave me a yellow headband to wear; it says "Held Nation" in Thai, which is how these people feel about their country at the moment.
If any trouble starts at this demonstration it will either be because of pro Taksin supporters arriving on the scene or a rigged election in early April. Even if it is a fair election, these demonstrators may well believe it to be rigged if Taksin gets in again. In their eyes he is not being fair to the people of Thailand. And there have been some dodgy business deals going on, with the FTA in particular.
I've spent the rest of the day eating and window shopping - two activities that are very easy to get caught up in whilst wandering around Bangkok. The food is cheap and tastes really good, and the markets and malls are very enticing. MBK shopping mall was littered with mobile/cellular phone hawkers; about 90% of their IT floor. Shame I'm not in the market for one really.
This evening I saw a Thai teenager busking on trombone in the middle of Thanon Koh San. He was pretty awful but I was waiting for him to finish so that I could ask him if there was a local brass band I could play with on my return to Bangkok. He wasn't really playing any set numbers, so there was no natural break in which I could try and get his attention. Compounded with the competition from the blind singer and football trickster, I would have felt bad stopping his playing to ask him anyway.
So, all being well, I'll be heading up to Chiang Mai tomorrow. It's an overnight journey overland, either twelve hours on an air conditioned bus (250B) or even longer on the more comfortable sleeper train (550B approx). Tickets for the train sell out faster than for the bus though, usually two days in advance!