Escaping Political Unrest with Veronica

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, May 17, 2010

    As I'm sure you all read, we returned to a Bangkok crippled with political turmoil.  The Red-shirts and the Yellow-shirts were at it again.  Last year, it was the Yellows protesting and shutting down the airport.  This year it was the Reds protesting in the biggest and swankiest shopping and hotel district in Bangkok (because much of this real estate is owned by Yellow-shirts). 

     (If you’re not familiar with the Red versus Yellow situation, here’s the Cliff’s Notes.  About 4 years ago, there was a Prime Minister in power named Thaksin Shinawatra.  Thaksin was super-rich, but he was very well liked by Thailand’s poor and rural majority because he created a lot of populist policies.  However, he was kicked out in a coup for his corrupt business practices.  He’s been floating around the globe in exile over the last few years while the Thai courts attempted to try him for his crimes, but he’s managed to stay very involved in the happenings of his political party, most easily identified as the Red-shirts.  On the other hand, there are the Yellow-shirts, who are mostly made up of the more elite Thais residing in Bangkok.  Elections in 2007 resulted in a Red victory; Samak, a Thaksin-supporter, became Prime Minister.  The Yellows were able to get him out of office on a technicality, but the Reds just replaced him with none other than Thaksin’s brother-in-law, Somchai!  Of course, the Yellows were furious, saying that he was just a puppet-leader for Thaksin and that the Reds only won the elections through vote-buying.  So, last year, the Yellows took to protesting, occupying the Government House and international airport, until Thaksin’s brother-in-law was removed.  A Yellow-supporter was then "placed" in office.  That brings us to the present, when thousands of Reds from the outer provinces flooded into Bangkok to protest and demand elections, which the Prime Minister agreed to in their negotiations, but by this point the Reds were un-trusting and spurred on by radical leaders to demand more.  In the end, they were forced out by the military and gained nothing from their actions.)

     During their protests, the Reds set up camp in Lumpini Park.  This park is about 3 blocks from our apartment.  Our street was lined with soldiers carrying machine guns, a grim sight indeed, so we tried to focus instead on the joy of returning to a bug-free home and A/C after having been without it (or so much as a fan) for 6 weeks.  We stayed indoors and tried to avoid the areas of conflict, but a week after our return my friend Veronica came to visit.  (She wasn’t able to change her flight because Orbitz told her that her travel insurance didn’t cover political unrest or threat of civil war.  Nice!)  So she and I took off and escaped the dangers of Bangkok while Dane stayed home and watched the tanks roll in.  You can see some photos and read his article about the culmination of events here:

     Anyway, Veronica had about 2 weeks in Thailand and I did my best not to get her killed by bottle bombs.  While we had to forego some sight-seeing in Bangkok, I think the bad timing may have actually worked in her favor as the tourist destinations that are normally overrun with travelers were now virtually empty.  We went down south to a Thai island called Koh Phagnan, up north to Pai and Chiang Mai, and then to see the monkeys in Lopburi and the archaeological ruins in Ayutthaya.  I’m too lazy to create new entries for each location though, so I’m just going to lump them all together in this one.  We had a fantastic time.  I got to see some new places and revisit some faves.  Catching up with Veronica and reminiscing about our old times in Mexico was a blast.  And it’s always fun to have a visitor and get to share a little of this amazing country Dane and I call home.  Yes, I still love it, despite its political shortcomings.


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