Saturday, 15 March 2014

Bangkok: bombs and barricades?

I have just spent five days in one of my favourite cities in the world; the pulsating Thai capital of Bangkok.
It was a trip I was initially very nervous about taking. All of us have read about the ongoing political demonstrations in Thailand; road blocks, physical clashes and even a grenade attack that left a woman and a child dead in a Bangkok shopping district last month. 

Thailand has seen months of anti-government rallies aimed at ousting Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's embattled administration - and much negative publicity in Australian and other media.

My local contacts assured me that Bangkok was perfectly safe, but I nonetheless arrived expecting to find tight security, and a heightened sense of unease as red shirts and yellow shirts prepared for more battles. 

What has received far less coverage than the recent clashes, however, is the fact that all the demonstrators who were blocking major intersections have now based themselves in one spot: Lumphini Park. Avoid Lumphini and chances are that you, just like myself, will see absolutely no signs that anything is amiss. 

There are a few security checkpoints near major intersections; manned by smiling military, but I've seen tighter security at a Harare steak house. At the airport: nothing out of the ordinary; at my hotel, the excellent Pullman Hotel G, nothing at all. At the busy and popular Mango Tree restaurant; zero, zilch. 

So what is it safe to do right now in Bangkok? Providing you take routine precautions that you'd take in just about any foreign city (and pay attention to Department of Foreign Affairs advice), I'd say just about anything that you would normally do.

From the Wat Po (reclining buddha) Temple, to the Pak Klong fruit, vegetable and flower markets, all was normal. Right down to monks clutching iPhones (above). 

We headed out to the Town in Town district for some mouth-numbing southern Thai dishes at Junhom with Mango Tree founder and celebrity chef Pitaya Phanphensophon. No sign of any unrest. We visited the site of the new Thai Heritage Trail and Yodpiman River Walk tourism complex. It was business as usual.  

The Sky Train was operating as normal; the Patpong Night Market was alive as always. Shopping venues, from the swish malls to the weekend Chatuchak Market, all appeared to be operating as normal. 
Catching public ferries on the busy Chao Phraya River; visiting David Thompson's superb Nahm restaurant (recently voted No.1 in Asia), having foot massages, Thai massages and head massages and enjoying cocktails at Scarlett, the 37th-floor bar of the Pullman G, it was clear that life (for now anyway) is pretty much back to normal. 

And the good news for tourists is that with numbers right down for the moment (the city attracts close to 20 million tourists a year), there are plenty of great hotel deals to be had - and flights are easy to book. 


Thai Airways International flies 40 times a week from Australia to Bangkok with connections domestic Thailand, Asia, India and Europe, South Africa and Los Angeles. See THAI’s World Sale Fares in Economy and Royal Silk Business class start from $876 return; or from $3456 return to Thailand.  Book by March 28 2014, travel until October  2014. Companion Fares to Thailand start from $819 return.    For more information, quotes and bookings visit thaiairways.com.au.

Thai Airways International is a founding member of the Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance.   For member rewards and entitlements, visit staralliance.com.
     

2 comments:

  1. Good info Winsor, we were thinking of attending a cremation ceremony in Thailand - not for anthropological reasons, a Thai friend's mother.

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  2. Cheers Roz. I think the rest of Thailand, particularly tourist areas, is also pretty quiet right now.

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