Thailand is in the middle of a political deadlock between the current yellow shirt government, who hold a large majority made up predominantly of poorer people from the countryside, and the more urban based redshirts lead by a new leader who wants to establish a self elected people’s council to straighten out the country prior to any future elections – effectively an autocracy.
Two days after we arrived was planned as the start of “Bangkok Shutdown” a red shirt anti-establishment protest aiming to shut down all government operations, but theoretically allow private institutions to carry on as usual.
All seemed normal at the airport and when we arrived at Kitty’s, in the heart of the city, it appeared to be the usual Bangkok chaos. We spent Sunday catching up on chores and cruising the malls for various luxuries, such as toothpaste. However by Sunday afternoon the streets began to fill more and more with anti-government protestors who had cleverly adopted the Thai flag as their colours of choice. By the evening major road intersections were being blocked and access to some of the sky-rail stations were closed off by the protestors. One of the main protest sites was only a few hundred yards from Kitty’s apartment giving us a grandstand view of the proceedings.
Most people were let through the roadblocks but no cars except those delivering supplies to the protestors or emergency vehicles. We were happily waved through them time and again, we had no option, it was the only route to the train station and most of the places we needed to go to. However we did see very few foreigners on the streets and we were wary not to try to draw to much attention to ourselves.
The demographic of the protestors was interesting, during the day it was predominantly middle aged and older men and women, but during the evening it would shift as the younger people finished work and came to take up their place. The place also felt more hostile, whereas during the day it had a carnival atmosphere, the whole of the area being one big market, the Thai’s are nothing if not entrepreneurial!! One night coming back late we had to weave our way through the mass of sleeping bodies covering the street, pavements, steps, everywhere!
Somehow on the first day of the protest we managed to get across town to the Burmese embassy and get our visas, however getting back was no easy feat and on our walk back suddenly found ourselves amongst a parade of people, those in the front carrying flags and loudhailers! Realising we had accidently chosen sides we, discretely as possible, extricated ourselves from that particular political group.
Whilst there were incidents at night including shootings, bus fires and a bomb (all quite a long way from where we were staying) the days seemed calmer and more restrained. Although we were cautious we never felt in danger, just caught up in other people’s battles.
Kitty was a fabulous host, showing us the bright lights of Bangkok that we could get to, including our first steak and red wine since the UK and a roof top bar on the 34th floor with the best view from a toilet ever! She selflessly gave up her bed for the sofa, but did declare it was probably more comfortable anyway! Thanks Kitty for looking after us, it was great fun to see you again.
So whilst the airports were still open we decided to make a break for it and ironically escape the political turmoil of Bangkok by heading to Burma!
Thai flags adopted by the protestors wave at one of the many barricades
The main street of Rama 1 Road is barricaded off under the skyrail track, the street has become a temporary market
A passing protestor insisted he took a photo of us to remember our time here (like we would forget?!)
Siam square filled with tens of thousands of protestors geed up by music, speeches and whistles
Above 11 bar on the 34th floor with great views over the city
Kitty and Sarah enjoying the view - great service up here as everyone else has stayed in for some reason!!
A wee with a view