Traveling In Thailand During Political Unrest

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I just got back from a two week vacation to South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand. One guess where the last week was spent! For some reason my visits to Thailand usually overlap with political unrest.

In 2010 I was very excited that I would finally get to try out the Bangkok Intercontinental hotel as a Royal Ambassador. A week before we were due to arrive the Red Shirt protests started on the steps of the hotel. I was still planning to stay there, but they finally cancelled my reservation so I had to switch to the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit farther down the road.

Traveling by cab was somewhat difficult as many of the downtown roads were blocked, but public transit was easy and the walkways actually let us view the barricades and encampments from above.

red shirt protest barricade bangkok thailand 2010

At no point did I ever feel unsafe. When I was shopping at MBK, adjacent to one of the barricades, the store keepers were apologizing for their countrymen and hoping I would come back when “everyone had come to their senses.” We did see quite a few military folks with guns, but everyone was very warm and welcoming to us.

When I returned the next year the papers were full of Red Shirt/Yellow Shirt news though there were no protests in Bangkok. But again I found everyone very friendly to tourists.

So this year when my friend was anxiously reading the paper about the increasing turmoil only a few days before we were due to arrive, I wasn’t worried (or surprised). That’s not to say I take the problems of the Thai people lightly! Just that I’d always had a good experience there, even when things were rocky. It would seem both sides highly value tourism and want to leave the best impression possible.

This time it seems like most of the protests were confined to the TV stations and driving through the streets everything seemed pretty normal. The stores were full and the shrine outside the Grand Hyatt was crowded.

Erawan Shrine Bangkok

We leave two days before martial law was imposed though.

If you have travel plans in Bangkok in the next couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be afraid to keep them. Just be smart about where and when you go and you’ll still have a great time.


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