When I told people I was going to Thailand, the response I got would fall into one of two categories: general interest/excitement, and the more annoying, perpetual fear for my well-being and safety.
With the American media cherry picking the red shirt protests as the next popcorn snack sound bite before moving on to more important matters like Lindsay Lohan’s most recent court room fiasco, the wide eyed look of terror in regards to my traveling in Thailand makes perfect sense.
Not to make light of the political situation here, the Red Shirt’s and the Thai Government are still in serious disagreement, but don’t let vague information about violence back in April totally discount Thailand as your next destination. Do your research into the current tensions (the Bangkok Post is a good first step) to test the waters before making assumptions.
For example, a little nervous myself, I did a bit of digging to see what the current climate was like and to try and get an impression of the political atmosphere among the locals. I found out that the two opposing factions had made a compromise; another election was scheduled for August 15, giving the Red Shirts a chance to legitimize their political party if they can get enough votes.
Phew! They’ve reached a temporary accord! My time here has been almost completely void of any mention of the protests besides the errant question from nosy journalists. No crazy amount of police presence, no blockades with invasive checkpoints- the rhythm of life continues in Bangkok.
Before I left America, I was reassured by an international businessman at the airport. While waiting for my flight to Bangkok in LAX, Mr. Businessman and I started chatting about the safety of Thailand. “It’s no more dangerous than Paris, or any other tourist location,” he had explained.
There are pickpockets, and scammers, and certain areas to avoid at night in Bangkok, but that exists for places like Rome and London and even NYC and nobody questions those cities safety. I’ve only been here for a few days, but it truly does feel void of the political fervor that everyone has assumed had run rampant since April.
And the Land of Smiles continues to surprise as the tour progresses. Street food snacks settle in our stomach’s thanks to our tour guide Jerry’s insider knowledge of the local carts. Everyone from our hotel staff to women living in the Green Zone along the canals smile and wave and wai as we come by. Monks aren’t these silent pillars of Buddhism, but real, affable people willing to pose for pictures for tourists. Thai massages are not so much a relaxing spa treatment, but a body work out that hurts as it helps alleviate body aches and pains.
And there’s so much left to explore…