Bangkok, Thailand Protest

Thailand in the Time of Protest

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I was relaxing in the Asiana Lounge at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport Friday evening, waiting to board a flight to Bangkok, when the news report came on. “Dozens of people were injured by the explosions,” the anchor said dramatically, “which are the latest chapter in a wave of dangerous protests that have taken the Thai capital hostage since November.”

“You scared?” One of my fellow passengers asked.

I shook my head and took another swig of chardonnay.

See, if travel has taught me one thing – or, more accurately, if it has reinforced one thing I’ve always known – it’s that members of the mainstream media, in their quest to hold the greatest share of the world’s TV consumers captive, use fear at their primary weapon, often at the expense of the truth.

To be sure, I visited Egypt just after the 2011 revolution, Greece at the height of its economic collapse, Myanmar before it was officially open to outsiders and The Palestinian Territories…well, according to the powers that be, it’s never a good idea to go there.

In each of these instances, I was not only not harmed, but found the situation on the ground to be completely at odds with what CNN, FOX and MSNBC (not to mention, some of the trashier international news channels) had told me to expect. Which is to say I encountered friendly, docile people concerned only with feeding their families and making a buck or two in the process.

I knew, having traveled to Thailand five times in the past, that Bangkok would be no different. So when I woke up Saturday morning, I headed immediately to the nearest protest site.

Highlights of my photos from “Shut Down Bangkok, Restart Thailand”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The first thing I noticed was the booming voice over the speakers; the second, the fact that the Bangkok protests had been branded: “Shut Down Bangkok, Restart Thailand.” The third, as I stood on the sky bridge over Phaya Thai Road in front of Bangkok’s MBK Center, was that the scene outside the mall looked a lot like what was inside.

Indeed, as I made my way down Rama I Rd toward Siam Square, and further out to protests at other Bangkok locations such as Asok Road, Silom Road and Lumphini Park, the most ubiquitous sight was not the tents where protestors sleep.

It was stalls selling protest-related merchandise!

A “whistle mob” at Chit Lom, in central Bangkok

The 2014 Bangkok protests are of absolutely no danger to travelers – and the mainstream media needs to stop scaring us into thinking this is the case.

Unlike the “Red Shirts” (Thailand’s much more radical answer to the American Tea Party) behind the 2010 Bangkok protests, the current Bangkok protestors are not concerned with burning down shopping malls, disrupting air travel or lessening Western influence on Thailand – they simply want prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who long ago lost the public mandate to rule, to step down.

What little violence has occurred at protest sites thus far has been in outlying areas of Bangkok, such as Chaengwattana and Lad Prao, places the vast majority of foreigners would have no reason to go. The only effect continued hysteria will have is to devastate Thailand’s tourism sector, upon which the country’s economy depends heavily. And then, shit will really hit the fan.

As someone who knows more about Thailand than just about every “journalist” in the world, my advice to you is simple: If you are planning a trip to Thailand, go as planned. Traffic in Bangkok is even worse than usual, but unless you make an explicit point of visiting protest sites (which are totally confined to Bangkok, I might add), you won’t even notice them.

And if you’re not visiting Thailand? Turn off your fucking TV.

About The Author

is the author of 766 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

The World Wanderer January 20, 2014 at 10:13 am

Love that you wrote this. I could agree more with you on this statement, “See, if travel has taught me one thing – or, more accurately, if it has reinforced one thing I’ve always known – it’s that members of the mainstream media, in their quest to hold the greatest share of the world’s TV consumers captive, use fear at their primary weapon, often at the expense of the truth” I too, visited Egypt after the revolution, at a time when there were still warnings about travel there, but I was in Africa and wanted to see Egypt. I took my chances, despite all the cautionary advice of friends, and found a country completely different than what was presented on TV. Hopefully, as writers and travelers, we can open up the eyes of those who rely on the news and think the world is dangerous to let them know that not everything is as it seems to be. PS love the photos!

BostonJetSet January 20, 2014 at 6:25 pm

First, LOVE THE BLOG!

Second, I want to repeat the sentiments of “The World Wanderer” and thank you for writing this. Thailand is my favourite of all the countries I have visited [not YET as many as you, I might add, but still a fair share LOL] and I hate to think of the way the media over-hypes everything. The Thai people are some of the friendliest and most genuinely welcoming people I have come across and no one should be put off from visiting such a fabulous destination. Safe travels!

Robert Schrader January 20, 2014 at 6:30 pm

Thanks very much for your comment! I hope you continue reading…

Raphael Alexander Zoren January 21, 2014 at 1:54 am

A traveler has more chances of dying in a plane accident (1:1000000) than to being harmed by political tensions in foreign countries (1:100000000000000000000xInfinity).

Robert Schrader January 21, 2014 at 5:25 am

Good perspective!

Bruce Wagner January 21, 2014 at 6:12 am

Amen! I just tweeted this article. http://twitter.com/brucewagner

Robert Schrader January 21, 2014 at 6:58 pm

Thanks Bruce!

Supawan-Sue January 22, 2014 at 9:42 am

Love your blog and truth about Bangkok shutdown.

Gillian February 2, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Thank you so much for this. We’re bound for Bangkok on the 20th and some of my friends are worried for their safety. I kind of knew media was exaggerating. My dad was in Bangkok when the shut down started and he said everything was fine except the traffic was really bad.

Robert Schrader February 5, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Yeah, the idea that Bangkok is dangerous is totally preposterous.

Liz Truong March 16, 2014 at 10:20 am

Yo Robert, I’m not as concerned about the “violence” per say, just slightly concerned about access and congestion. I heard if you were staying in Sukhumvit it’s really tough (and much more expensive) to get in and out of there right now because of the protests. What say you to the “accessible” question? We’ll probably be using taxi and tuk-tuk more as we are more on a time-saving plan (one nnniigghhttt in Bangkok to be exact – insert tune to song here. But for reals, we’re only in Bangkok for one night). I usually stay near Khao San Rd, but considering Sukhumvit to mix it up and I’ll have 2 new Thailand travelers with me. Any thoughts you have would be much appreciated.

Robert Schrader March 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

I would recommend staying in Sukhumvit or Silom, but you know, the traffic is open agai now

Simian Virtue June 16, 2014 at 8:17 pm

What a lie !!
I was there just two weeks ago = Bedlam !!!!

Robert Schrader June 17, 2014 at 6:37 am

Why did you find it to be bedlam?

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