What is so attractive about Bangkok that I keep returning to it time and again? Honestly, I do not know. Most likely the reason has got to do with its food and its people. Also, holidaying in Bangkok is pretty cheap and what I really like is that it takes a mere 2 hours flight from Kuala Lumpur to get there.
However, this time, a lot of people had advised me not to visit Bangkok due to the political crisis currently happening in this city. News about anti-Government protests, bombings and violence in Bangkok certainly did not help. But I had already paid for my flight and hotel months ahead so foregoing this trip would be the last thing on my mind.
> Don't know what's happening in Bangkok? Read HERE.
Luckily with the help of some Thai friends on Facebook and updates on Twitter from foreigners staying in Bangkok, I was assured that the situation in Bangkok was generally still pretty safe.
Anyway, my Bangkok trip turned out to be relatively peaceful, relaxing and highly enjoyable. I will blog more about what I did in Bangkok in future posts, but for now, let me just share with you some photos I took to highlight the current situation there.
This is Silom road. I was on the Skyway bridge near the Saladaeng BTS station. There were many stalls cashing in on the political rally happening close to the Silom MRT station.
I must say the large number of stalls selling food, clothes and other things lent an atmosphere of festivity here. I did not feel afraid or fearful at all.
Of course, traffic was chaotic and mostly jammed up. Never travel by taxi unless absolutely necessary. Make full use of the BTS (skyway) and MRT (subway) trains and you would have no problem getting around Bangkok with ease, at least to most of the shopping malls.
This is a rally near to the Silom MRT Station. This live rally is beamed to anti-Government protesters gathering at other locations around Bangkok via huge screens. People were sitting or standing listening to the person speaking on stage. Occasionally, they burst out in applause.
I took a photo of this scene just outside the National Stadium BTS Station near MBK Shopping Mall. This is another anti-Government protest hot spot in Bangkok.
It was my first time seeing so many tents lying on the open space. Looked like the protestors must be camping out here! I heard that they have been blocking major intersections in Bangkok since beginning of the year as part of their 'Bangkok Shutdown' campaign.
Certain roads were blocked with barbed wires like this one on Astadang Road near to Wat Ratchabophit - a beautiful, charming temple which I visited.
Probably one of the most violent clashes between police and anti-Government protestors happened along Ratchadamnoen Klang Road near Democracy Monument. I was glad it did not happen while I was there.
I had no intention of visiting the Democracy Monument but I was there to visit the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall, which was a fairly new tourist attraction in Bangkok. Unfortunately, no one told me that it was closed!!
No one - not my hotel, not the cab driver nor my Thai friends - knew it was closed on that day. And if it was mentioned on its website or Facebook page, I sure did not see it! It was probably closed indefinitely due to the violent clashes that happened in the area.
What I saw on the road in front of the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall was a little shocking at first. There were many damaged and overturned vehicles lying around.
Barricades were set up and policemen were all over the place.
Surprisingly, I did not feel any danger at all. Even the policemen were friendly and I managed to speak to one of them despite the language barrier. Amusingly, many tourists used this opportunity to take photos and selfies of themselves posing in front of those damaged cars!
I must really give it to the Thais for creatively turning this 'war zone' into another form of tourist attraction.
So, if you want to have your photos taken with these overturned vehicles, quickly fly over to Bangkok now and get it done before they are towed away! LOL!
I thought with Rattanakosin closed, I could perhaps go visit Wat Saket nearby. But I soon discovered that the road to Wat Saket was blocked with 'Peace Zone' banners put up.
An overturned car that attracted a couple of curious tourists.
So is it still safe to go Bangkok? Well, I went there and survived it. So far, no foreign tourists have been known to be injured in the political clashes. In fact, with the less number of tourists (many tourists had avoided Bangkok and went to other parts of Thailand), hotel rates are cheaper and it's also less crowded - which is exactly what I love!
The only downside is that security is tighter than usual, not that this is bad, but it might be a bit of a hassle to have your bags and backpacks checked every time you enter a shopping mall or a MRT station.
However, although Bangkok is generally safe to tourists, do take note of the following guidelines while you are there …
1. Try to avoid the protest sites, although they are mostly peaceful. Since the sites can change from time to time, keep yourself updated with the latest news on Twitter and Facebook. Follow Twitter feeds with hashtags #Thailand and #BKKShutdown.
2. If you cannot avoid a protest site, try not to linger too long there. The situation may seem peaceful, but you never know that it might unexpectedly turn rowdy or violent.
3. If like me, you want to take pictures of the protest sites, do so in the day time. More people congregate for the evening speeches so the chances of things turning bad will most likely happen during the evenings or nights.
4. Most major shopping malls near to protest sites like MBK, Siam Paragon and Terminal 21 can be easily and safely accessed via elevated walkways after exiting the BTS stations without having to walk through the areas where the protestors gather.
5. Protest sites and surrounding areas should be completely avoided after dark. In fact, do not stay out too late.
6. Do not voice any opinions about the anti-Government protests to any local Thai people that you are not familiar with as you cannot be sure which side they are on. Emotions do run high and it's better to stay neutral.
7. Do not wear any solid red color shirts (which signifies pro-Government) or shirts that say 'Popcorn Army' (which supports anti-Government) to avoid being targeted.
*Latest News : Anti-Government protestors have ended their occupation of all intersections and moved to Lumpini Park since Monday, March 3rd. This should free up the traffic congestion in Bangkok and perhaps make it safer for tourists.