Knowing that no matter how many frequent flyer miles one has, it can be difficult to actually use them, Kenny and I booked our upcoming vacation early. In fact, I believe we weren’t back from last year’s winter trip to Vietnam for six weeks when we reserved our tickets to Thailand for the second half of December.
We had some vague knowledge that there had been political unrest in the country, but we assumed that the situation was no worse than the usual rumblings coming out of that part of the world and that it wouldn’t impact a couple of tourists on a beach holiday. We never dreamed that the country’s major airports would be besieged by protestors and shut down for over a week not long before our scheduled departure.
Now that our departure date is only two weeks away, we’ve obviously been paying closer attention. Or perhaps I should admit, I’ve been obsessively scouring various online media and travel forums for any information I can get about the situation. And it appears to be improving, although it sounds like tensions are still running high.
On Monday, a court ruling declared that the prime minister and his party were guilty of electoral fraud and must step down. The PAD protestors proclaimed victory and ended their airport takeover. As of yesterday, service has resumed at Bangkok’s international airport, and it looks like Cathay Pacific (where we have our booking) will be in full operation by tomorrow. My understanding is that the situation is still somewhat fragile, and it’s anyone’s guess whether the looming discontent will lead to further demonstrations or even violence. Tomorrow is the 81st birthday of popular King Bhumibol, and his annual birthday eve address was much anticipated — in the past, he has been able to quell unrest by appealing to national unity — but it was canceled at the last moment due to a throat infection.
We’re still watching the situation closely, but the working assumption right now is that we’re going. It feels absurd to be headed to a place that 300,000 tourists are trying desperately to get out of, but on the upside I expect that we won’t have any trouble avoiding crowds or finding hotel rooms. And while this incident has severely tarnished Thailand’s image and threatens its heavily tourism-dependent economy, Kenny and I both feel that the best thing we can do to help Thailand recover is to go be tourists and do our small part to revive their economy. If things turn sour while we’re there but we can still make transit connections, we may retreat to Laos, Malaysia, or even back to Vietnam (I won’t cry if I have to spend a week on the beach in Nha Trang). Fingers crossed.