Bangkok Thailand Protests 2010 – Arthur Frommer, You Were Right About Thailand

by brian on May 20, 2010

Sometimes you just have to admit when you’re wrong.

Arthur Frommer, sir you were right and I was wrong.

Weeks back when the “usual” Thailand protests started, I, like many others, pooh poohed it as just what the Thai people do. They protest in the streets, sometimes the government gets overthrown, nobody gets hurt and Thailand goes on being the cheap, wonderful place for the traveler passing through.

When the trouble started, Frommer told everyone to completely skip the country. I thought that was an extreme reaction to something that at the time seemed like ‘typical’ Thailand.

But now I’ve got to say thing went from interesting to downright scary.

The New York Times had a story about an attempted assassination of a Thai general who supports the red shirt protesters.

In the middle of the street.
While he was talking to the NYTimes reporter!

Cars and buildings are burning. Foreign journalists have been killed covering the protests. The government has imposed a curfew in Bangkok. A good summary here.

I’m reading a lot of stories about the violence being isolated to just certain parts of Bangkok and that the rest of the city is fine, as well as the rest of the country.

Even if the rest of the country is quiet, can you really enjoy yourself when all the madness is going on around you? It’s like going to Haiti after the earthquake in a region not hit by the devastation. Can you REALLY enjoy yourself knowing there so much turmoil going on so close by?

Some can.
Many can’t.

If you planned on going to another part of Thailand and avoiding Bangkok altogether, that sounds like a great idea in theory. But the airport will always be a prime target for protesters, just like it was when I was next door in Cambodia. You could be stuck with a canceled flight…or stuck in the Bangkok airport.
When this latest round of protests started few months ago, many travelers, myself included, thought that this would blow over and be done with. It would be some cool pictures and some fascinating stories to entertain friends and family back home with. Not so fun when folks are dead in the streets.

Me, I’d jump right into Bangkok right now. But that is just me. Some would call me crazy, and I might agree with them.

Could I send other people there, especially inexperienced travelers who may not be savvy or street smart to avoid trouble. No. I’d be too worried about them. Not everyone is skilled enough to change their plans on the fly or might freak out if their hotel was suddenly closed.

Arthur Frommer, you were right and I was wrong. I wish was I was right though…Not to be right, but hoping that Thailand would be the warm, accommodating place it was for me and so many others.

For the latest, be sure to keep following friend and fellow travel blogger Jodi at Legal Nomads. She’s still in Bangkok and is keeping us all updated on her blog and Twitter feed @legalnomads.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

megancriley May 20, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Maybe Phuket or the beach is where the traveler you spend his time….

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AdventureRob May 21, 2010 at 10:29 AM

I'm with you here, I dismissed the protests as typical Thailand, but it's certainly a lot more serious and shows how little I/we know about Thai politics.

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RamblingTart May 21, 2010 at 1:01 PM

I wasn't worried at first either. I have dear friends living there and they weren't worried. They are now. Hoping so much for peace and resolution.

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Gary Arndt May 21, 2010 at 2:05 PM

Despite what is happening, it is only in central Bangkok, not the whole country. Arthur Frommer said to avoid the whole country and he wasn't saying so on the prediction of future troubles, but on what happened in the present.

More people died during traffic accidents during Songkran than from violence in Bangkok.

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Dave and Deb May 21, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Good post Brian. We would go there in a heartbeat too because we love Thailand. but it is very good to be aware.
Gary is right also, it is only in the hot spot of Central Bangkok. We have been to many country where civil unrest has been happening. If you stay away from the protest areas you "should" almost always be safe. Most of us are not reporters that are in the middle of the action. Although it is a tragedy that anyone had to be killed.
I can't believe this is happening in our beloved Thailand. I feel for the country.

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brian May 23, 2010 at 8:33 AM

@megancriley
That is where most are saying to go. Stay out of Bangkok and head to the North or South…for the time being.

@AdventureRob
It pains me to say it. I'll just feel uncomfortable in Bangkok right now, but I'd still go. Suggesting it to others, I couldn't. Maybe the rest of the country.

@RamblingTart
That is where everyone was thinking. It would blow over and no one would get hurt. There are just so many times you can have confrontations before someone takes it step beyond. The time for peaceful protests and coups has run out for Thailand.

@Gary Arndt
I hear you Gary, I hear you. It is localized to certain areas of the city. But there is no guarantee that it will stay that way.

And in retrospect I understand where Arthur Frommer was coming from. His audience is the traditional vacationer who will not/does not want to deal with political protests or the potential for violence.

You and I would gladly go back to Bangkok and Thailand in a second. But for me in good conscience to recommend Bangkok to someone else, I can't right now. And I say right now because I'll be glad to write another post and tell everyone to buy tickets to Bangkok tomorrow if the situation dictated that.

@Dave and Deb
You're right. It's a certain type of traveler who will hit Bangkok and not blink. RTW travelers like you, I and Gary have no problem heading into hot zones. It's the vast majority of travelers who I'm thinking of right now.

Basically you know whether or not you have the heart to deal with the potential situations you might run into.

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brian May 23, 2010 at 11:59 AM

@Gary Arndt
The other thing I just realized about Bangkok now is that there is a 9PM curfew for it and certain areas. It's suppose to end May 23 but who knows. I don't care how much you can do during the day, I'm not going any place where my movements are restricted after a certain time.

You can avoid the protests, but you can't avoid the fallout from the situation.

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Dustin Main - Skinny Backpacker May 28, 2010 at 4:50 AM

Takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong. At the end of the day, like you mentioned Brian, Arthur Frommer’s base is a little different than many of us travelers/bloggers who can handle a bit of chaos now and then. It was a safe bet on his part and the right decision to make the recommendation that he did given his reach.

Gary’s point about Songkran deaths is good, but in the violence is a much bigger wild card imo. It could have escalated even more, and I don’t know of anyone having to be evacuated from their homes because of Songkran fires and violence (fortunately).

Good post, good comments!

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brian May 28, 2010 at 10:40 PM

He made the recommendation WAY TOO early, but it was the right one in retrospect. I wish he was wrong.
Hoping the good Thai people can work it, but doesn’t look like resolution is coming anytime soon.

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Pete Sisco October 20, 2010 at 2:01 AM

Brian, I think you and Arthur are both right. I was in Thailand during the red/yellow shirt protests in 2009 and the Bangkok and Phuket airports were closed. But we had plans to stay for several month so there wasn’t really any disruption or inconvenience for us. No so for the guys who had to leave just then. So it’s always an evaluation for each traveler to make. As I write this they are protesting in France. I’ll stay out of there, thanks. Part of the appeal of travel is the adventure of it. And part of that adventure is uncertainty. Live is uncertainty and I applaud you for embracing it.

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brian October 20, 2010 at 10:18 PM

The France story is not getting a lot of press. Too much of a hassle to head there right now IF you have a choice.

The thing about Thailand is that I know it can be so much better there. Even when I got stuck in Cambodia waiting for the airport to open you just thought this would blow over. Not this time.

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