It was dark when we awoke; the Diplomat turned over to catch a few more minutes of sleep before making her way to the Embassy to deal with whatever might transpire today; I got up to catch the end of the live NFL games and to check Twitter to see what was going on. Tweets were rushing in; there was uncertainty over gunfire in the night, inchoate one-liners about what was closed, what was open; aerial drone photos, selfies, traffic updates…and the marvelous comment about Au Bon Pain and Starbucks being open, but neither sight nor sound of the usual Thai street vendors. Actually, they’d all just crossed the street. More on that in a bit.
The ongoing political rumblings in Bangkok had metamorphosed into #BangkokShutdown #BKKShutdown Day/Month – a time where travel disruption would sweep the city, and hundreds of thousands would make their peaceful views known.
Having been invited to a Canadian Spouses meeting at the Embassy on the matter days earlier, I can safely say that the only thing everyone knew was that no one knew what was actually going to happen. I do get the sense the media are eager for something, anything to happen; it becomes more newsworthy to hear about strife, civil disorder, fighting, flares ups. When you get told that the street vendors have simply crossed the street in order to be closer to their customers, that people are enjoying a carnival atmosphere with music, that whistles are being blown, that smiles are everywhere in the Land of Smiles…well, they all seem to get disappointed. And, of course, there is the need for social media to be the “first” to spot something exciting and tweet it.
Calm and collected, that’s how it has started down on the Rama IV stretch between Sathorn and Silom Roads. Almost a festive atmosphere. I jumped on my cycle, got to the end of our road where a blockade was in place. It was very politely moved for me by three happy Thai chappies waving national flags, wearing specially printed T-Shirts for the occasion; I cruised down a road to Lumphini, getting cheerfully waved at by a katoey hanging off the back of a truck who was heading to join the throng. The Silom end of the park had become tent city again – check the photos – which precluded an easy cycle route; yet runners were out, the atmosphere was decidedly party-like and I moved freely amongst the crowds, making way for two elderly Western ladies who had come out to see what all the fuss was about with their cameras clutched in tremulous hands.
Yes, it was noisy, but there was also a stage show going on which was fascinating. I got to walk up a five lane highway which was empty – that’s pretty rare in Bangkok. I got to meet and smile with a lot of people.The Diplomat SMSed me this morning to say the birds were tweeting; that it was quiet. I imagine the air quality in this part of Bangkok will improve hugely if the blockades remain for a while and that’s a silver lining…
Here’s a video of both junctions:
I got back to find Isla and the Nanny playing cheerfully outside as normal; the guards were doing their usual clackety-clack, smartly snapping polished heels together and saluting whenever possible. A normal day, to be honest. That’s not to say the night won’t bring change, that the coming days might not get ugly; but, if it stays like this, that will be good for the average person walking these streets…. if not, and things do change in the coming days; then the media will get their headline-grabbing excitement, it may all turn sour. But, for now, this small part of Bangkok is off to a good start…long may it continue in that manner…
Is this what diplomacy is all about?