I spent last week in Bangkok, a city currently wracked by massive demonstrations, with violent rioting being featured in the international media. It sounded quite dangerous and we considered cancelling our trip or visiting another area of Thailand instead. But we finally decided to press on, having already booked our flights and hotel, and spend some time in Thailand’s capital city, despite the political climate.
We intended to avoid the areas where the demonstrations were taking place, which turned out to be very easy to do. The main rally was located near the Democracy Monument, with smaller demos at government offices. We were able to visit all the major tourist attractions, including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Museum of Siam and MBK mall without going near the demonstrations.
Our Thai friends supported the demonstrators and assured us that even their elderly relatives were participating in the demo, so we decided to visit the main rally near the Democracy Monument. The road approaching the rally had been turned into a car park, where demonstrators had parked their cars, and little stalls where people sold demonstration items lined the street. Hairbands in the red, blue and white colours of Thailand’s national flag were popular, sold alongside yellow t-shirts, the protestors being known as “Yellow Shirts” compared to the pro-government “Red Shirts”. A pop singer was performing on the stage, and as we walked nearer it became more crowded. There was no sense of danger, however, and the atmosphere was one of positive energy and movement towards change. People I asked believed that the demonstrations would be successful in some way, at changing the current political situation in Thailand.
So, is Bangkok safe for tourists? Yes, definitely. It was last week anyway. If you are planning a visit to this amazing Asian city, I don’t think you need to cancel your trip. Taking heed of local information and staying up-to-date on the political situation will enable you to stay in control of whether you avoid, observe or even join the demonstrations. The demonstrations are focused on protesting against the current government and are not related to tourism, foreigners, perceived wealth or race. Therefore as a visitor, you will not be a target.
Tourist attractions were unaffected while I was in Bangkok, although schools and universities were closed for part of last week. And my Thai friends tell me that traffic problems are much reduced compared to normal! Potentially volatile political situations can change very quickly, however, so stay flexible, make sure you know what is happening on the ground, and you can still have a great time in Bangkok.