State of Emergency to State of Bliss

Posted on April 25, 2009

You wanna go to Bhutan, you pretty much have to go via Bangkok.

Arrival in Bangkok coincided with the very planned Thai New Year, and unexpected street demonstrations against the government. Taxi got no closer than one block to hotel, streets closed for the revelers. This meant a short walk, though what amounted to sniper alley, as everyone was armed with 2 or 3 foot guns, (pause for dramatic effect), shooting streams of water. Yep, the world's biggest water fight underway, and I arrived drenched. What I learned: my new suitcase is waterproof.

I changed, went down to the street, and got me a gun.

Phyllis, Kim and Janet are already in Bangkok, their first time, so when taxi dropped them off and instructed them to walk to hotel, through the watery gauntlet they were truly innocents abroad. I worried they might be distressed by all the revelry. Seems they subscribe to the "when in Rome do as the Romans do", and they have joined the party.

I changed, went down to the street, and got me a gun. All the streets surrounding the hotel on Khao San Road closed to traffic, and jam packed with people. Most have water guns, some garden hoses, others buckets of water, and then others bowls of wet white clay, so you very soon get accustomed to strangers stroking your face leaving it clay covered. News to me, I look OK with pancake makeup. Both the water and clay have their origins in a New Year good luck gesture, originally a few drops of water and a smudge of clay on the cheek. Now morphed into a 3 day multi-block party with throbbing wet bodies, smiling, laughing, and dancing on the streets, refrigerator size speakers every 20 feet blasting music. Sixty seconds after I leave hotel and I'm soaked. It's 90 plus degrees, so feels pretty good. The revelers are mostly Thai, but this being Khao San Road, they come in every flavor. Three in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, same density and decibels.

Image caption here!!!

Khao San Road is just blocks away from Democracy Monument, ground zero for demonstrations in Bangkok. Red shirted demonstrators clash softly (initially) with police. Later they begin to burn buses. We walk, rather innocently into groups of soldiers (these with real machine guns), and demonstrators with sticks, and locals taking pictures of both. I'm pretty chicken shit when it comes to danger, but this seems oddly un-menacing, despite the hundreds of soldiers, so close we brush up against them, as they crowd the same sidewalks we also try to maneuver.

CNN shows the same 12 burned buses about a million times, leaving Berous and Wendie, still in San Francisco uncertain if they should board the flight to Bangkok. I get several middle of the night calls, and assure then they will face no hazard in Bangkok. The brave souls get on the plane.

Three mornings later we board the next plane, this one to Bhutan, where the biggest risk seems to be the chili dominated cuisine, which burns on entrance and exit.