“Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth,” says my taxi driver as he describes his typical day from the airport to town. “But today, you my only one. Not enough.”
I don’t take it personally. This is business, and since the bomb on Monday the driver tells me there are a lot fewer travelers arriving in Bangkok. The hotels have been telling me the same story – a lot of cancelled bookings, and those guests that are here are leaving early.
I’m here to gauge the situation and try to determine what advice I want to give our Journeys Within guests – and travelers in general – who have Thailand on their itinerary in the coming months. This is not the first time I’ve headed to Bangkok due to a bad situation. I was in Thailand after the tsunami, here during the first coup, here for the flooding and here for the protests. The truth is that when issues happen in any of the countries we work in, I like to be there on the ground so when I talk to my guests I can genuinely speak from experience. I think it’s my obligation as an expert of this region to have this first-hand knowledge.
So I’m here and I’m already hearing from the taxi driver that life is getting back to normal today. The schools that closed are back open, and so are the streets that had been closed after the blast.
After checking in, I did the one thing that always helps gauge the city, I went shopping. The malls in Bangkok are always a lively scene and are the best way to see just how locals and tourists alike are feeling. I took a taxi to Siam Square and visited the various malls and shopping centers. The truth is that if I hadn’t known about the bombs there was no indication of the aftermath in downtown Bangkok. All the various stores are open and being visited by large numbers of tourists – it felt very much like a typical Bangkok day.
I met with friends for coffee and they said that people are scared, but life has to go on. They said they felt bad because they really didn’t have any answers for me and didn’t know if there was a reason to be scared and avoid Thailand or not. The general mood was one of sadness and resignation.
In the evening there was a news conference at the Erawan Shrine, the site of the bombing. A police spokesman showed the recently released sketch and explained their reasoning behind this man being the main suspect. After the conference I bought flowers and candles and made an offering at a shrine I’ve made many offerings to in the past, but this time it was with great sadness.
So down to the nitty gritty: The reason I wanted to come here was to be able to offer tangible advise to our travelers. After being here I do think traveling to Bangkok is possible and life goes on as usual, but at the same time, it was the first time that I’ve visited Bangkok during a crisis and felt nervous. The attack on the Erawan Shrine was aimed at tourists and was unpredictable. Unlike the protests, this type of attack can’t be avoided, and no matter how careful and aware our guides are, we could put our guests in a dangerous situation. With that said, the Thai police are clearly searching for the suspect and I do believe they are actively working to solve the situation. Therefore, my advice for our guests is to not visit Bangkok in the next two weeks.
On September 1 we will reassess the situation. Right now we will absolutely support any guests that want to come to Bangkok, and for all the trips we have booked past September we advise waiting for the next two weeks before making any changes.
Tomorrow I’ll explore some more and chat with more friends and my team here. In the meantime if you have any questions on Bangkok and the situation please just let us know.
“People scared,” my taxi driver said wistfully, “but we Bangkok, we be okay.”