Protest on the runways

Nothing can quite beat the excitement of arriving at the airport before a fantastic weekend away at Thailand’s most beautiful beach destination. Krabi is rumored to be the most naturally exquisite and private tropical paradise in a country of many tropical paradises. But it’s a little hard to get there when thousands of demonstrators storm the runway to demand the ouster of the prime minister.

Hundreds of travelers have been left stranded in Thailand after authorities closed three airports due to protests.

The resort island of Phuket was the first airport to shut its doors, followed by Krabi and Hat Yai in the country’s south as anti-government protests spread across the country.

More than 5,000 protesters invaded Phuket International Airport, storming its two runways and preventing passengers from going in or out, Agence France-Presse reported.

— The Age, Australia

Unfortunately, this disruption is just one example of larger demonstrations that started three days ago. The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) has been occupying Prime Minister Samrak Sundaravej’s office compound to demand his resignation. They claim he is a a proxy for predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup in 2006.

Thai police used tear gas to disperse a crowd of several thousand anti-government protesters who were besieging city police headquarters. The prime minister said he might declare a state of emergency if the rioting worsens.

Associated Press journalists witnessed police throwing dozens of canisters of gas at the crowd of at least 2,000 people. Protest leaders claimed they had come to demand the surrender of officers who allegedly beat demonstrators earlier in the day.

— The Associated Press

I can assure everyone, that despite the media reports, life in Bangkok continues as usual. I haven’t seen any of the protesters as they’re located at the government compounds. But one concern on everyone’s mind is the possibility of another coup. Thankfully the 2006 coup was non-violent, so for now there is no worry that the demonstrations will compromise the safety of Bangkok.

What I’m more concerned with right now is getting my weekend in paradise off the ground. I’m keeping high hopes that the protesters want to sleep in tomorrow.


Do they have support groups for this?

I have an addiction.

It works quickly, it makes you feel a little dirty afterwards and it’s a total rush. No it’s not drugs or alcohol.

It’s the motorcycle taxi.

Despite its debatable safety, the motorcycle taxi is the best idea since the screw cap on a wine bottle. Men in pink, purple and orange vests stand ready at every corner to take you anywhere. Bangkok’s horrendous traffic conditions make this mode of transport the easy choice. You hop on, they weave in and out of backed up cars at every light to get to the front and when the light changes, you’re off like a shot. No waiting as the meter ticks up, no tapping your foot anxiously as you see that you’re now late. This ride is quick and exhilarating.

So strap on your helmet, pray you don’t get lice and off we go.

Music by Marc Streitenfeld and The Darkness.

Live in the tropics, stay out of the sun

Living in this tropical metropolis with its close proximity to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches would have any sun-worshiper soaking up every bit of it. But Thais not only stay out of the sun, they do everything possible to mitigate its effects.

Westerners soak up the rays at every opportunity. Thousands are spent on beach vacations so that we can plunk down a towel, strap on a skimpy swim suit and deepen our tans. We pay hundreds of dollars at a tanning salon in the middle of winter to get that warm golden hue. We stand naked in a booth and spin around to have a fake tan sprayed on. We will do anything for that “healthy glow.”

But Thais, with more opportunity than most, want nothing to do with the sun. Thais, like most Asians, covet pale, porcelain-like skin. It appears to be a sign of class and pedigree; those you see with dark skin are the street vendors and construction workers spending their days laboring under the hot tropical sun. But in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at its most glorious peak, you see men using newspapers and women carrying umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun’s evil rays.

Just as Westerners buy creams and gels to give us a a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) tan, Thais too have a cream-counterpart. Whitening cream.

The shelves of local drugstores and supermarkets are filled with countless brands of creams that promise to whiten, brighten and reduce the appearance of sun damage. There are eye creams, face creams, body creams. Deodorant. I still haven’t figured out the purpose of whitening deodorant. I have never gotten sun damage there even when sprawled out on the beach in the snow angel position.

So while Westerners flock to Bangkok to get one-step closer to skin cancer on Thailand’s exquisite beaches, Thais see beauty in a natural visage. And though I admire their responsible attitude towards skin care, I think I’ll take my chances with my shoulders bare and my face to the sky.

It’s all Thai to me

It is to be expected that when you move to a new country there will be certain challenges. A particularly frustrating one for me was the purchase of laundry detergent. A whole wall is devoted to the 50 different brands they sell and all of the packaging is in Thai. The one I picked up seemed like a safe bet, despite my inability to read a word of it.

Thai laundry detergent

Thai laundry detergent

The instructions that would have proved very helpful would have read “this is concentrated laundry detergent” and “use one cap-full.” Instead I used my experiences in the U.S. as a reference and put in quite a bit more.

Oh s*#t

Oh s*#t

Live it. Learn it.