So today I went to Bangkok to pick up my passport from the Vietnamese Embassy, where it has been for the past week while getting a visa for Vietnam put in. I can’t say that I really knew what to expect given the fact that it’s only the 3rd full day since the military coup d’etat that overthrew the government, dissolved the constitution and parliament, and put the country under martial law. Even so, life in Hua Hin has been totally normal, without a troop presence, I was curious to see what Bangkok was like, as we made world news when tanks rolled in there a mere 3 days ago.
I went with the intention of only spending the day there. I caught the great van service that runs between Hua Hin and Bangkok and was well on my way. The first indication I saw of the troop presence under martial law was just past Phetchaburi, the provincial capital of the province of the same name in which Cha-Am (where I technically live, as we are right over the provincial line) is located. There was a military checkpoint, of sorts at the beginning of the highway that leads into Bangkok, though is quite a ways from the city. They didn’t actually stop any vehicles, but they slowed all the cars down and took peeks inside the cars. All the descriptions were true as well…all the troops I saw today wore yellow arm bands and had yellow bows on their rifles.
Upon entering the Bangkok metropolitan area, there were additional troops stationed at the toll booth, but again, nobody was stopped other for the toll. We arrived at Victory Monument, conveniently located next to a Sky Train stop. There was no troop presence there (even at the Sky Train stop). I rode the train over to Wireless Road, the street were there are a large number of foreign embassies (including the U.S. embassy and the Vietnamese embassy) and still saw no troops!
After picking up my passport I walked back over towards the big commercial district a ways down. There were troops stationed in front of the shrine at the Erawan Hotel, as that is a major gathering place for Thais. People were running up to them and taking photos with them. I decided to explore a few more shopping malls in the area and got some lunch. At another street corner, there were a large number of troops and armored vehicles stationed. Tourists and Thais alike were gathering to watch them and take photographs of them from the walkway above.
After lunch I walked around the Siam Square area, essentially a large outdoor shopping mall or sorts, right across the street from the big malls. It contains many smaller stores and there were very few farangs or foreigners (westerners technically) there. I did happen to stumble across a small rock concert in the midst of all of it (as seen in the photo below), which was cool.
I walked around a bit more before heading back to Victory Monument to catch the van back to Hua Hin. It was really slow heading back as there was a ton of traffic and it was pouring rain and took 3 hours instead of the usual 2.
Even though there was a large troop presence in Bangkok, absolutely nothing was different from when I was there a week ago. Much like the rest of Thailand, everyone seemed rather lethargic about the whole thing. Despite the fact that civil liberties are being stripped away everyone for the large part seems fine, though there are starting to be some demonstrations in Bangkok. There is certainly not free press here at the moment, as the current leaders are retaining the power to censor the media, and they have been forbidden from broadcasting people’s opinions. Even traffic reports can’t take phone calls! Still, life, just as it was on Tuesday morning, continues here. Theoretically there’s only a week and a half left of this…we’ll see what happens.