Back to Bangkok
Nov. 30, 2008
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At about this point, it began to sink in: maybe we better
start figuring another way out of the country. The Thai army
had made one or two attempts to recapture the airport, and
had been rebuffed by the PAD protestors on the roads approaching
the terminals. (I really have to say, if your army can be repelled
by protestors in yellow t-shirts, your soldiers probably need a
little extra training.) And no one seemed to be budging.
As I noted to the Firm's head of security (whom I called in Hong Kong
on Sunday), it makes me nervous when a group of entrenched protestors
unfurl a banner that reads "Final Battle."
Em was a little nervous, too, and she had rather wisely suggested
that we lay low out in the countryside for a few days and let things
sort themselves out. We were reading about sporadic gunfights in the
streets, grenade attacks between protestor camps, and a plan to bus
100,000 red shirts (the other team) in from the rural parts. I was
impressed with Em's reading of the situation, but for complicated
reasons, we decided to head back into Bangkok anyway. Uncle Craig
assured us it would not devolve into a civil war: "The Thais are famous
for this sort of thing, pushing things right to the brink and
then stepping back." Probably true, I thought. But then again, Beirut
and Baghdad were once peaceful places, too.
Jim's Lodge welcomed us with citrus juice to wash the dust from the
road, and in the morning I headed into the McKinsey office (just a block away)
to begin two days working the phone and the web to secure alternate escape
We kept a wary eye on the news and the streets, but everything seemed
pretty normal and calm in our part of Bangkok, a few miles from the
protestor camps and the airport.
No sooner had I nailed down and paid for the final step of our plan (flight
to Hong Kong for Ellie and me) then the news reported that the seige might be
ending. Thailand's top court had ruled against the current government, forcing
it to dissolve its party and the current government -- and that was enough for
the PAD to declare victory. The protestors agreed to leave the airport, but officials said it would be as much
as a week before they could re-open the trashed airport. And even then, the backlog
of 300,000 stranded tourists would mean waiting weeks to get a flight out of Bangkok.
We decided to stick with our new plan: a 12-hour drive south to Phuket, and a few days there
before catching a flight to Kuala Lumpur. From there, a driver would take us south through
Malaysia into Singapore, where we could stay overnight with my friend Roger and his family.
The following morning, Jen and Em would be able to fly on to Tokyo and then home. Ellie and
I would have to go to Hong Kong to catch our flight to Tokyo and home the following day.
We charged our iPods, packed our bags, and headed south on Wednesday morning.