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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 plans.

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.