There was a military coup in Thailand last month, but walking around the streets of downtown Bangkok you wouldn’t know it. Vendors are out on the sidewalks every weekday morning hawking everything from coin purses to chicken on a stick (dark meat, of course, it’s Asia). Alleyway markets are jammed with shoppers by 9am.
It’s business as usual for the everyday Thai citizen, although hotels and sit down restaurants frequented by tourists have been more affected. It’s low season here, technically monsoon season from May onward. That means sprinkles for an hour or two everyday and overcast skies the rest of the time. The temperature when it’s overcast is in the mid-80s and it’s only slightly more humid than Hawaii in the summer. But the bad publicity from the coup has meant bookings are off by half in most places. Krabi and Phuket, beach towns in the south, report occupancies are down to 35 percent.
Practically speaking, this political unrest means lower prices for travelers. We’re staying in a hotel our first 3 days here and when I booked online, rates had been discounted 20 percent. The hotel upgraded us to a bigger room when we got here, too.
There’s been no sign of police or military in the Silom Satorn district around our hotel. It’s a commercial district, lots of office buildings around here. On our cab ride from the airport just before midnight, it looked like some nighttime food stalls were ignoring the midnight-4am curfew. We saw men in fatigues only once on the ride, hanging around two Humvees parked along the side of the road, presumably guarding some government building.
Don’t get me wrong, the situation is still serious. Last I checked, high ranking members of the ousted democratically elected government are still being detained by the junta, as are a few outspoken journalists. Given my profession and our relative lack of knowledge of politics in Southeast Asia, plenty of friends and family questioned the wisdom of our trip.
But as far as the effect of the coup on everyday life? From what we can see, it’s minimal. As a friend who has lived here on and off since 2003 says, “This is now normal for Thailand.” Interesting how American news media portray something rather different.