Saturday, May 01, 2010

In the Zone

Our first morning in Bangkok, we made our way back over to Chitlom to check out the Red Shirt encampment. The roadblocks that had been in full effect the night before now had openings big enough for cars and people to pass through. A few tourists like us wandered in, taking photos, while local people hurried past on their way to work or shops or schools.

The barriers are made of tires interlaced with razor wire and thousands of sharpened bamboo poles. If that sounds insubstantial, remember that bamboo is so strong it's frequently used to make scaffolding and external supports for construction projects here. The roadblocks do not look like they will be taken down very easily, or very soon.

Several blocks of central Bangkok have become a Red Shirt market. Vendors were hawking red bumper stickers, hats, flags and of course shirts, while speeches boomed out of large amplifiers set at regular intervals along the street.

"Joy is what you make of it," proclaims a BMW billboard next to a roadblock. The Red Shirts say people like them, in the countryside, are not getting their fair share of joy. Most of it stays in the city, they argue, in the glossy shopping malls and pricey restaurants.

Many analysts agree the protesters have a point. But as long as the demonstration lasts, the Red Shirts are cutting off the supply of joy to businesses in the Red Zone and impeding its flow to the entire economy.

Our old hotel, the VIP Golden House, is inside the zone. It will stay closed until the protesters leave, said the woman behind the desk with a stoic smile.

A traveling carnival was also sitting empty, as amusement-free as any amusement park I've ever seen.


Ash said...

OMG! You're blogging again! And so is Chad! I'm in shock!

Sounds very interesting in Bangkok right now... stay safe!

kopisusu2 said...

Will wonders never cease?! And, if a person spends 3 months traveling around SE Asia and doesn't blog about it, will she remember anything five years later?