Sunday, July 11, 2010

Bangkok - After the Turmoil

It has been five long years since I last set foot on Bangkok.  I didn't expect I would visit Bangkok, just a month after one of the worst turmoils in Thailand's history.  The conflict between former prime minister Taksin & his red shirt supporters, and the incubent Thai government ended in loss of life and damage to many buildings in the city. 

Before I arrived in Bangkok, somehow I was expecting some kind of mess left after the red shirts retreated, and might feel some tension in the city.  However, the city is almost as normal as I could remember.  Students are crowded the trains and buses, hurrying to school; those dressed nicely in their office attire seem to only worry about whether they could get to work on time.  The streets are clean, shops are open for business as usual.  I was kind of relieved to know, at least on the surface, everything had returned to normal in Bangkok.

The Siam Discovery Centre, The Siam Square, MBK building, The Siam Paragon, are all standing intact.  No damage done to all these popular tourist hot spots.  When I was in Bangkok back in 2005, we left just a day before Siam Paragon was to open for business.  Wow, didn't know it would take me 5 long years to see it in business :)  Siam Paragon is chic, is expensive.  The shopping centre is grand on any scale that I have known of.  In addition, it is stylish.  It is more than just big in scale, it has its own characters that differentiates itself from other big shopping centres in the region, such as Vivo City in Singapore, the Mid-Valley in Malaysia. 

The only reminder of the month ago turmoil was the security check at many shopping centres.  Visitors were still asked to open their bags for a security check.  Metal detectors were also installed at many shopping centre's entrances, as well as airport train link stations.  However, such security checks were really lax.  If somebody wants to smuggle in something, piece of cake.  It is not really practical to check every visitor, every bag.  If they do so, the queues at the entrance will be miles long.  It will be worse at the train stations. 

In conclusion, it is safe to visit Bangkok now.  The turmoil is over.  It is perfectly safe, until the next turmoil comes.  If you ask me whether I will return to Bangkok, most probably not.  Not for its security conditions, but rather, the city has 'raised' its status.  It is no longer cheap, at least it takes quite a bit of effort for a foreign tourist to find cheap stuff.  The city of smiles does not really smile as much as it used to.  Ok, the city's transport system has improved tremendously over the past 5 years, I must agree.  Anyway, Bangkok is a city no longer on my list of cities I will visit frequently.  The charm, somehow, is lost.

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