Saturday, 1 February 2014

Thailand Travels: Day 5, Protests Up Close

I checked out of the Buddy Boutique Inn this morning and made my way across town to the Bangkok Centre Hotel to meet my G Adventures tour companions. Ashlia was already staying at the hotel so we arranged to meet in reception once I'd checked in.

I went up to my room and was pleased to find my room mate Kristy had already arrived. She was using the bathroom when I let myself into the room so I called through the bathroom door to say hello and let her know I'd arrived. It was a funny way to introduce myself but she instantly made me feel comfortable and after a minute we were chatting and laughing away and sharing travelling stories.

After a while we noticed whistling and drumming noises coming from outside; and getting louder and louder! We opened up the window in our room to see what all the racket was about. (Our room is on the eighth floor of the hotel which meant we had great views across this part of the capital.) We spotted that the protests were kicking off right outside our hotel and hords of people were marching through the streets shouting. Tomorrow is Election Day and the protesters are trying to block people from getting to the voting polls so tension is building. There was a bomb and some shooting this evening, but not near our hotel, close to the polls.

Once we were settled in our room and had stopped filming all the action from our window we arranged to meet Ashlia and go out and explore nearby Chinatown. However, as soon as we stepped outside we found we were in the thick of the protests. They were peaceful protests nonetheless and the Thai people were friendly to us and even helped us cross the road. It's funny really because if you only saw the media's report you assume it was dangerous all over Bangkok when in fact it's more areas close to the voting polls where the opposing parties are getting riled up by each other.

We decided to brave it and walk amongst the peaceful protestors to get to the 7-11 to buy water and snacks. All was fine and a couple of protestors even posed for a shot for me with my DSRL.

After that we returned to the safety of the hotel to relax by the pool and chat. Before long it was time to freshen up and go meet our tour guide in the hotel lobby.

Sek introduced himself to us as our CEO (chief experience officer) and it was great to discover he was a native Thai and locally raised. He was really enthusiastic about the tour and the authentic experiences we were going to have and I felt assured we were in good hands.

After our introductory talk he took us to a local restaurant called Larp Park where he recommended I try the Papya salad with BBQ chicken and sticky rice. It wasn't a dish I would have chosen but I've decided that I want to try something new everyday, if possible, so I don't miss out on finding something amazing!

When I was very young my dad took me to Jamaica for 6 weeks. Whilst we were there he tried to get me to try sugar cane almost every day, but I was going through a fussy stage and wouldn't. On the last day somehow he persuaded me to try it and I absolutely loved it! But I was gutted because it was our last day and for the whole holiday I'd missed out on having it fresh from the fields. For years after I'd ask my dad to look out for it in the shops but it never came to our local shops :( So now I've gone 22 years without trying it again!! That's a valuable lesson learnt and I must remember it whilst I am away for this month.

Anyway, when the dish arrived Sek explained that in Bangkok they use cutlery like westerners do because of tourist influence, but in his hometown (Chiang Mai) they use their hands to eat. He then encouraged us to wash our hands and do the same. And I thought why not?! So I did. Sek had his camera out snapping away as I did because he thought it was very funny, and it was. It was SO stupidly messy, especially the combination of sticky rice and sticky BBQ sauce!!! But it was very tasty and surprisingly filling so I was happy with the recommendation.

Tomorrow we're off on a canal tour and to visit more temples and then we set off on a sleeper train overnight to Chiang Mai - it's a 14 hour train journey so I'll be off wifi for a while. They'll be lots of amazing updates after Chiang Mai to be shared as we're visiting Tiger Kingdom, trekking through the hills and taking a cookery class with locals. I really can't wait for this tour to kick off now, feel blessed to be doing so much and with a lovely bunch of people!

Updates to follow in a few days or so... X

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