Coup d’état in Bangkok, How The Coup And The Curfew Have (Not) Affected Me
It's 6 days since the coup was announced, along with a nationwide curfew of 10 M – 5 AM. Different people have been affected differently by the coup and the curfew. This is how I have (barely been) affected.
As one who goes to bed early – around 11:00 PM, and certainly no later than 11:30 PM every night (now you know why I never write about late-night venues) – the curfew has had almost zero effect on me. I long ago decided I didn't particularly like Bangkok after midnight and on the odd occasion I am out late, I am still almost always home before midnight. Call me Mr. Boring, but going to bed early and waking up as the sun is coming up works well for me.
For those who enjoy venturing out late in to the Bangkok night, many bars and nightspots have flouted the curfew and it's business as usual. From all accounts – and let's be frank, I have not seen this with my own eyes – trade has been miserable with many staying home.
Bars with chrome poles have been busy early evening – some have been open until 9:00 / 9:30 or so, some later – but their overall take is not what you'd expect and bar owners are even more displeased than they have been over the last year or two.
Discos and late night venues have been particularly hard hit. Many of these venues often provide the environment rather than entertainment as such – the excitement and vibe is generated by the partygoers. Fewer people out means less or no vibe. Hotspots have transformed into chill-out venues. From Sukhumvit soi 11 comes word that bars usually hopping are, for the time being, lame.
We're under military rule and being out after the curfew just strikes me as a bad idea. While the army hasn't made a point of rounding up and / or arresting those who openly flout the law, my feeling is that being out after curfew is not worth the risk.
While many bars have flouted the law, some have obeyed it and at the same time are showing respect for their staff, many of who are anxious to get home before the curfew starts.
At The Londoner last night, myself and 2 pals arrived for dinner at 7 PM. We were immediately told that the kitchen would close at 7:30 and no drink orders would be taken after 8:00 PM. I assumed this would mean they'd close around 9:00 PM or so. Come 8:00 PM, our bill was brought to us and by 8:10 the house lights had been turned on. 10 minutes later and almost all of the lights had been turned off, forcing the remaining customers to leave. The curfew means restaurants closing early – no fun for those who eat later – but do spare a thought for staff who have a long journey to get home and few transportation options to choose from.
Many restaurants have closed as early as 7 PM, including some popular mall food courts.
Transport at rush hour has been a nightmare. From around 4:45 PM the city has witnessed of the worst traffic jams ever seen outside of the rainy season as everyone rushes to get home at the same time. The skytrain and underground services stop at 9 PM and each has been packed, queues so long that some have watched for a dozen trains to come and go before they could get on board. Last night Sukhumvit was a parking lot with traffic moving nowhere, buses full to capacity with commuters hanging out the door, literally.
For me personally, like a good number of expats living downtown, I walk everywhere so have avoided the battle to get home. With that said, where I may have liked the idea of shooting down to Chinatown to grab some dinner, I abandoned the idea at the thought of battling with the rush hour crowds.
After sun down this past weekend 90% of the vehicles on the roads downtown were taxis, and 90% of them had the red available sign illuminated. Where at times it can be difficult to get a cab in Bangkok, cabbies have been desperate for business, some pulling up to those out for a stroll and yelling "Taxi, taxi!" At this time it seems that Bangkok taxis are like girlfriends in the west, it's a flood or a drought and nothing in between!
I like to have the BBC running in the background throughout the day but that has not been possible since last week. TV channels were knocked out for a couple of days following the announcement of the coup and most were turned back on early Saturday afternoon, a relief as they came back on just an hour or so before the weekend's live rugby matches. However, almost a week on and there's still no foreign news channels being broadcast – although there is no problem accessing BBC or CNN's websites online.
There have been no problems with the Internet, mobile phones and the airport is operating as per normal. With that said, I have heard horror stories from those who have flown in to Bangkok late and had to wait for hours for a taxi to take them home. Getting to the airport is not a problem as your hotel can always arrange a taxi, but if you arrive in the middle of the night you might be in for a wait…
Obviously tourist numbers are down with untold reports of people cancelling trips and hotel occupancy rates ridiculously low. There were reports on Twitter last night of a Thai Airways flight from London to Bangkok cancelled due to a lack of passengers. The annus horribilis for the Thailand tourism industry gets worse.
The curfew has been softened and from tonight it will be from midnight to 4 AM. That should ease things. I'd expect restaurants will resume regular hours and the skytrain and underground will operate until 11 PM. Naughty bars seem to be back to regular hours and the Patpong night market resumed last night.
Things are slowly returning to normal as the curfew has softened, businesses stay open later and people get used to the way things are.
For me personally there has been little change to my life. Things aren't that different and if you're not a late night guy you might not notice much change at all.