A Heartbreaking Email from Bangkok

Bangkok and the Skytrain in more peaceful times. (Photo by R. Paul Herman)

Just two months ago, I was in Bangkok, zipping around on the Skytrain – often passing through the Siam area or headed for the Siam Paragon mall (“The Pride of Bangkok,” its website proclaims) to shop, see a movie or graze at the street food court. The area is modern Thailand at its most vibrant, packed with hip young people, loads of restaurants and shopping, shopping, shopping.

Or I should say, WAS.

Bangkok skyline (photo by Andrew Woods, GM of the the Chaophyapark Hotel, courtesy eTN)

It’s almost impossible for me to imagine, but the entire area is being destroyed in the political struggle that has been going on since before I left in March. The protest started out peacefully, and on several occasions it looked like a resolution had been reached – but things have turned chaotic and ugly.

My friend, Dao, who lives in Bangkok sent me this heartbreaking email today. So far, news about Bangkok’s strife has been a mere footnote in the media. Here’s how the situation is affecting one of my favorite Thai people:

I am ok and stay in the curfew night now while Central World building is collapsing as well as burning Siam Square and Siam Paragon; also the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

It is the most bitter moment in my life. It is different than when you have a broken heart from a break up or losing love ones. This is losing of the country and integrity.

The country is in pause. I pray to see all this mess stop and I hope I can be a part to help my country recover back to where we used to be.

I know Bangkok will come back from this, because of people like Dao – citizens who believe in their country and seek peace. Dao once gave me a beautiful book called The Happiness of Kati, which is about a young girl who perseveres through great loss. She said it explained a lot about the essence of being Thai. That gives me faith, too, that Bangkok will soon be vibrant once again.

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Gayle Keck
Lowell Thomas Award-winner Gayle Keck has sipped fermented mare’s milk in Kyrgyzstan, dug for truffles in Italy, crafted wine at Napa Valley’s “Crush Camp” and munched her way through every continent except Antarctica, which seems far too focused on frozen food.

She has written for Gourmet, National Geographic Traveler, Zagat San Francisco Bay Area Restaurants 2010, and is a frequent contributor to the Washington Post and other major newspapers.

Gayle has visited 49 US states (sorry, North Dakota) and more than 40 countries - though her favorite trip was a flight from Chicago to San Francisco, when she met her future husband on the airplane. She also blogs at Been There Ate That
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