Troops on Sathorn Road, at the entrance of our soi, (driveway). No traffic, and razor wire roadblocks. Saturday 15 May.
The soi from the condo, looking towards Sathorn Road. The Metropolitan Hotel on the left, The Banyan Tree on the right.
Soi from Sathorn Road towards the condo (1) above and (2) below
The situation in Bangkok has become increasingly difficult over recent days. On Friday we heard gunfire in the main road that connects to our soi, (lane), above. At night there was repeated gunfire, and we could see a fire burning in front of the Australian Embassy, which is situated very close by. This, like the surrounding Malaysian, German and French embassies joined the decision by the United States, British, Japanese and Dutch Embassies in the connecting road north, to close.
On Saturday we began to examine Plan B very closely, and this meant making the necessary financial arrangements to ensure utilities would keep running during a prolonged absence. In retrospect, it's strange how one develops a plan. In doing so we came across this contingent of soldiers in our soi, resting from the night time shooting activities. We also encountered a limousine from one of the nearby hotels returning on the empty main road and asked the driver if it would be possible to hire him to take us to the airport.
We then returned to the apartment to determine how best to proceed and to weigh up the fear and shock we were feeling at the deteriorating situation with the practicality of evacuation. This process was not assisted by a shocking cold that left me unable to plan with my usual military precision. Even the fairly mundane task of packing a suitcase seemed beyond my faculties, as it was not clear where we were headed, how long it would be for, or any factors of certainty.
By the the early afternoon and evening we had packed luggage for an anticipated departure to Scotland, and resolved to leave within a few days, in the hope that the situation in our immediate vicinity would have stabilised enough to allow us to get transport from our building to the airport. As I mentioned, the main road had been closed, and the army were agreeing to allow cars to enter on a case by case basis, but it would be very unlikely to be able to persuade anyone, (like our limousine service) to do so for fear of being caught in the crossfire.
On Sunday morning I went down to the soi and the soldiers were again resting from their overnight skirmishes with Red protesters, which appeared to centre around a petrol station nearby. In conversations with various people and through our security staff I understood that no cars would now be permitted to enter the main road, so we were effectively cut off. There were also rumours that a curfew would shortly be imposed. So we resolved there and then to evacuate immediately, and were grateful for having tied up the immediate loose ends, such as packing etc, so that this could be achieved expeditiously.
We then dragged our luggage through a battle scarred pavement, (with the remnants of smashed telephone kiosks, burnt out tyre residue etc), to a road where we were told we should be able to find a taxi. Happily there was one there, and several people willing to help load the suitcases. The money the driver required was inflated but reasonable and I was prepared to pay a lot more. I was also asked for money from the luggage helpers, and happily obliged. We then sped off to the airport at high speed.
Ironically within a short time we were outside of the area currently affected by the troubles; a tale of two cities indeed. At the airport we purchased tickets, and decided on Hong Kong, (for which we have permanent residence status) as our immediate destination, where we arrived last night, to stay with our old friend in his beautiful house on the Peak. The silence is almost deafening, and I slept deeply, overcoming the huge sense of shock that I must have experienced yesterday.
As I mentioned, our initial plan was to fly to Scotland, but we learned on Saturday night that the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud was likely to cause the closure of UK airports, and indeed that has now occurred. Our hesitation and my cold at least prevented us embarking on a flight that would in all likelihood have had to return.
Immediate plans are of course uncertain, as we try to monitor the situation, but at least we can now plan them in an atmosphere of calm and safety, and happily, luxury too. For those who have sent their good wishes, I am very grateful. I will post from time to time, as and when.
Now more than when I last posted - Rest and be thankful.