In the movie The King and I the Siamese prime minister offers the sage advice "In a foreign country it is best you like everyone until you leave," and with that in mind I have just finished liking a whole shitload of Thais for an entire month. I was only going to like them for three weeks - but then the yellow shirt patriots blockaded both Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports and I was forced to extend my love fest for another week while I tried to get home.
Unaided by Prozac, valium or any other mind altering medications, I blithely wandered around Thailand trying to find the positive in everyone. It was remarkably easy.
First among my new friends are all the wonderful people in the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). I currently live in the United States and as an American citizen I'm duty bound to love democracy. We Americans require democracy to breathe. Democracy is the core of our existence and it's our duty to spread it with evangelical zeal, as we have done so successfully in Iraq and Afghanistan. The PAD are for democracy too, so how can anyone possibly not like them? I'm sure if I were Thai I would have been standing among them at the airport waving the flag in the name of democracy. It would have been a heck of a lot more fun than standing at the airport and waving my boarding pass for my cancelled flight. According to Wikipedia:
even though there is no universally accepted definition of democracy there are principles that any definition of democracy includes. The first principle is that all members of the society have equal access to power and the second that all members enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberty.
Since I speak a bit of Thai, I listened to the PAD speeches, and these democracy loving people are really a swell bunch. They want equal access to power for all the people who vote the same way they do. The PAD claim the folks who voted for the People's Power Party (PPP) of Khuns Samak and Somchai were bought by the dirty money of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Since these folks constitute a majority of Thailand's populace they cannot be allowed to control the government. But thankfully the PAD are magnanimous and don't want to disenfranchise these people entirely. These people will be allowed to vote for the winner of American Idol instead - which is far more important than determining who should collect sinbon in the land of smiles.
The PAD got such a bad rap for blockading the airport. They never wanted to cause any disruption. Dr. Chutinaton, one of their leaders, asked the foreigners present to "tell the world we did not want to blockade the airport." Evidently there were a whole bunch of people, not visible on television, who forced them to close the airport. These rabble rousers could not possibly have come from Thailand because as everyone can tell you Thai people are far too friendly to carry guns.
Second among my new friends are the wonderful people from the TAT, the Tourism Authority of Thailand. These lovely people promised to hand 2,000 baht per day to all foreign tourists stranded by the airport takeover. All you had to do was stop in and visit them and they were handing out vouchers, according to the Nation, one of Thailand's two major daily English language newspapers. I called the TAT but there phone was busy for two days. Finally on the third day I got through and was told by their representative to come to their office at 1600 New Phetchaburi Road. Because I had nothing better to do - and since I was already due 6,000 baht - I figured it would be worth my time to head over to the TAT. I arrived at their magnificent office and was handed several pamphlets on why I should want to visit Phuket, Koh Samui, Chiang Mai and even Pattaya. However when I asked for my 6,000 baht, they told me that I had to apply in writing. They weren't exactly sure where I should send this request. I asked one of the representatives somewhat facetiously if I should perhaps consult a psychic to find the proper address. She very helpfully informed me that there was an excellent lady who reads fortunes right near the Queen Sirikit Cultural Center - and that there was a MRT subway stop close by. She did this with a smile. Everyone loves a person who smiles. So of course I left the TAT deliriously happy.
Another one of my wonderful new Thai friends was Gluay, a Bangkok taxi driver from Ubon. Gluay was quite concerned with my personal welfare. I asked him to go to Sukhumvhit Soi 11, but he suggested I would be much better served by forgetting the depressing airport stuff and allowing him to take me to a massage parlor on Ratchapadisek Road. After I declined and asked him if he would turn on his meter, he told me the meter had been broken in the airport takeover and suggested a fare of 600 baht. Since we were on South Sathon Road and the usual fare was only about 70 baht, I thought I might have misunderstood him and asked him in Thai to repeat his offer. It was amazing. My words must have been some sort of magic elixir - because all of the sudden his meter started working again - and he had such a wide grin on his face that I was sure we would be friends for life! It's so easy to make new friends in this country!
My final best friend is the lovely woman who works at the Thai Airways Royal Silk business class check-in counter at Suvarnabhumi airport. Once the airport reopened, and after 12 hours of busy signals on Thai Airways telephone number, I finally got through and managed to book a flight to Los Angeles departing in five days. The Thai Airways reservationist was extremely apologetic for the delays I encountered and insisted on getting my cellular phone number so they could call me if there should be any delay or problem with my new flight.
I checked Thai Airways' internet site on the day of my scheduled departure to make sure the flight was on time. Everything looked to be in order.
Upon arriving at the airport I was told the flight had been cancelled. "How long ago was the flight cancelled?" I asked the rather attractive Thai Airways agent.
"The flight was cancelled yesterday," she replied.
"You had my telephone number - why didn't you call me?" I questioned.
"We didn't want to bother you," she disarmed me with another patented Thai smile - and in my mind at least all was right with the world and I whistled "Kumbaya" all throughout the taxi ride back into Bangkok.
Having nothing better to do I walked down Sukhumvhit to get some last minute shopping in. I stopped at one of the numerous stalls where they were selling bootleg DVDs.
"Just have a look sir, we have any movie you want," a smiling sidewalk vendor told me, as I browsed through his standard stock of bestsellers, Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredible Hulk, and Nong Nat's I'm A Three Hole Bitch.
"Do you have the King and I?" I inquired.
"No have King and I. It banned. Very bad movie," he stated, leaving me wondering if the prime minister's advice was really that good after all.