Hanging Out in Bangkok During the Coup

Yes, you read that correctly. Coup. On May 22, 2014, the Thai military took control of the government and enforced curfew and martial law, banned political gatherings, censored the media and detained and arrested politicians.

As fate would have it, I had a flight to Bangkok booked for May 23.

So on my last night in Delhi, I weighed my options:

Cons- Coup. Potential imprisonment. Border crossings could be tricky.

Pros- Thailand. Already spent $200 on ticket. Nowhere else to go. THAILAND.

And as I half-joked to my parents, I’d rather be a political prisoner than spend one more day in India.

Silom

So off I flew to the Thai capital. And I’m glad I did. While I felt lukewarm about Bangkok the first time around, on my second visit I came to adore it.

And really, the coup didn’t change much. Yes, there was that pesky 10 p.m. curfew and the local TV channels were completely blocked. But mostly, it was Bangkok as usual: temples and Thai food, shopping malls and duck soup.

(I have to admit, I did break the curfew as one night my travel buddy and I sneaked out at 11 p.m. for a massage. Gasp!)

After six weeks in rural India, Bangkok might as well have been Boston. It was so modern.

I spent my entire first day lapping up modernity at Siam Paragon, Bangkok’s swankiest shopping mall. I nearly died of bliss as I sipped a vanilla latte, scrolled through my phone and savored the long-forgotten feel of air-conditioning on my face.

I also stopped at H&M and the beauty country to stock up on Southeast Asia essentials: MAC Studio Fix and Bobbi Brown bronzer. And in the spirit of the girliest, most self-induldgent day ever, then I got a mani pedi. And they had OPI which never happens.

So after I got that out of my system, I went hunting for two of my favorite things in Southeast Asia: food and wet markets.

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Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

Khlong Lat Mayom is a floating market on the outskirts of Bangkok, with colorful wooden boats, delicious food and bright umbrellas. And it was a locals-only affair- my travel buddy Joe and I were the only tourists there!

Another perk? The vendors gave out free samples. Don’t mind if I do.

Khlong Lat Mayom_lychee

Khlong Lat Mayom_floating_market

Khlong Lat Mayom_tables

Joe and I noticed all the locals were eating fried carp- or rather, some sort of crispy bottom feeder. So we hurried over to get ours too.

Khlong Lat Mayom

Well, it wasn’t very good so we tried again. Our second lunch (ahem), was a spicy seafood salad. Delicious.

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By the end of the morning I decided that out of all the markets I’ve visited in Bangkok, Khlong Lat Mayom is by far my favorite.

Khlong Lat Mayom_market

Chatuchak Weekend Market

On Sunday we headed to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, or JJ’s, to score a few bargains and see what all the fuss was about. Chatuchak is enormous; I found the sprawl a bit overwhelming but most enjoyed stalls 2-4, where trendy Thai designers hawk their wares (Thanks Alex in Wanderland for pointing me in the right direction!)

While I came armed with plenty of baht and the intent to more or less buy a new wardrobe, I only walked away with a pair of feather earrings. In the end it was too sticky to try on clothes, and at nearly 5′ 8” tall, I’m not exactly Thai-sized anyway.

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Chatuchak_thai_necklaces

I really wish I had bought one of these.

But no matter, I still enjoyed spending an afternoon at Chatuchak, and relished the opportunity to have some bánh cuốn. Hey, I love Thai food, but sometimes I just need me some Vietnamese.

Vietnamese food chatuchak

Taking the Ferry to the Lots of Temples

As I learned on my last visit in Thailand, the Chao Phraya River Express Ferry is the best way to squeeze in lots of sites while enjoying a breeze.

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Our first stop was Wat Pho, the beautiful, gold-coated reclining Buddha…

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then the surrounding temples, which were also stunning…

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and to finish, the stately Grand Palace.

(Note- make sure you dress respectfully for all these temples! Ladies, think shawls and long skirts.)

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But soon we were sweltering in the Bangkok sun so we retreated back to the hostel.

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river cruise_bangkok

A huge reason I liked Bangkok more the second time was due to the upgrade in accommodation. While last time I bunked up in a cockroach-infested hostel on Khao San Road, this time I stayed at Lub d.

Lub d has two locations: Siam Square and Silom. We chose Silom, a ritzy district where the sois are filled with cheap and tasty eats.

My friend had never stayed in a hostel so I figured Lub d was a gentle segue into the backpacker scene. And Lub d was everything I had bargained for; clean, beautifully designed and staffed with incredibly sweet and helpful employees.

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And across the street from Lub d Silom is a stall serving one of the meals of my life. There’s only one menu item- duck soup- and it will blow your mind. Have you ever see anything so beautiful?

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Coup or no coup, I loved Bangkok. And I honestly think I’d fly back just for that soup- though I’ll pass on the government overthrow next time.

Would you have flown to Thailand in the middle of a military coup? Am I crazy?

Lub d generously hosted our stay for two nights. As always, all opinions are completely my own.

(Note- buy MAC makeup before you get to Bangkok because it was crazy marked up.) 

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

30 thoughts on “Hanging Out in Bangkok During the Coup”

  1. This makes me miss Asia SO much. I was kind of meh on Bangkok, didn’t love it didn’t hate it, but I really want to go back again. Something about the energy. And the food. And I need to check out that market because I want one of those necklaces.

  2. Oh I love this post. The photos are amazing. I loved Bangkok, especially the floating markets. We did Taling Chan, which is also on the outskirts and less touristy and more food-oriented. I just pinned Khlong Lat Mayom, those Thai script necklaces, and that duck soup for future travel references!

  3. I’m in BKK this weekend so will check out those markets. I’ve only stayed in Sukhumvit that times I’ve stayed and love it there. Much more civilised, great food and closer to the malls. It’s a city I can easily live in.

  4. I’m so glad someone else loves shopping in Bangkok. I felt a little silly going to Starbucks and going to the mall, but I was in heaven. I was actually in Chiang Mai when the coup happened and I remember spending the first 24 hours trying to decide if I should leave. I’m so glad I stayed. Although the city felt different, and (gasp) 7-11 closed early, not much else changed. However, I say that as a tourist. I’m sure it felt really different for the Thais, but none that I knew talked about it in public.

    • Oh no, not the 7-11! Haha. And you’re so right- as a tourist it wasn’t a huge deal- there was an enforced curfew in Bangkok, but Koh Tao was exactly the same as ever. I guess there’s not a whole lot of police force in the islands!

  5. The 10pm curfew would have been slightly annoying, but glad to hear you didn’t have any problems otherwise. I really regret not going to Chatuchak Market when I was in Bangkok, and I love those necklaces!

  6. My brother did the same thing! He was interning in Cambodia at the time and wanted to get out for a little bit. He said the coup actually got him great deals on a flight and nice hotel :)

  7. My first couple of weeks in Bangkok were rough. I literally felt like the city was against me and wrote about it on the blog. But now after over a month of living here I’ve fallen hard for the city! Glad you enjoyed your time here despite the coup.

    Also, OPI for the win! When I was seventeen one of my best friends and I were convinced we would make a career of naming the colors of different OPI polishes.

    • That’s really interesting! I also felt so differently about Bangkok on my different trips. At least for me a huge part of it was doing it on a shoestring budget versus doing it more reasonably, and staying away from the backpackery areas. And that would be the best job ever! It seriously is rare to see OPI in Asia :)

  8. I visited Bangkok during the coup, too, and everything seemed normal. I think as long as you stay away from demonstrations and respect the curfew, you’ll be fine. I love your photos of the temples and food! In addition to the cheap food in Silom, there’s a really great cooking class in soi 11 (if I remember correctly). Highly recommend it!

    • I actually did that cooking class last year and it was amazing! I really like Silom, I think I’d stay there again on my next trip. Though I’ve also heard really good things about the hotels in Sukhumvit!

  9. I don’t think you were crazy to go, sounds like it was safe and you had a great time! You’re right that it’s so modern compared to India. When I met my friends in Bangkok, they were starting a RTW trip and were ready for scorpions and temples and I was like umm… I’ll be at the mall finding Auntie Anne’s

    • Lol I’m so with you. The first time I went to Bangkok I thought it was so dirty and rat-filled and the third time I was like, this may as well be Singapore. It’s funny how perspective changes…

  10. That’s crazy that your trip to Bangkok coincided with the coup. I would have been really nervous if I were you! But it’s good to hear that aside from a curfew things were relatively normal. I was in Bangkok in November 2013, when the protests first started. I made the mistake of pre-booking a hotel near Koh San Road. All the roads near Koh San and the Presidential Palace were barricaded – literally walls had been constructed with coils of barbed wire. There were troops marching down the streets. Soldiers were armed with huge guns and riot shields. I was like what the hell did I just get myself into. Obviously we weren’t able to get to our hotel. We headed to another part of town that was completely unaffected by the protests and everything was fine! It was crazy though!

  11. ahhh, you are WAY braver than me. Definitely don’t think I’d be flying into a country that is currently undergoing political craziness! Seems like it was an awesome, trip, though!
    xox
    giedre

  12. This post really made me want to go to Thailand, it looks wonderful! I want to go to Asia so bad! :)

    And I think you had good reasons to, I mean, you already had your flight ticket and from what I can see from the pics everything seemed fine! But I understand your parents, I dont think my parents would have liked the idea of me going to a place during a military coup!

    http://bettyfromnowhere.blogspot.com

  13. I would have done it! Especially if I already had a $200 flight haha! I still have tons of friends living in Thailand from when I taught English in Chiang Mai a few years ago and was told that not much had changed with the coup. Looks like you had a great time regardless :)

  14. Really nice.Invariably, every Thailand holiday includes a visit to the kingdom’s capital city, Bangkok, or Krung Thep, “the city of angels” as it is known to its inhabitants.

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