Back to Business as Usual

Starting to ease up.

BacktoBusinessasUsualWild times in Thailand this past week or so. Rapid change and a little bit of transitional strangeness. Had there not been the need to make sure any food related errands had been taken care of before ten, I wouldn’t have noticed that anything had changed. Before the military actually assumed power there were a lot of people talking about it, and it was definitely on a lot of minds. but for most people, day to day life hadn’t changed at all until General Payuth assumed power in a bloodless coup intended to end half a year’s worth of impassioned political disagreement which had brought the government to a standstill and seen a number of major roads and government offices in the capitol made impassable by protesters who refused to move for months. The first day or two were strange, but peaceful. A curfew from ten p.m. until 5 a.m. was announced, the radio fell silent, and all television stations played martial music set to a backdrop of military insignias.

I heard through the grapevine that 7-11 had announced a plan name change to be implemented immediately. They would henceforth be known as 5-10.

This joke got thrown at me several times over the last few days as everyone, particularly in the capitol, wondered when the usual nightly activities could resume. It’s important to remember that nightclubs and bars are only a part in the the rich 24 hour ecosystem of Bangkok.

For instance, most of the big fresh markets open up at around 2 or 3 every morning. A lot of vendors will buy their supplies at the market very early in the morning so they have plenty of time to get everything ready for the first meal they will sell that day. Not being able to round up supplies until 5 in the morning can really disrupt the schedule of someone who’s used to being well into their preparation by 5.

And we, or at least I, am used to being able to decide to get some food whenever I feel like it, twenty-four hours a day. No late night food runs was a bit of a shock on the first night. I’d actually planned on going out to get food at around midnight. Nothing we weren’t able to fix with plenty of snacks.

I was to learn though, that things weren’t really as shut down as it seemed. For instance (and this was one of my favorite ways businesses dealt with this), some convenience stores just covered their glass walls and door with newspaper so nobody could see what was happening. A lot of bars did something similar and just letting patrons stay until 5. This worked because it was not actually illegal for businesses to be open, but it rather for people to be out moving around, to be coming and going. So if a bar wanted to stay open all night, they could just let everyone stay.

I heard from Samui that 7-11s were closing at 10, but most things were operating more or less as usual. No real military enforcement there. Here in Bangkok I found a number of small markets where a few vendors kept the lights on until they wanted to turn them off and go home, so food was actually available.

The temple next to my condo has been throwing quite a few pro-cooperation parties since the coup took place as well. That’s been a lot of fun to see and hear (I can’t not hear when they really get to partying over there – it shakes my walls). The mosque has been giving long speeches in the mornings too, in addition to the prayers I usually hear. Everyone is pushing for the same thing at this point – some kind, any kind, of cooperation so that everyone can get back to business as usual.

And if I had to be completely honest, it seems like for most of us out here in the fray, back to usual is really not that far away. Hopefully the military’s easing of the curfew from 12 a.m. midnight – 4 a.m., starting tonight will ease some international concerns and help that noodle shop have everything they need to be open and ready to sell me my brunch tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. So at least now we can say that all the basic day to day stuff seems to be well on the way to normal.

For more updates you can also visit Tourism Authority of Thailand Newsroom.

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