03 May 2014


The last time I was in Bangkok was literally the eve of the anti-government demonstrations last November; the hotel manager called me that morning soon after breakfast and instructed me to pack my bags and leave just as I can because he had received advance information that demonstrators had begun to move towards the road leading to the hotel and would close it to traffic; he couldn't say if things would get violent but was advising guests to evacuate. Something in his tense voice over the phone made me pack my bags at once, and within an hour, I left in the hotel car. Turning back for one last look, I saw the crowd of demonstrators marching in, flags waving, with something of a festive air, but guards were beginning to bar entrances with barricades, and the streets were noisy with shrill whistles and clappers.
I felt like Sigourney Weaver in A Year of Living Dangerously.
Fast forward to (more or less) six months later and I'm simply longing to visit Bangkok again. As you know, for most Singaporeans, Bangkok is simply an obsession and a habit. I have not heard of any Singaporean who didn't like Bangkok; and according to my luxury brands PRs, the local press are always keenly enthusiastic about Thailand press junkets (as opposed to those to Hong Kong and etc ones, although arguably the press here salivate like a komodo dragon at any mention of a junket, with eyes bulging and ropes of sticky drool, cankerous tail waving). I wonder if it is thus for your country?
This last weeked I was reading 2011's Thoughtful Gardening by Robin Lane Fox, one of my favourite (living) writers and amongst the riveting chapters on cuttings and pests, Mr Fox remembers his visit to Bangkok as a young journalist. In particular he mentions the Phukae Botanic Garden, a gigantic park in Saraburi, some 60 miles outside Bangkok. Within the city, Mr Fox remembers Wang Suan Phakket (Lettuce Farm Palace), the lovingly tended garden of the late Princess Chumbhot. He took the bus number 3, which delivered him to the door of this "tranquil retreat". 
Reading about these gardens made me simply long to visit Bangkok.

I called my Thai sister Ms O. All my visits to Thailand are preceded by calls to my Thai sister.
She was busy making T-shirts.
What for?
Ms O was involved in what promises to be the mother of all demonstrations; she was making T-shirts for the anti-Thaksin army. Ms O said: "Honey please don't come between 5 May and 17 May. Millions of people are going to demonstrate to oust Yingluck. May not be that peaceful. Come after." 
Sure enough, the papers are full of dire reports on the impending demonstrations which will climax with new, and surely contested, elections in July. 
With this wearying warning in mind, it could be months before I see Mr Fox's Thai gardens.  

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