Once again, Thailand is suffering from political turmoil. The divide between pro and anti government groups is as wide as ever, and Bangkok is in the news once more for the sometimes violent demonstrations which are taking place right now. For anyone diving in Thailand, this is having almost no effect whatsoever. The protests are in Bangkok, which is nowhere near the wonderful diving location of The Similan Islands, near Phuket, Koh Phi Phi and Khao Lak.
We would like to both reassure and warn our (past, current and potential) customers about this situation. The reassurance is to let them know that, in general, there is nothing to worry about at all. Only certain areas of Bangkok are affected, and tourists are sometimes inconvenienced, but in no danger. Outside of Bangkok, there is nothing happening and just about no indirect effects. Divers can come into Thailand, through any of the international airports, and travel safely without delay to Khao Lak, where our boats depart for Similan Islands diving cruises.
Several years ago, when the same group of anti-Shinawatra protesters caused similar disruptions, they forced the airport to close. This caused extreme inconvenience for thousands of innocent travellers. The country suffered both financially and in its reputation. At present both of Bangkok’s airports are absolutely free from any problem, and the roads leading to them are generally clear. Of course, the security forces have set up road blocks on the approach to Suvarnabhumi airport in order to stop protesters from coming and causing any problems. Travel by road and airport link is almost totally unaffected. In addition, the Southern Bus Terminal is located in the outskirts of Bangkok, in Talingchan district. Travelling from the airport or other parts of Bangkok to the bus terminal is unaffected by the protests. Hua Lumphong train station, Thailand’s main station, is nearer to the centre of Bangkok and although unaffected by the situation, travelling from hotels to the train station by road can be slow, depending on the location of the hotel. Fortunately, there is an MRT subway station at Hua Lumphong train station, linking it to the rest of Bangkok via the country’s newest mass transit network.
The only way any of our customers, or other divers, can be affected by the situation is if they stay in a hotel at or near the protesters’ target sites in Bangkok. Luckily, the protests are aimed at shutting down the government, which has offices away from the most popular hotels. However, Asoke, in Sukhumvit Road, is an exception. This large intersection is both popular for tourism as well as a barricade point for the latest anti-government protesters in Bangkok.
In summary, don’t worry, just come diving. Travelling around the south of Thailand is totally unaffected, and only certain parts of Bangkok are blocked. As far as danger from violence is concerned, only the most foolhardy tourists who want to join in are in any danger of injury.