Bangkok-bound? Uncertainty abounds

by Karen Fawcett on November 28, 2008

This time next week, I’ll scheduled to be jetting off to Asia. The first stop on this marathon is Seoul, South Korea. It’s not that I’ve had a deep and dirty yen to visit this country. But, since we’ll be flying from New York, Seoul is a good spot to acclimate to the time change. I’ll have time to take a quick look-see, explore the tiny streets and alleys in the city’s market that people report deserves exploring and 30 hours later, proceed to Bangkok on my way to Laos.

Or so we thought and still hope. As of today, the airport is closed, a battle is brewing and there’s general unrest. Tourists are unable to fly to the main international airport. Some planes are landing and taking off at an auxiliary airport. But the situation is a mess in so many ways.

When the news broke over the radio and TV, I could sense impending trouble. The first call I made was to Sivan, my travel agent at Imperial American Express Travel Services.

Within minutes, she had made additional reservations via Hanoi, Vietnam. At the same time, she advised us to wait and evaluate the travel situation until after the Thanksgiving holiday. This is when you’re grateful for a really competent travel consultant who doesn’t flinch after receiving high-stress emails or semi-hysterical phone calls.

Traveling between Paris and Washington, DC is one thing. But a trip across Asia with late-minute changes requires a pro, who has immediate access to all of the booking engines and can accomplish things with the click of a mouse.

OK   – I can (try to) be laid back but it’s not really my style. And if it were mine, it isn’t Vietnam’s. Visitors are required to have a visa to enter the country and it doesn’t come fast or cheap.

A passport expeditor, he said he’d get the visa within 24 hours. But we’d be required to supply proof of flights and confirmation of hotel rooms. Thank goodness for the Internet … but who needs the drama, trauma and the stress. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vietnam. But I’ve been there three times in the past three years and wanted to see Bangkok this go-around.

Thailand has already experienced a dramatic drop in tourism. This isn’t helping the situation to be sure. Then again, who wants to go to a country in the midst of civil disobedience?

I’ve contacted people I know living or working in Thailand. They have responded that it’s safe to come to Bangkok and I shouldn’t fear for my life. The media tends to loop video segments dramatizing the situation. However, landing at the airport may prove problematic, no matter what my friends have to say.

Yes, I will use my city smarts, be on the lookout for pickpockets and people up to no good. And if the flights are taking off and landing, I’ll request a hotel car meet us. There are times it’s worth the extra money to have an extra barrier of protection.

But unless the flights aren’t going, we’ll be there. Know you’ll hear more about the experience. And yes, we’ll definitely register with the Embassy.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis

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