Safety Amid the Rice Farmers, Water Buffalo and Protesters

We traveled through the countryside after the harvest. The fields were in various states of replanting. There was unrest in the country.

Iron Water Buffalo

Divine Appointment

I had given up on travel. It was Tom who found this trip after I thought we exhausted the search. It was reasonably priced, the itinerary was just what we hoped, and it included the exact dates we wanted to travel. I took notice. That along with the airfare story, I felt like we had a Divine appointment.

As departure neared, protests started in Bangkok. In the end, the timing was so perfect we couldn’t have planned it in advance.

Are You Afraid

Protests would end on Friday, the day we left home and remain non-existent for the New Year holiday. Bangkok was as peaceful as 9 million people can be. On the 5th day, we headed north to the countryside.

Northern Thai Rice FieldWe passed many rice fields and stopped when we saw water buffalo. This was the traditional way of working the Jasmine rice fields. It was a treat to see. Traditional ways have given way to the iron water buffalo, the tractor.

Water Buffalo in the Thai CountrysideRice farmers are the least others want to be like in Thai society. People wear clothes to protect their skin from the sun, not wanting it to get too dark. That would identify one as a farmer.

Jack was told by one native that he had white skin like a king. The sunscreen we bought was marketed as “Healthy White.” Sunscreen will never make the beautiful, brown skin of a Thai person white. It’s the poverty they seek protection from rather than the sun.

We talked about the protests on the bus.  Northern residents were concerned for their children and relatives in the city.

When we were in Chiang Rai, we struck up a conversation with two twenty-something boys up from Bangkok. They asked if we were afraid. We saw nothing to be afraid of. The countryside was long away from the heart of the protests.

Planting Rice SeedsSmart Travelers Enrollment Program (STEP)

Before we left home I enrolled in the STEP program, registering with the embassies of both Thailand and Cambodia the dates and locations of where we would be during our travels. The program provides security updates via email and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.

Travel Alert

I received travel alerts on January 6th and 9th notifying us that political activists intended to hold mass rallies at key intersections in Bangkok beginning Monday, January 13th.

Rallies may occur in other areas with little prior notice.  Protests have been generally peaceful, but some have resulted in injury and death. Plan for significant traffic disruptions and delays. Allow extra time traveling to the airport. Ensure you have a week’s supply of cash, keep your mobile communication devices charged, stock a two week supply of essential items like food, water, and medicine. There were two other travel alerts regarding Cambodia while we were there.

Timing

We left Thailand at 5:30 AM on the morning of the rally. Protesters rested the day we left home and started up again the day we left Thailand.

Three of our travel mates Hemanth, Geeta and Parul, left one day later. They were told by the hotel staff on January 13th not to go downtown. Public transportation was closed downtown Bangkok.

They did take the skytrain to a market outside the city. On the way home they saw protestors on the train wearing black t-shirts saying “Bangkok Shutdown 13/01/14.” Some had the Thailand flag painted on their faces. Women wore Thailand flag jewelry including rings, bangles, and hair clips.

On  January 21st, a week after we were home, Thailand declared a state of emergency in Bangkok. Budget Travel placed Thailand on the wait list for travel until the political unrest settles. We knew none of this would occur as we planned our trip earlier this summer. Circumstances can change quickly.

Going Home

I was thankful to be up to date on events that were happening, have someone alert us to the best actions to take in the situation, and glad we never needed them.

What About You

Have your travel plans ever been affected by war, social unrest, political crisis, natural disaster or other states of heightened alert or emergency? Have you ever noticed events or circumstances that seemed like Divine appointment?

image credits: The Thai Countryside ©2014 Marie LaForce

Marie LaForce About Marie LaForce

Writer | Photographer | Explorer |Dreamer | Intentional Disciple of Christ

Comments

  1. Gorgeous pictures, Marie. I love reading about your travels. There are many things we can and need to plan, and then there are always those things you couldn’t plan even if you tried. Glad you’re back safely.

    • Thanks for your complement and your well wishes. Thanks for reading, too. Those unplanned moments are a cause to pause. When we were in Thailand we saw the sliver of the moon completely upside down as if it were a bowl. We never see the moon from that position at home. Tonight when we were driving home we saw the moon once again in the Thailand position with the light part on the bottom like a bowl. This phase of the moon is always on the side and never on the bottom in this part of the world so i’m taking notice of that tonight.

  2. Love the Water Buffalo! 🙂

  3. Howe Allen says:

    Marie,

    I love reading these blogs. While I was there with you all the way, your recounting of our trip brings me back to those wonderful moments and visions that was Thailand to me. Luckily, we did not experience any of the violence from the protests and my memories will be of the peaceful countryside and people amidst it.

    Howe

    • Thanks for reading, Howe. I share your memories of peaceful and fun Thailand. The place we hear about in the news doesn’t seem to be the same place we visited. Hopefully there will be a resolution to the conflict soon.

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