Sunday, April 11, 2010

Close shave in Ratchaprasong

The major malls have been closed this past week and only re-opened on Friday. We wanted to watch a 3D movie in the lush Siam Paragon Cineplex and decided to take a cab there yesterday (Saturday).

Red shirts were still camping out at that main avenue but cars had access to that mall. When we got to the mall by taxi, there was security check and we asked what time the mall would close (it was closed at 6pm on Friday). The guard said 8pm, confirming what we read in the papers.

We had lunch and proceeded to the cineplex on the 6th floor. This was around 1+pm. At the cineplex, we were told it was closed. People were queuing to get refunds. Then we saw patrons streaming out of the cinema. Very strange.

Okay, another disappointing visit to the cinema. Nevermind, we'll go window-shopping in Paragon. As we took the escalator down, we started seeing shops closing their shutters. What was going on? Went towards Paragon's entrance and the guard said it was closing at 2pm? Not 8pm? No, closing now. It was a really hurried decision. We realised something must be going on.

I felt uneasy and we quickly headed for the BTS. By now, the crowd getting out of Siam Paragon was HUGE...we knew there was no way of getting a cab. At the BTS station, we saw all the gates were closed except one narrow gate guarded by a BTS staff who was letting people out of the station, and letting a few people squeeze in.

From here, we could hear loud blaring from the rally site and unlike a week ago, the mood wasn't festive anymore. I felt that after a week of camping out in the hot sun, the red shirts were getting edgy and impatient.

So there we were with the boys, squeezed in a large crowd, not quite sure what to do. In a couple of minutes, even that gate was shut! We couldn't get in. We were stranded. The crackdown was about to start or had already started.

Although we hadn't wanted to be at the street level where the red shirts were, I knew we had no choice. Told Eddie we will go down and walk towards MBK, away from the rally site. Quickly headed for street level and walked towards MBK. On the way, it was business as usual for many shops on the street level, people were eating in cafes.

But we were not taking any more chances, really fed up already. So at the junction, we found a cab that took us back, without meter. Stayed home and watched Shutter Island, bemoaning our bad luck. We later found out that BTS service was closed soon after.

And this morning, we woke up to news of the crackdown and ensuing deaths. Although the deaths were in another area, not the main shopping area, we still felt it was a close shave.

Hoping normality returns soon.

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