Part 9: When Politics Ruins Your Plans

Part 1: When You Wake Up at 3 AM for a 6 AM Flight…
Part 2: Only 18 Hours to Go
Part 3: How to See Angkor Wat
Part 4: The Many Faces of Bayon
Part 5: Trees Galore!
Part 6: Cambodia’s Floating Villages
Part 7: View from the Top
Part 8: The Children of Cambodia

Now, I work in politics, so you’d think I’d be used to unexpected political events messing with my plans. But not when I’m on vacation! And not when I’m in a foreign continent with a very limited understanding of the geopolitical environment.

That’s the situation The Boyfriend and I found ourselves in when I checked my email shortly after landing in South Korea and my mom had sent me an email that said something about protests in Bangkok. If not for that email, it is very likely we would have remained blissfully oblivious to the unrest in Bangkok… until we arrived in Bangkok that is.

For the next couple of days in Cambodia, we monitored the situation in Bangkok and learned way more than I ever needed to know about politics in Thailand. In a nutshell, the minority party was upset with the majority, claiming the exiled former president held too much power over the government. Thousands of “yellow shirts” filled Bangkok’s streets, while countries around the world issued travel advisories for their citizens.

We already had our non-refundable flights from Siem Reap to Bangkok booked, but after some obsessive research, we considered forgoing the flights and booking a whole new itinerary. We considered going to Hong Kong directly from Cambodia (no direct flights), hopping a plane to Singapore instead (too bad last minute tickets were $800 a piece), going east to Vietnam (visa issues)…etc.

I went into travel planning overdrive – which turned out to be the one sore spot of our trip to Cambodia. While this hiccup was certainly no terrible tragedy, I confess I found the whole dilemma  very stressful. I had spent months planning our itinerary in Bangkok and rearranging everything at the last minute with limited options, high prices and no time to plan was more than my Type-A personality wanted to deal with.

We finally decided just to continue on to Bangkok as planned and simply avoid the high-protest areas when I saw a tweet about a planned protest right by our hotel. This stressed me out even more.

FInally, we decided to fly into Bangkok as planned and take a cab to Hua Hin, a coastal town only a couple hours from Bangkok. Our flight from Bangkok to Hong Kong could be redeposited and booked anew, so we left he rest of our itinerary in flux, hoping the protests would die down over the weekend and we could sneak a little Bangkok time in.

2013-11-28 13.51.33

This picture sums up what I saw of Bangkok from the window of our cab. If you look closely, you can make out Bangkok’s famous elephant building. I got so excited when I saw it, I had to take picture as the cab sped down the highway.

Of course, that did not happen, and after a couple of days in Hua Hin, we decided to go to Hong Kong early, which worked out well because we absolutely fell in love with Hong Kong.

In hindsight, we probably could have gone to Bangkok with no problems, but at the time, we did not feel comfortable assuming the risk. I’m still  disappointed we didn’t get to see Bangkok (unless you count the drive from the airport to Hua Hin) and hope one day I’ll have the chance to go back there.

Finally, while many of my friends roll their eyes and laugh at my miles obsession, it was points and miles that allowed us to have a modicum of flexibility. The SPG hotel in Bangkok was fully refundable and for only $80 I was able to redeposit my British Airways miles to my account and rebook our flights to Hong Kong on an earlier date. Had I paid cash for those flights, we would have lost way more money.

The moral of this story is: Points are awesome.

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