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C9 Hotelworks Founder and Managing Director Bill Barnett is a noted columnist, author and leading authority on travel trend, hotels and property.View all the books from C9
It's never easy working off the heels of your feet. Take Usain Bolt for example, toe to heel in lightning millisecond perfection. Forward momentum and fly like the wind. These days, unfortunately, Thailand has missed the sprint session entirely and ended up dazed and confused like a skid-row drunk in a dumpster.
Despite the sheer fact that I in no way physically resemble a Thai or will be mistaken for an Asian, my recent life has taken a decided turn to the absurd. The mantle of Thailand's political crisis has been cast upon my sagging shoulders and suddenly wherever and whenever I travel outside of the country, the expectation is that I can somehow explain, in graphic detail, to outsiders in pinpoint terms exactly what ails the beast of the country's political scene.
My inner demons cry out in agony, and no, my business card does not make reference to Wikipedia, BBC, CNN or the New York Times. The last few months of the Bangkok Shutdown have thrust me into the imaginary drink mixer, with the knob turned to high.
Welcome to the belly of the beast, which is where darkness lives. The experience can best be summed up as akin to walking into the wrong bar in Glasgow on a Saturday night. There might be blood.
Perhaps I'm overreacting here, as a long time resident of Phuket the dimming memories of SARS, tsunami, global financial crisis and more shirt colors than I can even keep track of have left me somewhat comfortably numb, in a black t-shirt, shorts and flip flops.
Can I, just one single, solitary soul living far from the epicenter of the chaos that we know as Bangkok, explain what is happening?
Today, my biggest pending decision is what sandwich to have for lunch, so the fate of democracy in a teeming nation might just be a stretch.
There remains the easy exit, my passport is blue, and like it or not, I am a foreigner who has no real skin in the game. Except of course a business that is based here, a Thai wife and house, as well as two children and a dog - let's not forget the three of those. Angst or no angst, Thai life has come into a period of sustained volatility as in no other time during the past three decades or more.
Life has been catapulted into a two-room existence, where the room with the questions is SRO (standing room only), while the answer room finds only a weeping Dick Cheney, wondering what did happen to the weapons of mass destruction. I take a brief moment to hand Dick a Kleenex and realize just how fitting his first name is to his debacle.
Call me a fool but I'm pretty sure that the future of Thailand is not going to be decided within the confines of this small island on the Andaman Sea. Will the stress of the moment continue to haunt me, leading to rage and moments of self questioning? Yes, of course these will come and they will go, just as the groups of Russian and Chinese tourists will come and go.
More than ten years have passed since I bought the ticket and took the Phuket ride. Jimmy Buffet once summed up in a song, "Some of it's magic, some it's tragic, but I've had a good life along the way". Life in a Forest Gump sort of way.
The beast of politics has been a great bane to all generation since the dawn of time. Put two people in a room and the likelihood of a disagreement mounts with each tick of the clock. As I write this on Monday, there is no telling what Friday may bring. My mission today, as it is most days, is just staying one step ahead of the charging beast, and clear of the danger that surrounds the simple act of living simply.