By , January 20, 2014 5:22 am

This summer, we visited several parks on the East Coast of Canada. Each of those parks seemed to offer one or more coastal trails. One thing they all had in common was a cliff-side passage. Those cliffs, more often than not, boasted a sheer drop-off of 30 feet or more. The landing wouldn’t be soft either. More than likely there would be some sharp, jagged boulders to greet you at the bottom, and enough surf to ensure your hopes of rescue were nil. There’s no doubt that you wouldn’t be walking away from a drop over the edge.

Most of the time, these trails were a well-worn rut. Grasses and wild flowers grew tall on either side of those dusty paths. Proof that nary a soul stepped off that well-walked track. On occasion, those coastal cliff trails would pass dangerously close to the cliff edge they traced. Undoubtedly, this closeness would be marked by a sturdy fence and a brightly coloured sign stating in both official languages – DANGER – DO NOT CROSS – EROSION.

Okay, there’s nothing unexpected about a sign and fence protecting the thousands of trail walkers that pass by each summer. But there is something unseemly, odd, and profound about the fact that each and every well-worn trail continued on past each and every guardian sign to the crumbling cliff edge.

The first time we saw it, I remember remarking to Ashley something about how the idiots who jumped the fence and wore that path deserved whatever welcome the rocks and wave below decided to give them.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I proverbially jumped that fence today in Bangkok. For those that haven’t been following the news, the Thais are staging a number of protests in the capital city. Some of those protests have turned violent over the past few days, marked by drive-by shootings and grenade tosses into the protesting crowds. People on the street, the Thai government, and the Canadian government have all warned us against travelling near these demonstration sites. And we would have too, had it not been for my self-disabling electronics.

A quote from Ashley’s personal facebook page:
Two days before we left home, my netbook gave up the ghost. When we got home from replacing it, one of the USB ports in Mike’s laptop went kaput. And a flash drive called it quits. Since arriving in Bangkok, my purse strap gave way and Mike’s favourite (and most expensive) SLR camera lens conked out. This must be the universe’s way of telling us we don’t need so much stuff. I sure hope it’s done, because I’m out of idioms that mean broken.

Last night, my wide angle camera lens bit the bullet. It seems to have suffered some sort of electrical malfunction. This is my favourite lens. The producer of such photos as these:

Tomorrow morning, we leave on a jet plane to our host country for the next year, Bhutan. Bhutan is famous for a lot of things: picturesque landscapes, colourful dress, chili peppers, and gross national happiness. However cheap camera equipment is not on that list. That left me exactly today to replace my favourite lens, preferably with a used and affordable one.

After a bit of google searching, I found exactly what I needed in the Foto File store located in Bangkok’s MBK mall. The very same MBK mall that’s been playing host to a protest site since the 13th of January. It’s also nearby the Hua Chang Bridge where a shooting incident left two injured in the early hours of the 15th of January.

I also found this map which identifies the protest sites and violent clashes which may be of interest to you if you are currently in Bangkok, or arriving soon.

View Protest Sites during Bangkok Shutdown in January 2014 in a larger map

So, like the good idiot I am, I dragged Ashley through the barricades, bag searches, vendors, news vans, and into the mall. I got a good story, some poor photos, a new camera lense, and a brief period of racing heart syndrome. Gladly, I can report that we made it in and out completely unscathed. I feel just like one of the fence hoppers I mentioned above. I sure hope that they all made it out unscathed too.



Protesters on Stage

Protesters on Stage



Protest Tents

Protest Tents

P.S. Don’t tell my mom.

6 Responses to “Confessions of an Idiot: Mingling with Protesters in Bangkok”

  1. Mary Ann Cormier says:

    Oh my God, talk about a gut wrenching read……..I was very tense reading this post!
    Love Ashley’s mom

  2. Corinne says:

    I’ve been around many protests during my travels and find them interesting…I do try to stay back so if things go awry, I can out fast! Good Luck with your year in Bhutan!

    • Mike Lenzen says:

      We’ve seen a few now, and they have all been interesting to take in. But, I still get nervous when there are reports of violence.

  3. Dear Mike,

    Really enjoyed reading your travel blog. Especially after watching the movie “The Bucket List” by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, I envy your drive, enthusiasm and your success in getting to indeed do and visit so many places.

    Keep updating your blog and I will continue to enjoy your experiences.

    Best Regards,


  4. Eileen says:

    I read your post I can’t believe it was almost a year ago!! Today however, I just finished re-watching the Movie. ‘Beyond Rangoon’ If you haven’t seen it it’s a must watch and gives an all too real perspective on the risks you guys were taking…. Looking forward to hearing about your year in Bhutan

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