100,000 tourists in Thailand left to scramble for a way out

Stranded Western tourists wait for transportation Wednesday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport following a takeover of the facility. Economists expect billions to be lost in tourism income.

Associated Press

Stranded Western tourists wait for transportation Wednesday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport following a takeover of the facility. Economists expect billions to be lost in tourism income.

BANGKOK, Thailand — The vacation is over for tens of thousands of tourists in Thailand. But they can't go home.

The drama began Tuesday when antigovernment protesters shut the country's primary international airport. The following day they moved in on the capital's domestic airport, grounding all commercial flights in and out of the city.

About 100,000 people have been stranded by the closures, dealing a severe blow to the country's reputation as a safe and reliable vacation destination. Officials project the tourism industry's losses from now until the end of the year will balloon to about $4.2-billion.

Hundreds gathered at Thai Airways' cramped ticket office in Bangkok on Saturday, desperately seeking a way out of the country.

Slumped in chairs or out smoking on the street outside the office, travelers swapped tales of being stuck in the airport for 23 hours or ending up in a cockroach-infested hotel. Most expressed frustration about the uncertainty of it all — the baseless rumors, the conflicting information and the uncertainties that come with navigating a strange place.

The longer the standoff goes on, the more creative and desperate travelers are getting.

Some have taken buses hundreds of miles to airports on the southern island of Phuket or in the northern city of Chiang Mai or overland all the way to neighboring Cambodia and Malaysia.

Others headed down to the U-tapao military base that has been opened for commercial traffic. It is about 120 miles southeast of Bangkok.

Thai Airways has begun to arrange flights from U-tapao and some airlines including Malaysia, China Eastern, Emirates, SAS and Cathay Pacific have sent planes to pick up their passengers there.

The tiny airport was overwhelmed by the influx. U-tapao airport's parking lot has room for just 100 vehicles and its terminal can accommodate only 400 people at once, according to its Web site.

Fast facts

Protesters injured

At least 51 antigovernment protesters were injured in explosions in Bangkok, Thailand, today. The first blast went off inside Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat's compound, which protesters seized in August. Nine people were hospitalized, said Surachet Sathitniramai, a hospital official. A protest spokesman said a grenade was thrown at them.

Associated Press

100,000 tourists in Thailand left to scramble for a way out 11/29/08 [Last modified: Saturday, November 29, 2008 11:42pm]

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...