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Blood on the Streets of Bangkok: How to Travel Safely in an Unsafe World

I am getting married in exactly 30 days and then stealing away on an exotic two-week honeymoon in Thailand, the Land of Smiles. At least that was the plan. Today my iGoogle news ticker reported the headline, “Blood on the Streets of Bangkok: Political Crisis Worsens,” and my spirits slumped.

When we booked our trip six months ago, all was calm in Thailand and we dreamed of nothing more than touring a few temples and relaxing on a deserted tropical island. The second half of our trip to Chiang Mai and Koh Phangan should be fine, but we’re increasingly asking ourselves if going to Bangkok is a good idea.

How Much Time Do You Need to Do a City Justice?

I’ve got a tough decision to make. Flying back from Singapore to San Francisco in late December, I have a choice of two flights. The first has a layover in Tokyo, but only for 45 minutes. The second has a layover in Tokyo as well—but this time it’s for 10 hours.

Now do I take Option A because it’s easy and quick and I’ll get home sooner? Or do I take Option B because wow, would you look at that, it’s like a free trip to Tokyo built right into a flight I’m already paying for?

If I decide on the latter, you see, I could leave the airport, head into the center of town, and spend the entire day discovering a city and a country I’ve only ever seen from…well, from inside the airport, ironically. Sure, such a fleeting visit would mean I’d pretty much only be exploring the tip of the iceberg—we could call my trip Japan 101, perhaps, or Tokyo For Beginners—but at least I’d be exploring.

What do you think? Is it worth it to take these new travel experiences where we can, even if we have to squeeze them into ten-hour windows? Or are we shortchanging ourselves by having to stick to such a strict itinerary? Should we “save” the cities we want to see for when we can actually do them justice, or should we stick to our guns, follow our wanderlust, and take whatever we can get, wherever we can get it?

Ten hours in Tokyo: worth it or not?

Photograph courtesy of Patrick Sharbaugh

Gay Thailand: Paradise in More Ways Than One

San Francisco–check. Provincetown, Mass.–check. Miami–check. Gay and lesbian travelers have an increasingly broad–and exuberant–array of gay-friendly U.S. destinations to pick from. Internationally, we’ve also got “gay” Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam, Canada, and more. But tilt the globe in an entirely different direction, and the average lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person might have no clue where to get their gay on.

Seeking outside-the-box destinations that are also easy on the dollar, many savvy American travelers have recently made Thailand their getaway of choice. But how do gay and lesbian travelers rate this tropical nation? I asked openly gay friends and colleagues James Harris and Mario Diaz for their thoughts on their recent Thailand trips.

Photo courtesy of IgoUgo member nova_chic.

One Night In Bangkok

Now, personally, I’m not the type of girl to spend $250 on a hotel room when I go on vacation. No siree—not when I could be spending that sort of money on food or souvenirs or (in the case of my recent three-month jaunt around Southeast Asia) two months worth of local beer. (And we’re talking several a day. Every day. Honestly, in Beijing, it was only a quarter!)

But if you are looking to drop the mad cash when you travel abroad, you might like to know that the Peninsula Bangkok has been voted the world’s best hotel for USD$250 or less in a reader survey conducted by Travel + Leisure magazine.

I can’t, of course, vouch for its excellence, as I stayed in an $8-a-night flophouse with a shared bathroom in the backpacker mecca of Khao San Road the last time I was in Bangkok. But since the Peninsula beat out the prestigious Tu Tu’ Tun Lodge in Gold Beach, Oregon and the Post Hotel & Spa in Lake Louise, Alberta–which came in at second and third place respectively–we’ll just have to go ahead and assume that it’s pretty darn fancy.

After all, I’m fairly sure you get your own toilet there. Which is more than I can say for where I stayed.