Time resolved Thomson scattering (TS) measurements have been performed on an ac driven high pressure mercury lamp. For this high intensity discharge (HID) lamp, TS is coherent and a coherent fitting routine, including rotational Raman calibration, was used to determine ne and Te from the measured spectrum. The maximum electron density and electron temperature obtained in the centre of the discharge varied in a time period of 5 ms between 1 × 1021 m-3 <ne <5 × 1021 m-3 and 6500 K <Te <7100 K. In order to test the non-intrusive character of TS, we have derived a general expression for the heating of the electrons. By applying this to our mercury lamp and laser settings, we have confirmed the non-intrusiveness of our method. This is supported by the experimental findings. Furthermore, because the TS results were obtained directly, thus, without the local thermodynamic equilibrium (LTE) assumptions, they enabled us to follow the deviations from LTE as a function of time. Contrary to the generally made assumption that HID lamps are in LTE, we have found deviations from both the thermal and chemical equilibrium inside the high pressure mercury lamp at different phases of the applied current.