The light was shining at the end of the tunnel a couple of weeks ago. Rumors were spreading about the Thai Government beginning to ease restrictions, and implement programs to allow more international visitors to enter the country. Quarantine times were being reduced from 14 to 10, and even seven days for folks who could prove they received the vaccine. Bar and restaurant owners, and employees were getting excited at the prospect of foreign tourists beginning to return to the Land of Smiles, bringing some financial relief. Even I was getting excited about the prospect of the possibility of friends being able to visit from the U.S.
Then, it all came to a screeching halt! It was a case of one step forward, and two steps back. All it took was a few “Hi-So” (high society) clubs in Bangkok to host huge parties, and for the participants to catch the virus, and then return to their homes, all over the country. Chiang Mai, was basically covid free, and all of a sudden, about 200 cases a day started turning up. Now, the country, while not in “official” lockdown, has re-implemented the shut down of bars, and other entertainment venues, put restrictions on alcohol sales, and color-coded regions of the country, according to their infection rates.
All this happened during the same week as the biggest Thai holiday of the year, Songkran. Normally, Songkran is huge holiday, lasting three-to-five-days, and everyone goes home to visit their families, and Buddhist temples. It’s also celebrated by having huge water fights, and throwing water at everyone who pokes his or her head outside. The water fights were going to be curtailed anyway, due to fear of spreading the virus, but the shutdowns really put a damper on an otherwise festive time.
The vaccine is just now beginning to be administered in Thailand. So far, only about .5% of the population has received it. The two types are the Astra-Zeneca, and the Sinovac from China. At least seven people have presented “paralysis-like symptoms” from the Sinovac vaccine – sounds scary to me. It seems there is a big push to vaccinate the population of the island of Phuket first, in order to open up the island for tourism.
I wish I could give people who want to visit Thailand better news, but what it seems to all boil down to is, nobody knows for sure when Thailand will start allowing tourists back into the country on a regular basis. If you’ve had the covid vaccine; can afford the health insurance to cover $100,000, specifically for covid; aren’t from a “red-zone country”; and are willing to spend 15 days in quarantine at the beginning of your holiday (at your own expense), you may be able to visit now.
As for those of us who live here as expats, life is pretty good. There aren’t the usual crowds of drunken, two-week millionaires, and the hysteria of the West doesn’t really exist here. Since the beginning of the pandemic, only 121 deaths have been contributed to the virus. To put that into perspective, 227 people were killed in traffic accidents, during the recent Songkran holiday, I mentioned earlier. It’s almost surreal, watching events unfold in the U.S. as our “leadership” seems intent on self-destruction. I sometimes feel like an alien, living in a relatively peaceful environment, watching Rome burn from afar. Thailand has its issues, but as much as I love my own country, I think things are pretty good here.
For those who are living here, this week was my dreaded visa extension week. It seems no matter how prepared I think I am, there’s always something new, or something I didn’t know about to contend with. This year, it was a letter I needed from my bank, called a “guarantee of transfer letter”. So, having to obtain this document added a day to the process. However, I can’t complain too much, because my extension was granted, and I now have an official stamp in my passport saying I’m allowed to stay in Thailand another year.
I hope this doesn't come across as too depressing or negative, but there’s a lot of that out there these days. Try to find something enjoyable to do, and something to look forward to. Take care of yourselves and each other, and don’t take anything you hear or see on television at face value!