I’m not writing at the moment, so to keep my brain mentally sharp for when I do start writing again I thought I’d write a blogpost about how life is in Thailand during this COVID-19 virus
The main reason for this is because I have heard what is going on in England right now, and I thought telling people the perspective I have as a foreigner in Thailand might be interesting for some people. So let’s start with:
We are not house bound like so many other people in various countries. However there currently is a curfew in place from 10PM-4AM. I’m not 100% sure why this is, there are various conflicting reports and rumours but it is a lot better than not being allowed out at all.
This curfew has been in place for about a month now and there is no sign of it stopping any time soon. The only reason it affects me is because I spend a lot of my nights awake because of how peaceful it is and it is much cooler during the night. Sometimes I like to walk to the 7/11 and buy things for my apartment like milk etc… I can’t do that, but on the grand scale of things it isn’t that bad.
For obvious reasons anything that involves large groups of people has been closed until further notice. So bars, kickboxing fights, massage parlours, markets and anything else generally touristy is closed. The shopping malls are also closed, but certain things inside are open like the supermarkets and the banks. Some restaurants are open but only available for takeaway. You order your food at a desk, then you wait on a chair for about 15 minutes and they bring it down for you. It is strange of course, but at least it allows some people to work.
Masks are mandatory. If you don’t have a mask you get turned away. They also have a digital thermometer to test your temperature before you come into the mall, and alcohol gel for you to use as you go in and out.
This is a big industry in Thailand as the economy tends to thrive on its local community and small businesses (one of the reasons I like this country so much). This includes restaurants, so they have been hit financially not just because of the curfew (a typical evening outdoor restaurant will stay open until 12, but some are 24 hours) but because now you cannot eat inside the restaurant. This has lead to more people shopping at supermarkets and cooking food at home, which is nice, but doesn’t help these small businesses trying to get by.
This has been relaxed in the last few days and some outdoor restaurants have outdoor seating with social distancing in place. This is good for me because Thailand’s charm for me is being able to eat at restaurants twice a day. I’m not a fan of eating at home – especially in a small apartment – so even with takeaways having to eat in a studio flat was tough for me psychologically. Being able to eat outside again relieves a lot of that self-inflicted tension, and helps me let my mind wander which I hope will be beneficial for future books
SELF DEFENCE / MUAY THAI
All of these schools are closed until further notice. This could be linked to the rise in infections after the big Muay Thai fight in Bangkok around March/April time where infections could be traced to the fight or people who knew people who went to the fight, but the reality is it is pretty obvious why a full contact activity has been stopped to reduce the spread of infection.
I am currently here on an ED visa learning self defence after I thought it was a good idea to block a punch with my chin in Serbia, so this is frustrating for me because I cannot learn any self defence until at least July at the moment. But it is what it is. Health is far more important and I can always do a bit of exercise at home. I’m not learning any self defence but I did pick up a few basics before the coronavirus took over, so I can take that as a positive.
This was an immediate concern for any non-Thai citizens as we didn’t know if we had to leave or what was going on. At first panic ensued because the government declared all foreigners needed COVID insurance (which is understandably pretty expensive) and a COVID test that was no older than 72 hours old if you wanted to extend or apply for a new visa. Then there was the issue of being with hundreds and hundreds of people at immigration whilst doing your visa. It was very anxiety inducing for many people, myself included. Of top of that, borders were being closed in many countries including Thailand, so people were left with the stress that they may not even be able to exit the country if they wanted to, and be in fear of breaking immigration laws due to their visa expiring.
Then the government relaxed the visa situation for non-Thais and said they didn’t need to go to immigration and all visas would be automatically extended until the end of the month. This didn’t affect me as I have a long term visa, but I’m sure this was a massive relief for people all over the country. This has now been extended until the end of July. I must admit this has been handled really well all things considered.
What I mean by this is the closing of borders as mentioned above. This has also been extended to provincial borders. This has helped immensely to contain the spread of the virus, and as of the 12th of May there have been no new infections in the province of Chiang Mai (where I am based) for 33 days. This would have been much harder to control with dozens of planes flying in, hundreds of buses arriving and thousands of local and international tourists arriving in Chiang Mai on a daily basis. It is horrible to see businesses suffering because of this, but sadly it is necessary right now.
Unlike other countries, we are free to leave our house whenever we like (except for during the night curfew) so this has been great for my mental health. I don’t go out that particularly often, but it is great to know I have the option if things get overwhelming. I have my wits about me and wear a mask wherever I go, but overall most of my life is business as usual apart from anything touristy I would like to do like go to a bar and watch Watford play.
Thailand was the first country to get the virus aside of China. During that time the general public still believed it wasn’t a big threat so they carried on with their day without a second thought. Logic would dictate that Thailand would have a huge infection rate compared to the rest of the world, especially as the culture is very much based around going to condensed places like markets, small local restaurants and bars, and it also has a huge Chinese tourism industry which would easily spread the virus around without anyone realising. However the opposite has occurred and only 3,000 people in the whole of Thailand have been infected so far. All things considered, this is nothing short of a miracle, especially when you think 1.2 million people have been infected in the US and they got the disease far later than Thailand did.
Like any country, no one really knows for sure. Thailand is starting to slowly open up again. There are a few domestic flights that are now allowed, some shops have been opened and there is a tentative plan to slowly reopen all businesses bit by bit. My main worry aside from the threat of the virus has always been the local people. Many of them cannot work right now and bring money in which is a huge concern for everybody. So I hope that these businesses do open again soon and things go back to normal so they can ease the financial pressure that is looming over them. Of course we have to watch out for a second wave, but as long as we are careful and we do this properly, I’d like to think the average Thai person or Burmese immigrant will not have to worry about how to pay their rent or afford food in the near future.
So that is my brief personal analysis of what is happening to me during this pandemic. Everyone’s experience is different, and I hope this has been an interesting insight as to how my life has been whilst in Northern Thailand during the pandemic. I hope for everyone’s sake this dies down very soon and we can get some degree of normality again