I am one of the few tourists remaining in Thailand, one of the few who stuck out the lockdowns overseas. Today marks the date when overnight curfews have been lifted in Thailand. And the government is making a push to restart domestic travel. With these restrictions lifted, I had a choice. I could have chosen to stay put where I was, safe and secluded on an Island, repatriate myself back home to Britain. Or take advantage of the situation and explore Thailand during the pandemic. I was a domestic tourist. It was an easy decision to make, and for me, a no-brainer.
I’m publishing daily posts to my travel blog, documenting what it is like to travel in south-east Asia, after the coronavirus lockdowns. But in this post, I want to share why. Why I chose to travel in Thailand during a global pandemic instead of heading home.
Lockdown was never going to last forever, for some it was hell, others it was bliss. For me, it was the latter, a chance to switch off and refresh, a chance to gain a new outlook on life (chill out on some deserted beaches), launch my travel blog and reflect on things that are usually taken for granted.
But lockdowns are coming to an end, all around the world people are returning to a ‘normal’ pace of life. Governments can’t afford to keep giving people hand-outs, people can’t afford not to be working, and we all need to move forward with our lives in the best possible. We can’t sit on pause indefinitely, it’s no good for anyone and it was never going to last forever. It’s going to be a long and hard transition back to reality.
But with other people getting back to their usual lives, I am too. I’m getting back to travelling, or rather, as close to travel as I can get right now, as close to normal life as possible.
Although for me, normal life was never really ‘normal’ to begin with. Indefinite travel was my normal life. Exploring new places, meeting new people and immersing myself in new cultures. I travel full time, and my way of life had been abruptly taken from me, from all of us. The world as we know has changed forever.
I’m glad to be travelling once again. It doesn’t mean the risk of catching the coronavirus has gone away, but it means we need to make our mental and physical health a priority. In order to get out of the current state of limbo, we need to take some risks.
I am one of the first few tourists to be backpacking in Thailand after the coronavirus lockdowns came into force, and international borders sealed to tourists. To be clear, the coronavirus isn’t over, it is only the lockdowns and restrictions which are over.
Here are the three reasons for why I’m staying put and exploring Thailand during the coronavirus pandemic.
#1 Uncertainty: I Don’t Know How Much Longer I Can Stay In Thailand
I found myself in a unique situation when the world entered lockdown and tourists were repatriated. I ignored the calls to head home. I wanted to make the most of the situation I’d found myself in. Every cloud has a silver lining, and I’d found mine. If I wanted to travel once more, it was now or never. Thailand’s immigration has given immunity to me and the few foreign tourists who have remained in the country, and life is bliss, for now, at least.
Domestic travel restrictions were lifted in June and I have immunity from immigration procedures until July the 31st. For now, I am free to travel Thailand. But as the coronavirus has proven, nothing is certain in life and it is entirely possible that I’ll have to leave the country after the immunity period. For all I know, the country could go back into lockdown at any point without warning. I potentially have just a few weeks to explore the country without tourists. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that has been created by this pandemic, and I’m not going to let that opportunity pass by.
Some people might say I’m stupid and that I should be staying at home, but I’m a risk-taker, I like to live in the moment and I doubt I’ll have this chance ever again.
It is still yet to be decided, just how Thailand will handle the situation of tourists coming back into Thailand, but the current ‘word on the street’ is that provincial restrictions will be put into place, essentially keeping all tourists confined to selected areas. I don’t know when these new measures will be implemented, or if they’ll be implemented at all.
What I do know, is that I want to explore the country before the changes to accommodate international tourism are made. I want to explore Thailand while I still have the freedom to travel and roam as I please, and that time is now. It’s now or never.
#2 Exclusivity: There Are No Tourists Around
Thailand is a place which I have travelled extensively over the years, it’s a place I know well and a place I have often called home.
It’s a hugely popular destination for tourists to visit and never in a million years would I have imagined that tourists would stop coming to Thailand. Although I guess it’s not only Thailand that has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the entire planet is also affected.
But the fact that there are
fewer tourists around no tourists around is one of the reasons that I am so desperate to travel during this time. In normal times, National Parks are filled with tourists; beaches, streets, waterfalls, islands, landmarks. You name it, all the places are all packed with tourists.
Now I can hardly complain because I myself am a tourist. But given the opportunity to visit these places of incredible natural beauty without other tourists is a dream for most travellers. It’s a dream for me too. One that I never thought would come true, and I definitely wasn’t going to skip out on travelling during this time. Not everyone has been given this opportunity and I want to make the most of it.
I watched during the lockdowns, over three months I watched as the oceans were cleaned from debris, waters became clearer, marine traffic disappeared and mother nature began to take over. But Thailand has one hundred and forty-seven national parks, and during the lockdown, I was only able to visit one. For the time being all of the national parks are open, but they are deserted from tourists. Untouched in months, the parks are beautiful but deserted. I want to see as many as I can before other tourists return.
#3 Low Risk: Thailand Is Safe, For Now.
Thailand was the first country on record to have active coronavirus cases outside of China, and with multiple daily flights to and from Wuhan, it’s no surprise. But defying all odds Thailand has kept one of the lowest coronavirus test rates in the world. The numbers speak for themselves. With under 5,000 cases, and under 100 deaths, (at the time of writing). In a country with a population of 70 million and another 40 million international arrivals each year, those statistics are reassuring. And the situation has been handled incredibly and efficiently.
For the foreseeable future, international arrivals are banned. And for the few Thai’s being repatriated and the few work permit holders that are currently able to enter from overseas are all subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
But at some point in the coming weeks or months, international travel will no doubt resume. And for travel to resume the quarantine period will need to be waived.
For the time being, I feel safe, I feel the chances of catching the virus are low and the local Thai people also feel safe in the knowledge that any foreigners in Thailand right now, have either been in Thailand for the full duration of the lock-down or have been quarantined and tested. Giving everyone a sense of reassurance.
There has not been a case of the coronavirus transmitted locally in over two weeks now, there is a mutual feeling of safety and people are friendly to one another But I fear that things will change in the future.
When borders are reopened to tourists I worry that the attitude from the Thai people might change. I worry that when international tourists return, coronavirus cases will spike and tourists might be seen as a threat, rather than being welcomed back with open arms.
The same way Chinese overseas citizens were targeted and subject to abuse and racism in the early days of the pandemic.
I worry that there will be no way for myself to differentiate from new arrivals. I would find myself lumped into the same ‘high-risk’ category with everyone else.
So for now, while it is clear that travel has changed. I have a few glorious weeks where I am able to explore one of the most diverse nations, one of the worlds most popular countries for tourism, but I have the place to myself. There is no one else around. And it’s not going to stay that way for much longer.
I’ll be updating my blog with new posts each day as I travel around and experience what it is like to travel in Thailand after the coronavirus pandemic. So make sure to check back. And feel free to leave a comment with any questions you might have.
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