Author

Richard Barrow

Topics for this issue include:
  1. Updates about Thailand Pass
  2. Bangkok Railway Station
  3. Photo Opportunity in Bangkok
  4. Views from The Quarter Hualamphong
  5. Download a Free Bangkok Guidebook
  6. Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem Canal
  7. Electric Canal Boat Ride
  8. The Yellow Line Monorail
  9. The future of LHONG 1919
  10. Corrections Museum
  11. Interesting Tweets
  12. Bangkok Walking Maps – 7

Updates about Thailand Pass

You’ve probably heard by now that the expected easing of entry rules didn’t materialise. They were going to change RT-PCR testing with the quicker and cheaper ATK test. But then the new variant happened. I personally think that the media and some governments are overreacting to this news. A Bangkok Post headline referred to it as a “deadly virus”. There’s no proof that this is actually true. Obviously, time will tell but we shouldn’t undo all the hard work that has been done in trying to reboot the economy. There are already many safety measures in place, and we really need to start moving forward.
Of course, that might be famous last words and so I better stop now. Like I said on social media last week, there is only one certainty about international travel at the moment and that is uncertainty. For expats and Thais to come back to Thailand is one thing. But for someone to come here on holiday with their family, they really need to do their homework and make sure that everything they book is fully refundable. No-one can predict the future. And no-one can predict how the government will react to the new variant. As we have seen before, they can and will change entry rules at short notice.
For the latest information on entry rules, please visit the TAT Newsroom. If you are ready to come here, then visit the Thailand Pass website to apply. Good luck!

Bangkok Railway Station

The future of the 105-year-old Bangkok Railway Station, otherwise known as Hua Lamphong, remains unknown. The Italian Neo-Renaissance-style building took six years to build and was officially opened on 25th June 1916. The canal running along the bottom of the above picture was called Khlong Hua Lamphong. Which is one reason why local people today call the main station Hua Lamphong. In fact, between 1893 and 1960, there was another station next to this canal called Hua Lamphong Station which was the terminal station for the Paknam Railway that went to Samut Prakan province. After this railway line was disbanded, the canal and the railway were covered over and became part of the much wider present day Rama IV Road.
The original plan for Bangkok Railway Station was to have a gradual closure. They were going to move the long-distance trains to the new terminal station at Bang Sue Grand Station but keep the local commuter trains where they are now. This is because many people are still using these trains to enter central Bangkok from the northern outskirts. But then a decision was made to close the station completely this month with the last trains expected to leave on 23rd December. They said they will put on shuttle buses for these commuters. Obviously, a lot of people are upset about this.
One of the main reasons cited for moving the terminal station to the northern outskirts of the city was because traffic had to be stopped hundreds of times a day at level crossings. According to a story in the Bangkok Post, there are 27 crossings in the capital. Seven crossings in particular cause congestion including Pradiphat, Ranong, Sri Ayutthaya and Phetchaburi roads. This problem was seen as early as 1927 when they built Kasat Suek Bridge, just north of the terminal, so that vehicles on Rama I Road could cross over the railway without being delayed. The picture above is the view looking south from this bridge.
Once all trains have stopped running in and out of Bangkok Railway Station, the land belonging to the State Railway of Thailand will be put up for commercial development. So far, no-one can say for sure if the historical buildings can remain without being demolished to make way for a shopping mall. But one thing is for sure, they cannot rush into anything as they need to get permission to rezone this area for commercial use, which could take two to three years. Which is why they should allow the local commuter trains to remain at this station. At least until the Red Line elevated tracks are built between Bang Sue Grand Station and Hua Lamphong. Yes, I know, they should have done that first.
An old aerial photo showing Bangkok Railway Station and Phadung Krung Kasem canal. Barges brought goods up from the Chao Phraya River and loaded them onto trains. Hua Lamphong Station and the canal alongside it are now the present day Rama IV Road #รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Bangkok https://t.co/Dk1awcQfxu
Two photos of Bangkok Railway Station. When the station was first built, Rama IV Road was narrow and shared its space with a railway line and a canal. Hua Lamphong terminal station for Paknam Railway was demolished and the canal filled in when they widened the road #Bangkok https://t.co/gTH5SgwBHx

Photo Opportunity in Bangkok

Tickets for the Father’s Day steam train trip went on sale last week and sold out within 24 hours. Even if you were unable to buy a ticket, you can still go to the station to take pictures or wait for it along the route. The steam locomotive will leave Bangkok Railway Station on Sunday at 8:10am. It will then make stops at Samsen, Bang Sue, Bang Khen, Lak Si, and Don Mueang stations. This will take nearly an hour. You can take photos at any place along the track. I will be at Bangkok Railway Station by 7:30 am. I hope to see you there!

Views from The Quarter Hualamphong

As this is most likely the last month for Bangkok Railway Station, I decided to do a kind of “farewell tour” of the station, the local community and some of the destinations you can go to by train. So last weekend, I stayed in two hotels near the station. My favourite by far was The Quarter Hualamphong where I took the above view from. This picture was taken from the lobby on the 12th floor, but I was lucky to have this view from my room as well. Prices start from only 600 baht for this hotel. That didn’t include breakfast but there are plenty of places locally to eat. The other reason that I liked this hotel is the off-road parking. Even though I checked out early in the morning to take a train trip, I was allowed to leave my car there all day until I came back in the evening.
This view of Wat Traimit at sunset was also taken from The Quarter Hualamphong hotel. The photo of the station was taken looking east from the lobby. This one is looking west and was taken from the swimming pool on the 12th floor. The building with the golden spire houses the Golden Buddha which weighs an incredible 5.5 tonnes. The story goes that no-one knew for years that it was made from gold as it was covered with a layer of stucco and coloured glass. In 1955, while it was being moved, some of the plaster cracked revealing the gold underneath. The rest is history. The Golden Buddha has just re-opened to the public. In the same building there is an interesting museum about the history of Chinatown.
If you are planning on exploring Bangkok any time soon, then you may be interested in downloading this free PDF of the Bangkok Smiles 2021 Guidebook produced by the Bangkok Tourism division. There are 52 pages in total and file size is 104 MB. Click here to download. Please note, this will be a ‘limited time’ download link so make sure you download now if you think you may be interested.

Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem

Last weekend, I explored Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal on foot. This outer moat for the Grand Palace was dug in the 1850’s. The original outer moat, where the Khlong Ong Ang walking street is, was built in 1783 shortly after the founding of Rattanakosin as the new capital by King Rama I. This first line of defence was 3.4 kilometres long. However, by the reign of King Rama IV, the city had outgrown itself and so there was a need for a new outer moat. This new moat, which was named Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem, is 20 metres wide, 3 metres deep and 5.5 kilometres long. They didn’t build a wall for this one, but they did build seven forts. None of which have survived. All the land on the right-hand bank of this photo belongs to the State Railway of Thailand. Once the railway station has been closed, this same view will probably be unrecognisable in 5-10 years as there will most likely be skyscrapers built on the other bank.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Authority (BMA) are improving the landscape on each side of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem for 1,250 meters where it runs alongside Bangkok Railway Station. They will widened the path to include a jogging track and also plant 151 more trees. This is an artist impression of what this section of Khlong Phadung Krung Kasem canal will look like. The BMA anticipates that this new green area will be finished by March 2022. You can see more pictures of what it will look like on my richardbarrow.com website. I’ve also posted a live photo blog of exploring this canal on foot.

Electric Canal Boat Ride

I love doing boat trips and so last weekend I took the free electric boat service on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal. I started my ride at Hua Lamphong Pier which is conveniently near the MRT station of the same name and Bangkok Railway Station. There are a total of 11 piers along Phadung Krung Kasem Canal all the way up to Thewarat Market Pier. From here it is then a few minutes’ walk to Thewes Pier which is an express boat stop on the Chao Phraya River. From the railway station pier to here took about 30 minutes.
There are seven electric boats. If fully charged, they can run for 4-5 hours at a top speed of 10-15km/hour. There are solar panels on the roof, but this only contributes to about 10% of all power needed. So, after about four hours they need to be plugged in for about three hours.
On weekdays, boats on Phadung Krung Kasem Canal leave every 15 minutes between 6am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes. At the weekend, the boats leave every 15 minutes between 8am-9am & 4pm-7pm. Between 9am & 4pm the boats leave every 30 minutes.

The Yellow Line Monorail

This is the new monorail train on the Yellow Line. They are presently doing test runs between Si Iam and Si Nut stations both of which are on Srinakarin Road on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok. The MRT Yellow Line runs from Lat Phrao to Samrong which is a total of 30.4 kilometres. There are 23 stations. If everything goes to plan, it should open to the public in July 2022. I’ve been invited to a pre-opening test run next year which I am really excited about. I will share with you more information about this line and the other one, which runs past the government complex on Chaengwattana Road, in a future newsletter.

The Future of LHONG 1919

LHONG 1919 on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok was originally a steamship terminal in 1850. It included shops, offices and a shrine. Around 1900 it was converted into rental home-offices. In 1919, it was sold to the Wanglee family. They then restored it to its former glory. As well as the shrine, they opened boutique shops and galleries. It’s also a nice place for doing selfies and getting pictures for Instagram. But I am afraid I now need to use past tense. AWC, which is a lifestyle real estate group, has signed a lease contract to use this land and property for 64 years to build a luxury wellness resort. I’ve already contacted them to find out what will happen to the warehouses. I will give you an update in the next newsletter. As far as visiting the site, I’m afraid that it is now too late as it is closed to the public.
Rommaninat Park used to be the Bangkok Remand Prison which was built back in 1889. The watchtowers still remain as do some of the administration buildings and one cell block. This is also the site of the Bangkok Corrections Museum which I have visited several times over the years. I haven’t been for a long time as they closed it for renovations. I do check back on it every now and then, but sadly, when I went last week, I saw that they haven’t even started renovating yet. So, it will be several more years yet.

Interesting Tweets

🌳 Benjakitti Forest Park in Klong Toey district will open to the public in February 2022. There will be four ponds, 7,155 trees, 5.8km of natural footpaths, a 2.8 km stretch designed for joggers and a 3.4 km track for cyclists https://t.co/94sdM8I6Jb #Bangkok #Thailand
British comedian John Cleese and his stand-up show “Why There is No Hope” will be coming to #Thailand on 11th January 2022. Tickets go on sale from 26th November. More info: https://t.co/syghT8ODEj #JohnCleese #JohnCleeseTH2022 #JohnCleeseWhyThereIsNoHope https://t.co/Zf6wfd96pW
Tickets for the train excursion to Pasak Cholasid Dam are now on sale. 3rd class is ฿330 and 2nd Class with air is ฿560. Call 1690 for more information.
🗓 26-28 November
🗓 3-5, 10-12, 17-19, 24-26 December
🗓 7-9, 14-16, 21-23, 28-30 January
#รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Thailand https://t.co/rmsFdxC1FC
🚂 The State Railway of Thailand run a number of train excursions at the weekends. Only one is operating at the moment. Here are two that I did in 2020:

[1] Excursion Train to Sai Yok Waterfall in Kanchanaburi https://t.co/GeuEMdSSmI #รถไฟไทย #thaitrain #Thailand https://t.co/wXJ3iyy6hE

Bangkok Walking Maps – 7

This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bang Rak and Silom which is one of my favourite areas along the Chao Phraya River. A good starting point is BTS Saphan Taksin station. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
  7. Bang Rak and Silom
I am really sorry that this newsletter came out so late. Now that I am travelling every weekend, and have school during the week, I have so little free time. These newsletters usually take a couple of days to research and write. I will work out a better schedule as I really want to continue, but the next one will be a little late too. I am on train trips all this weekend and then hopefully on a boat trip on Monday. Then I am in Phuket next week on a media trip to get firsthand knowledge of what it is like there. The following week I am up in Chiang Mai, and then the week after I am hopefully doing a week-long boat and road trip down south.
Anyway, the next newsletter will have a competition to win some beautiful 2022 calendars. I picked them up at TAT HQ yesterday. They gave me ten calendars which I will give away. Before I forget, the winners of the last competition were Jissel Jorge and Stephen Harris. Congratulations to them both. I will be going to the post office soon to send off your prizes.
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!
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Topics for this issue include:
  1. The King Changes Emerald Buddha Costume
  2. Bangkok Snow Removal Christmas Cards
  3. Update about Khlong Chong Nonsi Park
  4. The Royal Plaza Fenced Off
  5. Win a Bangkok Guidebook
  6. Christmas Tree at CentralWorld
  7. View of Wat Arun from Inn a Day restaurant
  8. Updates about King Rama IX Park
  9. Seagulls at Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  10. Interesting Tweets
  11. Bangkok Walking Maps – 6

King Changes Emerald Buddha Costume

His Majesty the King changes the costume of the Emerald Buddha
As expected, His Majesty the King, briefly flew back to Thailand on Saturday to take part in an important ceremony at the Grand Palace; the changing of the costume of the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew. This can only be done by the King or a senior member of the royal family such as the Crown Prince. This is done three times a year on the 1st waning day of the lunar months four, eight and twelve. On Saturday, the costume was changed from Rainy Season to Cool Season. The Emerald Buddha chapel was closed all day, and the Grand Palace was closed at noon.
By consulting an astrological calendar, it is easy to work out the days for the costume changes for next year:
  • Changing Cool to Summer: 18th March 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนสี่)
  • Changing Summer to Rainy: 14th July 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนแปด)
  • Changing Rainy to Cool: 9th November 2022 (แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนสิบสอง)
The change to the cool season is always done the day after the full moon for the Loy Krathong Festival. So, I can tell you now that Loy Krathong next year is on Tuesday 8th November 2022.
Costumes of the Buddha: Summer, Rainy and Cool Seasons
The three sets of costumes for the Emerald Buddha:
  • Hot/summer season (left) – a stepped, pointed headpiece; a breast pendant; a sash; a number of armlets, bracelets and other items of royal attire. All items are made of enamelled gold and embedded with precious and semi-precious stones.
  • Rainy season (middle) – a pointed headpiece of enamelled gold studded with sapphires; a gold-embossed monk’s robe draped over one shoulder.
  • Cool/winter season (right) – a gold headpiece studded with diamonds; a jewel-fringed gold-mesh shawl draped over the rainy season attire.
Source: Wikipedia

Bangkok Snow Removal

If you are looking for some unique Christmas cards or just general greeting cards to send to family and friends back home, then check out the catalogue at Bangkok Snow Removal. As the name suggests, they have cards showing well-known scenes around the capital but with one big difference. Snow! One of my favourite cards, shows motorcycle taxi drivers huddled around a fire trying to keep warm. Which I’ve actually seen here in Thailand, though without the snow. Other scenes show snow falling on the Temple of Dawn, on the Skytrain, outside a 7-11 store, and this one of the iconic Tuk Tuk with skis instead of wheels. Their shop has greeting cards, wall calendars and postcards. Last year, I bought the 15-month desktop calendar.

Update about Khlong Chong Nonsi Park

Khlong Chong Nonsi Park in November 2021
This is the latest photo of Khlong Chong Nonsi Park taken this week. The entire length of the park will be 4.5 kilometres once finished and it will go from the intersection near BTS Chong Nonsi station to the Chao Phraya River. Don’t be alarmed by the absence of trees along the road. They said they will be brought back soon, and a lot more, as they will be planting 5,000 trees and plants along this road. As you can see, they have already brought in some new trees for the middle section that goes over the canal. They are also building a sewer that will run underneath this canal to make sure the wastewater is separated. You can see an artist’s impression of what it will look like on my richardbarrow.com blog.
GPS Coordinates: 13.720719, 100.530843

The Royal Plaza Fenced Off

The Royal Plaza in Bangkok
The Royal Plaza in Bangkok is an important public space that has seen large royal ceremonies and pro and anti-government demonstrations. It stands at the northern end of Ratachadamoen Avenue which links the Grand Palace with Dusit Palace. The plaza is rectangular shaped, nearly 300 metres long and 100 metres wide. The centrepiece is the equestrian statue of King Rama V which was erected in 1908. At the northern end is the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall built in Italian Renaissance and neoclassical style. King Rama V laid the foundation stone for the throne hall in 1908 and it was completed in 1915. I last visited here in 2017 for the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition. Sadly, the throne hall, and the nearby Vimanmek Teak Mansion, have been indefinitely closed to the public. It is not known whether we will ever be able to visit these places again.
The new entrance gate to the Royal Plaza
I haven’t been back to the Royal Plaza for several years and so I was surprised during a recent visit to see that the entrance now has a large gate and fence. At first, I thought that this would mean cars wouldn’t be able to pass through here anymore to reach Ratchawithi Road on the other side. But then I noticed an open gateway on either side and some vehicles were entering this area. So, I decided to go too. I stopped briefly at the equestrian statue to take some photos. While I was there, a couple pulled up in their car. They had garlands to pay respect to the statue of King Rama V.
I then went to the northern end of the plaza to take a photo of Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. That was when I was approached by whom I presume were plainclothes policemen. They basically told me I couldn’t take a photo. They pointed out a soldier on guard duty and said I couldn’t take a picture of the soldier. I asked if it was alright as I had taken pictures of the equestrian statue and they said yes. I then continued along Uthong Nai Alley to the northern end. I passed on my right the former grounds of Dusit Zoo and on my left the former grounds of the Parliament building. I didn’t stop to take photos as there were more plainclothes policemen. Obviously, this is no longer a tourist destination.
Google Streetview in September 2021
If you check out Google Streetview for September 2020, you will see what the entrance to the Royal Plaza looked like prior to the building of the gated fence. If I had to speculate about the reason, and this is something you won’t see mentioned in the mainstream media, it was built to control access to the Royal Plaza. There is a law forbidding protesters to go within 150 metres of a royal palace. This new gate is 200 metres from the entrance to Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall in the northwestern corner of the Royal Plaza. This is the official residence of King Rama X. Over the last few years there have been demonstrations calling for the monarchy to be reformed and the abolishing of the lese majeste law. In the past, protesters have come very close to this area and the Grand Palace.

Win a Bangkok Guidebook

The Must See Sites in Bangkok

COMPETITION

Most weeks I will try to have a competition for my subscribers to win some prizes. A few weeks back, I joined with AirDeveloppa to give away three air-purifiers. If you are a company based in Thailand and have a product that you are willing to donate as prizes, then please let me know.
This week I have two copies of a guidebook called ‘The Must See Sites in Bangkok’ which was published by the Bangkok Tourism Division. I’ve been using this book myself recently while exploring Bangkok. So, I picked up two extra copies for my subscribers.
To have a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is send an email to [email protected] with the subject line ‘Win a Bangkok Guidebook’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win a copy of ‘The Must See Sites in Bangkok’. I live in Thailand.” As I am paying to send these out myself, your address needs to be inside Thailand. Or it can be the address of a friend or a hotel if you are not here yet. The deadline is Saturday 27th November 2021. Thanks, and good luck!

Christmas Tree at CentralWorld

Christmas Tree at CentralWorld in Bangkok
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Bangkok with the decorations already going up around town. CentralWorld always has the biggest tree and this year is no exception. This year it is 40-metres high which, according to their press release, makes it the tallest Christmas tree in Southeast Asia. They had their lighting up ceremony on 18th November. Strictly speaking, these are not Christmas decorations but rather seasonal decorations as they are for both Christmas and the new year. Thais like adopting festivals from around the world which is why Halloween and Valentine’s Day are so popular here.

View of Wat Arun from Inn a Day restaurant

View of the Temple of Dawn
Last weekend, after a day of exploring Bangkok, I had dinner at Inn a Day restaurant on the Chao Phraya River. What made this experience special is the view of Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn. The best time to visit is at sunset. The restaurant is on the ground floor, but they have a viewing area on upper floors. You can also stay here as they have rooms.
Wat Arun lit up at night
The lights on Wat Arun are turned on shortly after sunset. The night we went, they turned it on at 6:15 p.m. But I have seen it lit up earlier which will make a better picture while the sky is still a dark blue. Inn a Day is not necessarily the best place to have a view here. There are restaurants on either side which are actually higher. Here are a few examples:
I noticed that they have also been building a new pier here which looks finished. I saw that some photographers had set up tripods here to take photos of the sunset. I am not sure what kind of view they had down there, but as it is free access, it might be worth checking out.

Updates about King Rama IX Park

Back in Issue #3, I wrote about Nang Loeng racecourse that is being turned into a new public park for Bangkok. It is expected to be opened in 2024. Last week, the Royal Household Bureau released a series of artist’s impressions of what the park will look like once it is finally finished. And it is looking really great. The centrepiece will be a giant statue of King Bhumibol Adulyadej as the park is dedicated to his memory. According to local media, the present king and queen will visit the building site on 5th December to lay the foundation stone for the statue.
The 44.64-hectare park will have more than 4,500 trees from all around Thailand. In fact, each province will be represented with their tree symbol. There will also be a large lake which will be shaped like the Thai number nine, for King Rama IX. There will also be bicycle and running lanes, and exercise areas. The park will also serve as a water retention area, or monkey cheeks, to help with the flood problems in the capital. If you want to see some more images, then watch the short video below.

Seagulls at Bang Pu Recreation Centre

Sunset on Sukta Pier in Bang Pu, Samut Prakan
For those people living in Bangkok who want to enjoy some sea breeze, can I suggest visiting Bang Pu Recreation Centre in Samut Prakan? There is a 500 metre-long concrete pier here with a restaurant at the far end. During the cooler months, from November to March, you will see many migrant birds who come here from Northern Europe and Russia. In particular, there are thousands of seagulls. The most popular time to visit is at the end of the day before sunset. If you are coming to visit the open-air museum at Ancient Siam, you could stop here afterwards as it is only ten minutes away.
You can come here most of the way by skytrain. Just take the Sukhumwit Line southwards to BTS Kheha station which is the present terminal station. From here, it is only ten minutes to Sukta Pier. Along the way you will pass the entrance to Ancient Siam on your left, Wat Askoram on your right (there is a seaside walk that starts here), and a number of side roads on the right that lead to restaurants along the sea. I’ve added a few map links below. There is talk of extending the skytrain even further and it will pass all these attractions.

Interesting Tweets

🌳 One of the most unusual park parks in #Bangkok is the Chao Phraya Sky Park. It is 280 meters long and 8.5 meters wide. It goes down the middle of Phra Polk Klao Bridge and links the Phra Nakhon and Thonburi sides of the river.

📍MAP: https://t.co/QlHfpDV7Bo https://t.co/hRgHMUBOFC

🌳 One of the most unusual park parks in #Bangkok is the Chao Phraya Sky Park. It is 280 meters long and 8.5 meters wide. It goes down the middle of Phra Polk Klao Bridge and links the Phra Nakhon and Thonburi sides of the river.

📍MAP: https://t.co/QlHfpDV7Bo https://t.co/hRgHMUBOFC

A couple of years ago, there was an art project at Pak Khlong Flower Market that had street art showing real life workers. Unfortunately most have disappeared but there are a few good ones left, worth hunting down.

📍MAP: https://t.co/ufdyZkiuv5 #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/tgF02DgvZo

Bangkok Walking Maps – 6

This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Samsen Thewet which is an area along the Chao Phraya River that includes Vietnamese and Khmer communities and religious sites. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
See You Next Time!
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next week. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks.
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Topics for this issue include:
Thailand Pass Updates and News
Loy Krathong Festival
The British War Memorial
Hidden Dangers of Taxis
International Lantern and Food Festival
Annual Monkey Party in Lopburi
Monks Doing Alms Round by Boat
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
The Grand Palace
Changing the Emerald Buddha Costume
Interesting Tweets
Bangkok Walking Maps – 5

Thailand Pass Updates and News

The Thailand Pass system seems to be improving with time. Certainly, less people complaining about server errors. In fact, quite a few people have told me that they were approved and received the QR Code within minutes. However, there are still people who are reporting it is taking up to a week or more to get approved. While there are some who have had their application rejected. According to the latest statistics, 214,251 people have now applied for the Thailand Pass with 167,415 being approved so far. They don’t say how many are rejected or still waiting. But they do say that 86,719 people had their applications accepted automatically.

To have a better chance of receiving automatic approval for Thailand Pass, you need to come from one of these 30 countries that share a PKI key for vaccination certificates. At the meeting I had with the consular department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see here), they said they are planning on extending the number of countries that they will be able to do an automatic approval for vaccination certificates. One of the improvements about the Thailand Pass that has now gone live is the ability to log in to check your registration status. You will also be able to download the QR Code instead of waiting for an email.

There were some updates that we were hoping to see on the 15th November that haven’t been passed yet. For example, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) were pushing for the RT-PCR test on arrival to be changed to the faster and cheaper ATK test. But that was rejected by the CCSA at their last meeting. The TAT also wanted the age of exemption for unvaccinated children taking part in Test and Go to be raised to under 18, the same as for the Sandbox. But again, no sign of that happening. There will be another review before the 1st December and then again before 15th December. Incidentally, Cambodia is now allowing fully vaccinated tourists to go there without quarantine. Like Thailand, you have to do a RT-PCR test 72 hours before departure, but once you arrive, you only have to do a rapid antigen test.

Loy Krathong Festival

The Loy Krathong festival this year is on Friday 19th November 2021. This is one of my favourite Thai festivals that is celebrated on the full moon on the 12th lunar month according to the Thai calendar. This is usually in November but once it was on Halloween Day in October. Loy Krathong takes place all over the country. People will go down to their local river or even pond to float a small container which is traditionally made from banana leaves. In Thai, the word “loy” means to float. They will put a candle, incense sticks and often a few coins for good luck into their krathongs. They will then float this on the water asking for forgiveness from Mother Nature for polluting waterways. As they crouch there and watch their krathong float away under the gaze of the full moon, the Thai people believe that the krathong is also floating away their bad luck.

Where will you be celebrating this year? One of my favourite locations is at Sukhothai Historical Park. But this year, I don’t want to attend a major event. Loy Krathong is celebrated anywhere around Thailand where you can find water. I remember asking my students one year where they celebrated Loy Krathong, and one kid replied, in a tub of water in the back garden! If you are in Bangkok, the main areas are Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street (map) and under Rama VIII Bridge (map). The BMA are also allowing people to float their krathongs in 30 public parks in Bangkok. The most popular will most likely be Lumpinee Park.


If you are looking for more ideas about where to go around Thailand, then TAT Newsroom has just sent out this press release: TAT highlights unique locations throughout Thailand for Loi Krathong Festival 2021.

One final note about the Loy Krathong festival. Please think carefully about water pollution. Don’t use krathongs made from foam or plastic. Buy something that is biodegradable. These days you can buy traditional ones made from the trunk of a banana tree and banana leaves. But make sure they are pinned together with wooden pins and not metal. You can also buy krathongs made from bread. The BMA has been running a campaign for a number of years now to encourage people not to use foam and to also only float one krathong per family. Last year, the BMA collected 492,537 krathongs in Bangkok. 96.4% were made from natural materials and only 3.6% from foam which is good progress.

The British War Memorial

The annual Remembrance Sunday service took place on Sunday at the British Club in Bangkok. It was good to see the service well-attended by ambassadors and the expatriate community. The event does not only commemorate British, Commonwealth, and allied personnel, but all those who have been affected in all conflicts. According to the British embassy website, the Remembrance Day service “serves as a reminder that nations who fought so bitterly against each other can come together to promote peace and stability in the modern world”. The cenotaph was relocated here from the former site of the British Embassy about three years ago.

The war memorial used to be situated near the Ploenchit road gate at what was then the compound for the British Legation. In this old photo in the national archives, you can just see the Queen Victoria statue behind it and the ambassador’s residence at the back. Back in 1919, the British community in Bangkok wanted to erect a memorial in honour of the British subjects from Siam who had fallen during the Great War. The cenotaph was unveiled on 10th January 1923. The service was led by the Reverend R.J. Hitchcock. This was the first structure to be built in the new compound. The legation officially moved here in 1925, though most buildings weren’t finished until the following year.

After the sale of the front part of the British Embassy compound, to make way for Central Embassy shopping mall, the war memorial was moved from the front entrance on Ploenchit Road to a spot in front of the ambassador’s residence, and Queen Victoria’s statue was moved to the back. The “front entrance” of the embassy for the public was now on Wireless Road. However, the memorial still faced the same way with the front facing Ploenchit and the back facing the residence where the Remembrance Day service is held. This small mistake has now been corrected at the British Club. Twenty-five men of British descent living in Siam gave their lives during the Great War of 1914-1918. Their names are listed in alphabetical order clockwise around the four sides of the Cenotaph with “A” being at the front.

Hidden Dangers of Taxis

If you have been following me on Twitter, you would know that I’ve been highlighting the dangers of being in unventilated spaces during a global pandemic. This is because Covid-19 is airborne and aerosols with viruses can linger in the air for hours. There’s no cheap way of detecting if Covid-19 is present in a room, but you can use a CO2 meter as a proxy to work out the risks. For example, anything over 800 ppm means that you are breathing in the air that has already been in someone else’s lungs. You don’t need me to tell you of the risks you are taking if someone in the room has Covid-19 or any other airborne virus. And it doesn’t matter if they have already left as the aerosols will linger for several hours afterwards.
Of all of the places that I have tested for CO2 on my travels, the taxis in Bangkok are potentially the most dangerous. More so than cinemas, supermarkets and even long airplane flights. In the photo above, you can see that as soon as I got in the taxi, the reading went from around 500 ppm to 2778 ppm. I’ve been in taxis before where it went as high as 3200 ppm. You definitely need a tight fitting N95 masks for taxis. A regular surgical mask offers no protection. So, what can you do to lower your risk? The first thing is to ask the driver to turn off the “recirculation” button. This then brings in air from outside. As you can see in the photo, within ten minutes it had dropped to an acceptable 677 ppm. You could also open a window. But from my experiments, you need to open the front left and back right window which will change the air quicker than just one window alone.

International Lantern and Food Festival

This evening I’m at a press preview of the “Thailand International Lantern and Food Festival” at Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan. The event takes place from 12th November to 6th December 2021. There will be special activities on Loy Krathong Day and the King’s birthday. #Thailandhttps://t.co/UlOxmXJRME

The Thailand International Lantern and Food Festival is taking place from now until 6th December at Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan. I went for the press preview last week and it looked really great. They have over 1,000 lanterns. They have also lit up some of their buildings and monuments. The best days to go are for Loy Krathong on 19th November and King Rama IX’s birthday anniversary on 5th-6th December as there will be extra activities. It is easy to reach there now by taking the Skytrain to the end of the Green Line to BTS Keha station and then a ten-minute taxi or songtaew ride. Unfortunately, this is one of those places that have two prices, but if you live or work in Thailand, you can get the Thai price. I personally think it is worth it.
More information: villageofillumination.com

Annual Monkey Party in Loburi

The annual Monkey Party in Lopburi has been confirmed to take place on Sunday 28th November at Pra Prang Sam Yod in the city. There will be four rounds: 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm. If you are going up for the weekend, you might want to look out for the sunflower fields that are popular at this time of year. I might be going again this year and so look out for more trip details and photos on my social media. The State Railway of Thailand do weekend day excursions to Pasak Chonlasit Dam in Lopburi. I will try and get some confirmed information about this for you in the next newsletter.
Map: https://goo.gl/maps/1y2Wkt6978ZgNA837

Monks Doing Alms Round by Boat

The tradition of offering alms to monks on boats is not seen so much these days. In the old days, when canals were the highways, it was more common. One place where you can still observe this is at Kwan Riam Floating Market in Minburi district of Bangkok. If you come at 7:30am on Saturday or Sunday, you can offer alms to monks on boats. Once finished, you can then have breakfast in this riverside market. They also do short 30-minute boat tours from here along Saen Saeb canal. It is a nice market, but it is not my favourite.
MORE PHOTOS: richardbarrow.com

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market

One of my favourite riverside markets is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market in Taling Chan district of Bangkok. I went there the other weekend and it was just as popular as ever. If you are worried about crowds, I would strongly advise you to arrive by 9:00am at the latest. This is a great place to come to eat a meal or two and do some shopping. We also did a boat tour from here which lasted about one hour. You can take the public boat, but we decided to rent the whole boat for only 300 baht. I highly recommend doing this trip. If you don’t have your own transport, then just take a taxi. As long as you don’t come back too late in the afternoon, you won’t have difficulty in finding a passing taxi to take you back home.
MORE PHOTOS: richardbarrow.com
We had a really great boat trip this morning from Khlong Lat Mayom. You can either share a boat with others for 100 Baht each or rent the whole boat for 300 Baht. We did the latter. We stopped at Wat Saphan floating market and then Luang Niyom Orchid Farm #Bangkok #Thailandhttps://t.co/DLX2rggvHS

The Grand Palace

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When I returned to Thailand last week with the Thailand Pass, I thought that the firsthand experience that I had gained would be enough to help answer the questions people had. But as it turned out, I literally had hundreds and hundreds of questions. Many of which were unique to each person. So, I contacted the spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to see if he could set up an interview for me with a staff member in the consular department. As it turned out, Mr. Chatchai Viriyavejakul, the Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs, wanted to meet me in person. I am grateful that he took the time to sit down with me to explain in more detail the process, and to answer my questions. This special newsletter is basically a summary of what I learned today.

The Thailand Pass

After reading all the comments on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I can see that quite a few people misunderstand about who is running the Thailand Pass system. Some people were saying Immigration, others were saying the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). But the truth is, it is run by the Department of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (The Thai embassies and foreigners applying for visas come under this department.) For the Certificate of Entry, the MFA did the back-end themselves using their existing online infrastructure. But for Thailand Pass, it was decided to ask the Digital Government Development Agency (DGA) to program it for them. (The DGA report directly to the Office of the Prime Minister as part of the government’s goal for all state agencies to become fully digitised by 2022.)
The idea about the Thailand Pass system was to streamline the application process to make it quicker and easier for people to apply. It is also meant to make it more automated in anticipation of more people arriving in the December/January period. According to tourism operators that I spoke to at WTM London, they are already receiving quite a few bookings from tourists for the first quarter in 2022. So, it is very important that there is a system in place that can cope with the expected numbers. Of course, we won’t see a repeat of the 40 million visitors that we had a couple of years ago. But an estimated 20% of this number will visit next year. Which means by January, the Thailand Pass system must be fast and efficient and mainly automated. They say at the moment, nearly 50% of the applicants, particularly ones entering the quarantine program as they don’t have a vaccine certificate, are automatically approved.
I think the first thing to say here is that they recognise the problems that they have had so far and that they are working hard to improve the system. Some updates coming very soon include the ability to upload PDF files and also multiple files per section. They will also add a dropdown list for approved hotels. For Bangkok, it is very important that people book a hotel package that includes transfer from the airport and the RT-PCR testing.
I think the biggest improvement that they will be implementing soon is the ability to log in to check on your application status. Which will also give you the ability to download the QR Code once it has been released. They did tell me that they weren’t able to send the QR Code to a number of people as they either made a mistake typing their email address or their mailbox was full and it bounced back. Being able to log in and check on status and download the QR Code yourself will be much better. Plus, if something was rejected in just one section, you can go in and correct that without having to apply again.

Visitors and returning Thai nationals can now apply for Thailand Pass by visiting http://tp.consular.go.th/. For any queries, they can be addressed to the call center of the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 02 572 8442, which has added 30 additional lines for this purpose.

Frequently Asked Questions

After writing in my last newsletter and on social media that I would be meeting with the director general to talk about the Thailand Pass, I was inundated with literally hundreds of emails and messages. My post on Facebook inviting people to send in questions and suggestions had 544 comments alone. Many of these questions are beyond the scope of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as anything to do with Covid-19 and health issues has to be answered by the Department of Disease Control under the Ministry of Public Health. But I think I managed to get many of the most frequent questions and problems answered. If not, I have added contact details down below.

VACCINATION CERTIFICATES

I want to be quite clear here. Although the Thailand Pass is a project under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is the Ministry of Public Health who are responsible for verifying the vaccine certificates. This can quite often be done automatically. Thailand is part of a 30-member group of countries that share a PKI (public key infrastructure) for vaccination certificates. This will allow them to instantly authenticate the certificate. I haven’t seen a list of countries, but I am told that most are in Europe. Other certificates with QR Codes are relatively easy for them to authenticate too. But there are some certificates that are challenging for them which is why it sometimes takes time. Particularly if someone uploaded an image that is not clear.
Many people asked about children. At this moment, for the Test & Go program, children must be under 12 to be exempt from being vaccinated and for the Sandbox program, they need to be under 18. Some people asked me about their child who only had one jab as per the rules in their country. Unfortunately, to be recognised as fully vaccinated, they need to have the full course of jabs as outlined by the manufacturer. However, there might be some good news soon. A senior TAT executive told me last week that the age of exemption for the Test & Go program might soon be changed to under 18, the same as for the Sandbox. There will be a CCSA meeting on Friday that will discuss possible changes. If it doesn’t happen for mid-November, then this change might happen on 1st December.
One of the reasons a vaccine certificate is rejected is because the vaccine is not approved by the Thai government. Also, to be considered fully vaccinated, your 2nd dose must be administered at least 14 days before your travel. Here is the list of approved vaccines:
  • CoronaVac (Sinovac)
  • AstraZeneca
  • Pfizer-BioNTech
  • Moderna
  • COVILO (Sinopharm)
  • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)
  • Sputnik V
You are allowed to mix vaccines on this list according to this guide:
  • 1st dose (Sinovac) = 2nd dose after 2 weeks
  • 1st dose (AstraZeneca) = 2nd dose after 4 weeks
  • 1st dose (Pfizer-BioNTech = 2nd dose after 3 weeks
  • 1st dose (Moderna) = 2nd dose after 4 weeks
  • 1st dose (Sinopharm) = 2nd dose after 3 weeks
  • 1st dose (Sputnik V) = 2nd dose after 3 weeks

INSURANCE POLICIES

For tourists coming to Thailand for a holiday, it is highly recommended anyway to take out medical insurance. Particularly if you choose to travel during a global pandemic. If by some slim chance you test positive on arrival, and the rate at the moment is 0.10% of arrivals, then you will need a good insurance. Also, one that covers you for a hospital stay even if you do not have any symptoms.
See my last newsletter, The Nightmare of Testing Positive on Arrival in Thailand, for what may face you. You could be quarantined even if you test negative but sit next to someone, either on the plane or in the hotel transfer car, who later tests positive. However, in the latter scenario, I don’t think you will find an insurance policy which will cover you for a forced hotel quarantine of 14 days.
I think expatriates are finding it harder than tourists to find appropriate insurance for the $50,000 coverage. Particularly as they are supposed to be covered for the remaining length of the time left on their visa. I had ten months left on mine and was quoted 30,000 baht for a one-year insurance policy! Foreigners with Permanent Residence or people with long-term Thailand Elite visas, would face a much bigger bill. On this matter, I think I have some good news and some clarification about the rules.
For a start, it doesn’t seem to be written down anywhere that you need to have special insurance to cover you for the time you will be in Thailand if you are on a long-term visa. It was just implied by some embassies. I asked the director general about this, and he said a 30-day policy would be plenty. After all, if you test positive, you will only need to do 10 days in a hospital and a possible 14 day quarantine afterwards. So, a 30-day policy would cover you.
I also asked him about the option to have a certified letter from your employer. He said that as long as it is on official letterhead and clearly states that you are fully insured by the company and all costs can be covered up to $50,000, then you won’t need to take out a special insurance policy. He also confirmed that people like myself who have social security, can use this instead of taking out a special insurance. Another misunderstanding is that the insurance must have Covid-19 coverage up to $50,000. That is not true, and it can be general insurance up to that amount.

APPLICATION FORM QUESTIONS

I personally found the online Thailand Pass form easy to fill out and submit. That is if you ignore the server errors that I was getting last week. See my Summary of the Reopening of Thailand for the full details of how I managed to fly into Thailand. But there were a few things that were puzzling at first.
The “length of stay” field was a problem for some people. Tourists could just estimate and say 30 days. But for expatriates like myself, we plan to be here indefinitely. In the end, I had to ask Siri how many days until my visa expired. But I was told today that I could have just entered 999. But they added that there will be a special field here soon for expatriates.
Another problem is the “date of arrival”. For many people, there should also be a date of departure as it might take them several days to reach Thailand. This then becomes a problem if their QR Code doesn’t arrive before their first flight. They recognise that as a problem and have noted it. The second problem is that some people might need to move their flight date for some reason. I think most of us thought that to do that we would have to apply again from the start. But that is not so. You can apparently still arrive as long as it is within 72 hours of that date. I think that is good to know.
Before I forget, many people asked how far in advance can you apply for a Thailand Pass. Well, the good news is that there is no time limit. If you want to, you can apply now for a holiday to Thailand in say January next year. If you do that now, then you don’t need to worry about the QR Code arriving on time.

A Summary and a Look to the Future

The Thailand Pass is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future. Once they have updated the software with the improvements that I have mentioned, it will be a lot easier for you to use. They are also working hard on automating more of the process so that more people will get the QR Code back very quickly. We should also see an easing of some rules over the next few weeks. So, like I have said many times already, don’t rush to come to Thailand. Certainly not during this transition period between the COE and Thailand Pass. But, if you can wait until, say December, then you will find it much easier.
Like I mentioned earlier, there will be a big CCSA meeting on Friday that will be reviewing the first two weeks of the reopening of the country and will discuss possible easing of some of the rules. I think next week, we might see the exemption age for vaccination certificates for the Test & Go program will be raised from under 12 to under 18. Another major change we might see next week, is the dropping of the rule to have a RT-PCR test within 72 hours of departure. This is because there is a growing number of countries that don’t actually have an option to have this test done. If it doesn’t happen next week, then I think we should see that happen by 1st December. The other thing they should be discussing is the list of approved countries and territories.
Other rules will probably remain for the time being. I would personally like to see the RT-PCR test on arrival to be changed to the quicker lateral flow test that places like the UK are now doing. A senior TAT executive told me that is a possibility. That travellers would be tested at the airport and after waiting 15 minutes for the negative result, they are then free to go anywhere they like. So, literally a Test & Go scheme. But, the Ministry of Public Health must agree to that. However, if they drop the pre-flight RT-PCR test later this month, I don’t think they will drop it for arrival any time soon. We might need to wait until January for that.

Contact Information

Contact information for people applying for Thailand Pass:
Call Center (24 Hours):
  • 02-572-8442
  • 065-205-4247
  • 065-205-4248
  • 065-205-4249
E-mail (for technical problems) [email protected]go.th
You may also contact the Thai Embassy or Thai Consulate-General in your area.

Statistics

Yesterday, 2,779 people flew into #Thailand with three of them testing positive. This brings the total since 1st November to 28,021 people and 29 infections (0.10%). Most are taking part in Test & Go (17,861/0.07% infected) and most landed at Suvarnbhumi airport (17,494). https://t.co/SM4VpbYAFY

CORRECTION

In my last newsletter, I mistakenly said, “if the statistics are anything to go by, you will have to be extremely unlucky to test negative”. I of course meant “positive”. Unfortunately, by the time I spotted this error, the emails had been sent out. However, I did correct it immediately on the online version. My apologies for this confusion and hopefully most people saw it for what it was, a typo.

SEE YOU NEXT TIME

Thanks again for reading this far and for subscribing to my newsletter. You can find all of the back issues on my profile page. I am planning to return to my usual weekly format starting this Sunday. I am also planning on having another exclusive competition for subscribers. So, if you haven’t subscribed already, please do so now. Thanks and see you next time.

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Today’s special newsletter is about the nightmare that falls upon you if you test positive on arrival in Thailand. This is what happened to Kirovs, a tourist who came to Thailand with his family. He is now in hospital and his family are in hotel quarantine. The second story is from James who is considered a close contact as he was in the same car from the airport as someone who tested positive. Neither of the people who tested positive have any symptoms and they are now desperately trying to find out if their insurance will cover the large hospital bill.

Story 1: Testing Positive

The first story is about a family of four who came to Thailand for a 13-day holiday. Kirovs, the father, tested positive and was sent to a hospital for ten days. The mother and the two children, aged two and four, are close contacts and so were told to stay in the quarantine hotel. He believes they will have to do another test on day 3 or 4 and if they test negative, then they might be able to go. But they would have to go without him as he is expecting to stay in hospital for at least ten days. He doesn’t have any symptoms and he is really hoping his insurance will cover the cost. He thinks it will cost him around 350,000 baht which is the hospital and quarantine hotel fees.

“A Family of Four’s Nightmare”

We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning on 7th of November, did our RT-PCR tests at the hotel at around 10:00 a.m. and spent a day in our hotel room very excited about our upcoming adventures – I was searching for hotel deals for the next couple of days in Bangkok. As I wanted peace of mind, I had brought some ATK test kits in my luggage. I did a test for myself, and my wife did one, both were negative. So, we told our kids that this day will be tough, but the next ones will be great.
We went to bed early. At around 9:00 p.m. a phone call woke me up. At first, I understood that everything is alright, but it turned out that the hotel receptionist was only talking about my wife and my kids. She finished the sentence by saying my results detected Covid and we must go to the hospital in different cars.
Then there were a lot of questions from us and a lot of – I will call you backs from hotel management. During that night, they updated or changed the information every hour or so. Probably it was also a new thing for them, and they were forwarding my questions to the hospital.
As I was feeling very healthy, I was also afraid that the result is a false positive and I might get infected in the hospital. I did not understand – which hospital will they take me to, how much it is going to cost and what will happen with my family, when will they be allowed to leave the room? I made some desperate attempts to ask for a second test in the morning, but it was not an option.
That night was terrible, we could not sleep, kids woke up at 1:00 a.m. because of jet lag and we realised that not only our holiday was ruined, but the next days are going to be terrible for all of us and this experience might cost us much more than the hotels I was searching earlier that day. I wanted to hug my wife and kids to say sorry, but I am afraid to do it, because I’m covid positive.
Next morning, I got transferred to the hospital– in an ambulance, with sirens on. Only thing that I knew about this hospital was that it has 2.7 stars in Google reviews so I was afraid to go there. The nurse was very nice and friendly, she was the only English speaking person I met there that morning.
When I entered the hospital, I was hoping that somebody will check me and recognize that there are no threats to my health. They took my blood and left a catheter in my arm, measured my temperature and blood pressure. Later that day, another nurse came and took an x-ray of my chest.
Otherwise, they were mostly talking about my insurance and possible payments, and filling various hospital forms in Thai. I was shown 300,000 on a phone as medical expenses. I told them that I need to think about this and call my insurance company. Later I got presented another sheet of paper which shows that I must pay for my room and other daily services (written in Thai) 5,900 baht/day.
And then finally a doctor called me, that conversation was very hard to follow – as he did not speak English, but he was talking to somebody else (maybe somebody who did help with translation) for several minutes and then every 2 minutes he told me a couple of fast sentences in English. I mostly just tried to ask for some clarification and tried to reformulate my questions, but what I think he told me was that as I am in quarantine, he is not going to see me in person, but I must take antiviral pills because otherwise my lungs are in danger. These pills, also, will cost about 10,000- to 15,000 baht.
While I was writing this summary, a nice women came in who spoke good English, I got some clarification about why they want me to drink antiviral pills (because my weight is more than 90kg which is classified as risk category in Thailand) but I finally managed to arrange another RT-PCR test. I told them that I will be happy to pay for that. Not sure if it will give any improvements to my situation, but I had to try that.
Hospital staff is friendly, but overall felling is very depressing, with all the absence of information and smothering with bills and inability to meet family or go outside. Insurance is supposed to cover most of it, but I cannot feel sure about that until it is officially approved.
I cannot get away from the feeling that I let my children down by dragging them on this adventure, flying 11 hours just to get locked in a hotel room. I knew that I was taking a gamble when I chose to buy airplane tickets as soon as the Thailand reopening was announced. But I thought that we will play it safe and chances will be super small. We lost that bet.

Story 2: Tested Negative but is a Close Contact

This second story is by James. Shortly before midnight, the hotel texted him to give him his test results: “The covid test you are negative but you can’t leave here because your friend covid test result positive. You quarantine this here 14 day.” The reason they gave him was because they came to the hotel in the same car. This is his story.

“Two Companions Travelling Together”

I travelled from England on the 6th of November and arrived in Thailand at 12:40 p.m. on the 7th of November. My reason for travel is to be with my wife and I travelled with a friend who was due to go his own way to see his girlfriend.
Upon arriving at the hotel, we both were tested at 2:30 p.m. and sent to our separate rooms. At midnight we both received a message. His said that he had tested positive and will be transferred to hospital, and mine said that mine is negative, but I’d need to stay in quarantine for 14 days.
No other information was given to us, no messages answered so we were just left waiting. At 7:00 p.m. on the 8th, the ambulance finally arrived, and he was transferred to hospital where he remains. He is still waiting for the doctor to come to see him and I’m just a sitting duck in my room where my hotel won’t even provide me with tea bags after asking for over 1 day.
I don’t know whether I’m going to get another PCR test done or if I’m just expected to stay for the 14 days. None of us have any symptoms of Covid-19 and upon arriving at the hospital, my friend’s temperature was checked and is normal.
It’s a strange situation to be in having travelled to Thailand multiple times during the pandemic with no previous issues.

The Gamble of Going to Thailand

So, how much of a gamble is it to come to Thailand at this time? Well, if the statistics are anything to go by, you will have to be extremely unlucky to test negative. Particularly if you are fully vaccinated and coming in on the Test & go program. Between 1-8 November, out of the 15,763 people who landed at Survanabhumi airport to take part in Test & Go, only eleven people, or 0.07%, tested positive. Nationally for all airports and all programs including quarantine, 26 people out of 24,905 arrivals tested positive which is 0.10%. Of course, this doesn’t mentioned the number of people who are considered to be high risk close contacts. These could be people sitting next to an infected person on the flight or someone who shared the same hotel transfer vehicle.
The common theme of these two stories is the lack of communication about what is going and what will happen next. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is promoting Thailand as a wonderful and safe tourist destination. But once people arrive here and they face a situation such as this, then they are basically left to fend for themselves. The same happened when quarantine was changed from 14 days to 7 days. There was no communication at all about what would happen to people who arrived that day. Even the hotels were giving different stories. When you invite someone to be a guest in your country, the right thing to do is to inquire if they need any help if things go wrong.
In the case of Kirovs, he was told that his family will probably only need to quarantine for a further 3-4 days and then do another test. If they tested negative, then they could go. In James’s case, they told him he must quarantine for 14 days which I haven’t heard about before. Usually it is ten days quarantine and more recently you were given an option to test again so you can be released earlier. He said his hotel is not answering his questions about this. I know the odds are low of this happening to you, but it was at the back of my mind when I was flying into Thailand last week. I had to wait 28 hours before I got my test results.
That’s the end of this special newsletter. Thanks for subscribing and reading this far. I might have some more updates about the Thailand Pass in a few days as I will be going to the consular department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs tomorrow for a meeting. Also, if I get any updates on these two stories I will let you know. Thanks.

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I hope you enjoyed the special dispatches about my preparations to fly to the UK and then back again to Thailand during the first week of the reopening of the country to fully vaccinated visitors. The special newsletter today is a brief summary of everything I went through over the last two weeks. There was a lot of anxiety, confusion and last-minute panic. But I got there in the end. As a side note, the weekly “Letters from Thailand” will return on Sunday. There will be a competition to win a copy of the latest Michelin Food Guide to Thailand. This special newsletter will be in six parts.

Part 1 – Going to the UK

Talking with the Minister of Tourism and Sports and the TAT Governor at WTM 2021

This first section is about my experience of flying from Thailand to the UK to attend WTM 2021 at the invitation of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I was only in the UK for around four days before I flew back home to Thailand.
Around 48 hours before I flew to the UK, I had to fill out a Passenger Locator Form (PLF) about my travel history, travel plans coming to the UK, and my vaccination status. I was lucky that recently the rules had been eased so that people from Thailand did not need to quarantine if they had been fully vaccinated with approved vaccines. In my case, I had been double jabbed with AstraZeneca. Friends who were vaccinated with Sinovac weren’t so lucky as they would need to quarantine.
I also had to book a Day 2 Covid-19 test in advance as the reference number is needed for the PLF. At the time of our booking, it was supposed to be a RT-PCR test. But this was later relaxed to be the cheaper rapid lateral flow test. This didn’t matter to us as we needed to get a RT-PCR test within 72 hours of our departure to Thailand. So, we were able to kill two birds with one stone. We booked one that came to the hotel to do it. I believe you can also do a walk-in at some Boots stores or even at the airport.
When I was doing research about the PLF, I saw many people complain about the form saying it was complicated and didn’t always work. Much the same as people are also complaining about the Thailand Pass form. However, my experience was pretty straightforward. I filled in all the details that were asked for and almost immediately I received back an automatic email that contained a PDF of my Passenger Locator Form. That was it!

Part 2 – Flying on Thai Airways

Onboard the Thai Airways flight – safety first!

When I checked in at the Thai Airways counter at Suvarnabhumi Airport, they asked for my Passenger Locator Form and for my vaccination certificate. I had both the hospital certificate and the yellow vaccine passport. I decided to show the hospital certificate and it was accepted. In fact, I never used the yellow vaccine passport during this entire trip. But that doesn’t mean it was useless. Other people told me it was accepted at all places that they showed it, including at the WTM event in London. I think it also has the advantage that it is small and slim and can easily slip into my passport. So, I would use that for future trips.
* As a side note, you used to be able to buy the vaccine passport at the airport, but they are not doing that anymore.
As you can see by the above picture, the Thai Airways staff on the airplane were all wearing protective clothing including mask and hairnet. However, on the return journey from London, they were wearing their regular uniforms with masks. I am not sure why they did that. None of the passengers were wearing PPE. But I guess it is a union thing. There have been some studies about plane travel which suggests that if you fly on one of the newer planes, like the Boeing that we were on, then you are safer than say standing in a supermarket queue. This is because they use HEPA filters which scrubs the air clean of nearly all the virus.
I also took my CO2 meter with me that showed the ventilation was good. On the first leg of the journey, when the plane was 80% full, the CO2 reading peaked at 1222 ppm which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. That’s lower than some supermarkets. Then for the second leg to London, when there were only 50 passengers onboard, the reading dropped to only 664 ppm. To put it in perspective, my taxi ride to the airport peaked at 3190 ppm. So the taxi ride was potentially more dangerous than the plane ride. Which made me feel better when I had to take off my mask to eat the two meals that they served.

Part 3 – Experience in London

In a wet and cold London

My arrival in London went very smoothly. We went through Immigration and picked up our baggage very quickly. No-one asked to see our Passenger Locator Form. I presume this is because it was checked in Bangkok and there was no need to check again. So, that was a very smooth arrival in the UK. On my return to Thailand, I would be detained in a hotel room while my RT-PCR test is at the lab. In London, we were free to go anywhere straight away. Our only obligation was to take the Day 2 RT-PCR test that we had booked in advance. In our case, we were allowed to do it on day three.
It was nice that we had the freedom, but there are risks involved in that. Particularly as none of us had done an RT-PCR test before leaving Thailand. (That’s not a requirement for flying to the UK.) When we arrived at our hotel, I was surprised to see no-one at the front desk wearing a mask. Especially as we had just stepped off the plane and hadn’t done any tests yet. Their attitude seemed to be that they are fully vaccinated and so there were no risks. In fact, when we went out and about, most people weren’t wearing masks. Even on public transport where there were announcements to wear masks. I think only Asians and tourists were wearing masks.

Part 4 – Preparing to Return to Thailand

Compared to flying to the UK, my return trip to Thailand was nerve-racking. Very nerve-racking. But like I said many times, it is not a good idea to fly to Thailand during this transition period between the Certificate of Entry (COE) and the new Thailand Pass. My original advice was to wait at least two weeks. In fact, if you are not in a rush, I would advise to wait until December or January as the Thailand Pass system is still buggy. In addition, there could be an update on 15th November and on 1st December that will ease some entry rules. For example, the TAT is pushing to drop the requirement for the pre-flight RT-PCR test. This is because in some countries, it is difficult or even impossible to get this test done. They also want the RT-PCR test on arrival to Thailand to be changed to the cheaper and faster lateral flow test like they already do in the UK. If this happens, then it will be a literal “Test and Go” at the airport and no need to wait at a hotel. But I cannot see that change happening before December. Maybe in January.
Last week I originally applied for the Certificate of Entry as I didn’t think there would be time for me to apply for the Thailand Pass. The system was being launched on the 1st of November and I was flying back on the 3rd of November. The COE was relatively easy to do though it was done in two parts. After the initial pre-approval, I then had to upload plane tickets and hotel booking. Which I did straight away. The next day, I then received the Certificate of Entry. Total time was three days. I then decided to apply for the Thailand Pass just for the experience to see if it was easier to apply, and easier to enter Thailand compared to people arriving with CEO. I also wanted to see if they would accept my social security digital card as the rule to allow this was changed the day after I had applied for my Certificate of Entry. As you probably know already, the process to apply for the Thailand Pass was far from smooth.
The Thailand Pass was due to go online at 9:00am which was 2:00am in the UK. I set the alarm to wake myself up. At first, I thought it wouldn’t take too long. After all, I had all the documents ready on my iPad. The only thing I had to do differently was to do screenshots of the PDF files as the system only accepts JPG images. (By the way, they will update this soon to allow to upload PDF files). The other problem is that you can only upload one file. So, if the PDF has multiple pages, then you need to do a photo collage.
For the Thailand Pass I needed to upload these five documents:
The photo page in my passport
My medical insurance
My vaccination certificate
The QR code for my vaccine certificate
My hotel booking (including RT-PCR testing)
I also had to enter personal details like passport number and date of birth and the date of arrival in Thailand. Unlike for the COE, I didn’t need to upload my visa or my flight ticket. On the last page I clicked submit and….. Nothing. It came up with a server error. Like other people, I tried multiple times before giving up. The next day I took the advice of some people and entered four spaces after my passport number and straight away I got the “success message”. Around 13 hours after this, I received an “automatic email” from the consular department in Bangkok saying my registration had been received and the results would be sent to me within seven working days. I was due to fly to Thailand the following day.
Twelve hours after the receiving the automatic email, I then got another email with my QR Code. Great news for me and other expats as that also meant that they had accepted my social security digital card (the link for applying for the digital card is below). Then a minute later I received another QR Code and then eight emails saying my application had been rejected due to duplicate registration. I panicked at first as I thought that they had rescinded my original QR Code. But I scanned that on my smartphone and it went to a website that said it was verified.
The email clearly said that I only needed to present these three things on check-in and on landing in Thailand:
Passport with visa (if required)
Thailand Pass QR Code (on mobile device or printed copy)
Medical certificate with a laboratory result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected through RT-PCR test (issued within 72 hours before departure).
Not everyone’s experience with the Thailand Pass registration system was the same. Some had no problem from the start. Some got their QR Code straight away. Some, like myself got it within 1-3 days. Others were panicking that it wouldn’t come and wondered if they should cancel their flights. For most people I don’t think it was the best of experiences. The main problem is that you cannot check on your registration status. And when you get an email back that says something was not correct, you must then apply again from the start. So that would potentially mean another seven days. I have already heard stories of people missing flights or just giving up. But the problem is, you cannot apply for the Thailand Pass unless you pre-book the accommodation and your insurance. It is such a gamble at the moment. Who would risk it?
Going back to my story, we headed to the airport early to check-in in case of delays. Like in Bangkok, the airline must check that you have all your documents before you fly. The people I was travelling with had COE. I had Thailand Pass. I really thought that my check-in would be simple as I only needed to show three things. It wasn’t so. Although this was now the 3rd of November, they hadn’t seen a Thailand Pass before. They knew it was coming but they didn’t know what to do with the QR Code. So, they asked me for print outs of all my documents. I gave them the negative Covid-19 test that I had just done and told them that the rest is on the QR Code. But they didn’t have a QR Code reader. I said you can use your phone, but she didn’t have an app.
Luckily, I had print outs of everything already. But my problem came with the insurance. She wanted to see the insurance policy where it said I have Covid-19 insurance coverage up to $50,000. All I had was my social security digital card. I showed it to her, but she wasn’t happy. I told her that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wouldn’t have issued me a Thailand Pass if they hadn’t accepted my social security. After a while, she found a colleague that had a QR reader on his phone and he scanned my QR Code. This then went to the website which said I was verified. She still wasn’t convinced but finally let me go. Hopefully, people who fly out in the coming days and weeks will have an easier time at check-in. But all was good in the end.

Part 5 – Experience in Bangkok

At the Grand Palace

After all the preparation, now was the big moment. Would the Thailand Pass give me automatic entry into Thailand? Would I test positive for Covid-19 and be sent to hospital for ten days? There were a lot of worries and uncertainties before I arrived in Thailand. But it wasn’t over yet. I keep asking myself, what kind of tourist would put themselves through this kind of thing? Surely it is the opposite meaning of a holiday?
I must admit that the arrival went much more smoothly and quicker than I thought it would. I disembarked from the airplane at 6:05 a.m. and was in the van heading to my hotel by 6:49 a.m. I arrived at my Bangkok hotel at 7:31 a.m., did the check-in and Covid-19 test and was in my room by 7:43 a.m. So, about one hour and 45 minutes from the airplane to my hotel room. Some people told me they did it quicker than me. Others said they were unlucky as several planes landed at the same time and it took more than two hours just to get out of the airport.
I arrived in Thailand on 4th November. At that time, not many people had the Thailand Pass. I think most were still using the Certificate of Entry. Arrival with a COE is more time consuming as they must go through all your documents check every detail. The idea with the Thailand Pass is that they just scan the QR Code and then they get a verification message that all my documents were in order. That was the theory anyway.
When I went up to the counter, I flashed the QR Code and said I had the Thailand Pass. But I was kind of saddened that he didn’t seem that interested, nor did he scan it after all that effort. I handed him my passport together with my TM6 arrival card and boarding pass. I also gave him the negative Covid-19 test results. He then asked me for my vaccination certificate. I told him it was on the QR Code but for some reason he still didn’t want to scan it. So, I gave him the vaccine certificate given to me by the hospital. But that was it. He let me pass. For those coming with a COE, he checked all their documents including insurance which he didn’t for me. I am presuming as it was still early days, they weren’t scanning the QR Code yet. Maybe they are doing so now. I would hope so, otherwise it would be a bit pointless.
Next was Immigration which was completely empty. Like when I departed, I had to put my hands on the fingerprint scanner. But someone cleaned it for me before I did that. I would have been in and out of here in a minute but there was a problem with my re-entry permit. The Immigration officer who stamped this for me last week got the date of issue and date of expiry stamps the wrong way round. So, she had to call her supervisor and it took about 10 minutes for them to sort out. I always tell people to always double check the stamps in their passport as they do make mistakes sometimes. Once they gave me a two-year extension of stay. If I had waited two years before I went back, they made it clear to me that I would have been fined for overstay, deported and then probably blacklisted. So, check and check again.
After Immigration there was another delay with the bags and then out through customs. They seemed bored and so asked many people to have random bags x-rayed. I am not sure what they were looking for. Then out to the arrival lounge where people in PPE suits were sitting at tables holding names of hotels. Someone asked me before if their girlfriend could meet them here and go with them to the hotel. The answer is definitely no, as this is a restricted area. Plus, you are basically under quarantine until you get your test results back. My hotel had organised a shared van as part of the package. You could also pay 2,000 baht extra for a private limousine service. Our driver wore a PPE suit and there was a plastic screen between him and us. I noticed that he had the recirculating air button turned on which meant after a while, I was starting to breathe in air that had been in the lungs of the other passengers. So, I quickly asked him to turn this off.
Not all hotels are the same. The bigger hotels had partnered up with local hospitals and they have a nurse on standby to do the RT-PCR test at the hotel. Smaller hotels use a swab centre at a hospital or medical clinic. The driver takes you there first and then to your hotel. In my case it was done at the hotel after I had checked in. I was then escorted up to my room where I was to remain until the results came out. They didn’t give me a keycard. They also told me that the lifts wouldn’t work without one. Which meant that when I wanted to check out, I would have to call down to the lobby to ask someone to come and take me down. Obviously, I could leave the room in case of a fire and go down the fire exit.
The amount of time you need to wait also varied from hotel to hotel. My hotel told us during booking that if we arrived before 8:00 a.m. then the results would be back by the evening of the same day. Meaning you could check out if you want to and go home or continue on your journey if you are a tourist. But when we arrived they said the results wouldn’t be back until the following day. In the end it took 28 hours for me to get the telephone call to say that I had tested negative and could check out. I can tell you, that was a really long 28 hours. Particularly as I was hearing from people on the same plane as me, at a different hotel, being released much earlier than me. This is definitely something that needs to be sorted. In Phuket, it is much faster and more efficient.
When I arrived in my room, I scanned a QR Code to order my three meals and to choose the time that I wanted it delivered. Again, the three meals were part of the package. When the meals arrived, someone knocked on the door. When I opened the door, there was no-one in sight, but the food was on a table. They had a TV on the wall with international channels. The mini bar was empty, but I had brought some snacks along with me and some beer from the plane. I had also brought my Firestick so I could watch Netflix and Disney Plus on the television.
I got the call from reception at 11:28 a.m. that I had tested negative and was free to go. That was a big weight off my mind. I was being careful in London but you never no. Just because I am vaccinated, it doesn’t mean I am immune. This morning I tweeted the statistics that said out of the 12,810 people that had landed at Suvarnabhumi airport over the last seven days to do the Test and Go program, three people had tested positive. What happened to them? Well, one of them contacted me already to tell his story.
They are a family of four who came here for a 13-day holiday. The father tested positive and was sent to a hospital for ten days. The mother and the two children, aged two and four, are close contacts and so were told to stay in the quarantine hotel. Obviously at their own expense. He believes they will have to do another test on day 3 or 4 and if they test negative, then they might be able to go. But they would have to go without him as he is expecting to stay in hospital for at least ten days. He doesn’t have any symptoms and he is really hoping his insurance will cover the cost. He thinks it will cost him around 350,000 baht. What a nightmare and not really a good advertisement for coming to Thailand.
I think quite a few people will rightly decide not to take this gamble. Particularly if they are coming with children. If you are not desperate, then maybe it would be better to wait until more of the rules are eased. Or at least wait for the Covid-19 situation to stabilise more. Which might mean waiting until January or so. If you do come, then come with your eyes open and be prepared for this gamble. Though admittedly, the odds are in your favour. Out of 28,832 people who arrived in Thailand over the last week, only 0.09% tested positive. Those are good odds.

Part 6 – Update about the Thailand Pass

The Consular Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent out this update the day before yesterday which includes a phone number that you can use to contact them.
Mr. Tanee Sangrat, Director-General of the Department of Information and Spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that the difficulties encountered by some of the registrants of Thailand Pass who were unable to receive their QR Codes may be due to the following reasons:
1. Registrants did not upload vaccination documents according to the recommendations in the application form, hence the documents uploaded were not clear requiring officials to check the documents manually instead of digitally.
2. The information and documents attached were incorrectly filled in, including information on the hotel used which was not connected to the hospitals offering the RT-PCR tests.
3. The same information was entered multiple times leading to confusion in the consideration process. Some names were registered multiple times but with different information. For example, one name was registered to enter through the EQ scheme and then registered again to enter through the Sandbox Scheme.
4. Some registered their emails incorrectly or because their mailboxes were full, they were then not able to receive their confirmation emails and QR Codes. It was later discovered that the Hotmail accounts in particular did not receive confirmation emails which the government is now addressing with the Microsoft Company. For the time being, it is recommended that registrants use another email besides Hotmail.
5. Travelers should ensure time in advance to check vaccination certification documents. Even though the announcement states that the consideration process takes up to 7 days but on average the officials of the Ministry of Public Health are able to check the vaccination certification documents within 3 days. For those who have an urgent necessity or emergency, please contact the Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate in your country.
6. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Digital Government Development Agency and the Department of Disease Control are in constant communication and coordination in order to address all of the technical issues and improve the Thailand Pass system to facilitate travelers into the country, namely
-to improve the system to enable registrants to upload pdf files,
– to provide a drop down list for choosing hotels that are connected to hospitals and to add a function to check on progress in consideration of your application without having to register again,
– to speed up coordination on adding to the list of 30 countries for which the digital vaccine certificate is available, which will reduce the burden for officials in checking documents and minimize consideration time.
For any additional queries, they can be addressed to the call center of the Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs at 02 572 8442, which has added 30 additional lines for this purpose.
I will be having a meeting with the Director General at the consular department this week. I want to talk to him about my experiences and frustrations with the Thailand Pass and also to forward to him some of the problems noted by others. Once this meeting has been confirmed, I will post on my Twitter and Facebook and I will invite people to send in their questions and suggestions.

Useful Tweets

I’ve landed safely at Suvarnabhumi Airport. We disembarked from the airplane at 6:05am and were in the van leaving the airport at 6:49am. This is a THREAD of my experience of arriving with Thailand Pass and then the hotel. Overall, it was fast and efficient. I give them 10/10. https://t.co/mGu7JFSegD
Top 10 “countries of origin” for people travelling to Thailand from 1-7 November:
🇩🇪 Germany 2,666
🇺🇸 USA 2,665
🇬🇧 United Kingdom 1,475
🇯🇵 Japan 1,449
🇰🇷 South Korea 987
🇷🇺 Russia 959
7🇨🇭 Switzerland 949
🇸🇪 Sweden 817
🇫🇷 France 774
10 🇦🇪 UAE 565 https://t.co/G5X4rpMEPq
Arrivals to #Thailand from 1-7 November:
📌 Test & Go: 14,278 (7 infected/0.05%)
📌 Sandbox: 7,483 (8 infected/0.11%)
📌 Quarantine: 1,071 (5 infected/0.47%)
📌 TOTAL: 22,832 (20 infected/0.09%)

♦️They flew into Suvarnabhumi (14,431), Phuket (7,937), Samui (381), Chiang Mai (83) https://t.co/6tHev6ho4E

Here are the latest statistics for Thailand Pass as of Sunday 7th November 2021 at 9.00 a.m.
📌 Total registered: 92,240
📌 Total approved: 50,231
📌 Out of which, 16,798 were auto-approved
#Thailand https://t.co/4YP3ENLeK1
Big day for #Thailand as it is now being made easier for tourists to visit and for expats and Thais to return home. Out of the three schemes, Test and Go is the best option if you are fully vaccinated and are coming from one of 61 countries and territories https://t.co/KYE51XT31V https://t.co/LiRlzxLrVE
Thanks for reading this far and for subscribing to my newsletters. My regular Letters from Thailand newsletter will return on Sunday. However, whenever there is something important to go out, I will of course send it out straight away. For example, if I learn anything of interest with my meeting with the director-general of the consular department, I will send out a special newsletter. I might also send out a special newsletter about the father who had tested positive and of his experience. Make sure you subscribe so that you don’t miss any issues. Thank you for your support and see you next time.
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At this time of year when the river is so high, there is a flood even when there is no rain due to the high tide. This photo shows the flooded lawn of the Portuguese Embassy. So, if it rains at the same as a high tide, then it will be really bad as the water has to wait to drain

This is the high tide flood on Sukhumwit Road in Samut Prakan this morning. We just had a big storm which would have doubled the depth of this flood. If it rains when there is a high tide, the water cannot drain until the tide goes out again which takes several hours

If you live along the Chao Phraya River, you really need to keep an eye on the tide timetable. We’ve already had our high tide this morning in Samut Prakan which was 3.41m above the lowest point. In Bangkok, opposite the Grand Palace, high tide is at 9:55am and 6:56pm today.
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This is the continuation of my special dispatches about flying into Thailand during the first week of the reopening to fully vaccinated tourists who are coming from one of 63 countries and territories. To qualify for the “Test and Go” program, you also need to be at least 21 days in one of these countries. In my case, I flew out from Thailand and only spent six days in the UK before returning. Initially they said I would have to do the 7-day Sandbox program. But then they realised that would cause problems to Thais flying out for short holidays and also businessmen. So, they have now created a new exception and I only have to stay one night. Today’s edition is about the flight from London to Bangkok, going through Immigration, the transfer to the hotel, and finishing with the RT-PCR test. My final special dispatch will be sent out tomorrow and will have the news about the results and what happened next, as well as a brief summary of the process I just went through.

The day before my flight, I received the QR Code for Thailand Pass (it took 24 hours to issue) and the test results for my Day 2 RT-PCR test (that took 30 hours for them to send to me by email). This test was actually done for the UK government, but I also needed the same test for my flight to Thailand. So I was killing two birds with one stone. My Thailand Pass contains all of the information that I had submitted which included passport, hotel booking, vaccine certificate and insurance. For the latter, they accepted my digital social security card. The confirmation email I received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that I did not need to print out the QR Code and that I could just show it on my smartphone. They also said I needed to show three things in Bangkok: QR Code (either on smartphone or printed if I didn’t have one), my printed negative test results, and my passport. That’s it. Very much simpler compared to the COE process where you have to print out all of your documents and these then have to be checked both in London and in Thailand.

Things started to go slightly wrong once I reached the check-in counter for Thai Airways at Heathrow airport. As Thailand Pass was only just launched a couple of days ago, they have never seen the QR Code before. What was worse, they had no idea what to do with it as they didn’t have a QR code reader. In Thailand, everyone has them on their phones but apparently not so in the UK. So, she insisted that I showed print-outs of every single document as if I was using the COE system. She also wanted me to print out the QR Code which kind of defeated the purpose. To be clear here, they weren’t collecting the documents themselves. They were just following instructions for the old COE system where everyone must have print outs of all of their documents before boarding the flight. Luckily, I had them all apart from the QR Code of course. She wanted me to go and find somewhere to print it. Finally, I managed to persuade her that they have QR Code readers in Bangkok and there was no need to print it. Luckily I was also able to find one of the Thai Airways staff who had an iPhone and so I was able to show her how it worked.
But that wasn’t my only problem. A recent change to the rules allowed me to use my social security (SSO) instead of taking out a new insurance policy. She wanted me to print out the policy but of course, SSO doesn’t have one. She said I must have a policy that says I have Covid-19 coverage up to $50,000. Which also wasn’t accurate as they changed that for expats to any insurance policy. It didn’t have to be specific for covid. I tried to explain to her that social security was a bit like the NHS and I get free treatment in the hospital. I was only able to persuade her in the end by saying that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wouldn’t have issued the Thailand Pass to me if they weren’t happy with the insurance. Obviously these minor problems will go away once more people start using the Thailand Pass. I was obviously the first person using social security for insurance and one of the first to use the QR Code.
Just a quick note about Heathrow Airport. All of the shops and restaurants are open as normal unlike at Suvarnbhumi airport. On flight side in Bangkok there weren’t any restaurants open. Just one coffee shop and some shops selling sandwiches and snacks. Though hopefully the situation in Bangkok will start to change as more people begin to fly on international flights. But when it comes to airports, I much prefer Suvarnabhumi airport as they have more charging points for your electronic devices. Just a minor thing really.

The flight on Thai Airways went smoothly. When we flew to the UK last week, they were all wearing protective clothing including hair nets. But for the return journey, they wore their regular clothing plus masks. The flight this time had more people, though still a fraction of what it would have been pre-covid times. The flight to London had 50 people and the flight to Bangkok had 100 people. In my three-seat row, I was in the aisle seat and the other person was in the window seat. So no-one between us. Which is good because the High Risk Contact rules say that if your immediate neighbour, either to your left or to your right, tests positive, then you have to go to the hospital too for ten days. From what I could see, this pattern was repeated around the aircraft, apart from people who were obvious couples. They did make a couple of announcements saying that you couldn’t change seats due to contact tracing. But once we took off, some people, including myself, moved to empty rows so we could lie down to get some sleep.
Everyone wore their masks throughout the flight. The only exception was during the two meals that they served. As I noted on the outbound flight, Boeing aircraft have HEPA filters and I was confident that the air had been scrubbed clean. My CO2 meter also told me that that there was some form of ventilation as CO2 levels were reasonably low. Certainly much lower than the taxi ride to the airport. So, I wasn’t concerned about taking my mask off briefly to eat.

We landed safely shortly before 6:00 p.m. We disembarked from the airplane at 6:05am and were in the van leaving the airport at 6:49am. Which wasn’t bad. But I think we were lucky as there was only our flight landing at this time and only 100 people on the aircraft. Someone sent me a picture of their arrival yesterday when four flights landed around the same time. As everyone was still using COE, there were multiple documents to be checked and it was more than three hours before he left the airport.
A short distance from the gate we came to an area where there were many chairs set up. We just kept walking to the far end as it was empty. However, if there are several flights landing at the same time, you might have to sit and wait here. But someone gave me a tip yesterday that they were only checking that you had all of the documents printed out and had them in the right order. So he suggested just keep walking if you are prepared or if you have Thailand Pass.

Next up was baggage claim. My bag was one of the last to come out at 6:37 a.m., about half an hour after disembarking from the airplane. Which isn’t bad at all. But many people actually left the airport before me due to my delay at Immigration. So for some people it was much quicker.
After Customs, there was an area set up with desks where people were waiting from various hotels. They checked my name and then called the hotel transfer van. My hotel had a choice of shared van or private limousine. The driver was dressed in protective clothing. He sprayed our luggage and we sat in the back of the van. There was a plastic partition between us and the driver. Total time from plane to van was 45 minutes.
As it was a shared van, I was a little concerned about air quality. The CO2 reading started at 559ppm but quickly rose to 2066ppm. Which meant I was breathing in air that had been in someone else’s lungs. I asked the driver to turn off recirculating air. Which he did though he was confused why I would want that. The ventilation and air quality then improved quite quickly. These drivers really need to be taught about the fact covid is airborne and that ventilation and filtration is very important.

I arrived at my hotel in Bangkok at 7:31am. Check-in was done in an area outside. She asked for my passport and departure card. She also said I should download the MorChana app. But she didn’t check to see if I had done it. Nor did she say what I should do with it. Next was the RT-PCR test. This was done by someone from the partner hospital. This was slightly more painful than the one I had done in London on Monday. She also gave me an ATK test kit to do by myself on day 6-7. She said I should take a picture of the result and email it back to the hotel.
I was in my room by 7:43am, 90 minutes after getting off the plane. You have to stay in your room until the results come back. She said this would be at around noon tomorrow. Which is an incredible 27 hours waiting time. I don’t call that Test and Go. That is Test, be quarantined for a day or so, then go. That wasn’t mentioned in the tourist brochures. The TAT were even suggesting the wait would be 6-7 hours. During my booking, the hotel actually said if I did the test before 8:00 a.m. then the results would be back by 5:00 p.m. on the same day. Meaning I could check out and go home. So, I am not really happy they changed it. Some people said they were luckier at their hotel. One guy said he had his test at 10:30am and had the results by 6:00 p.m. the same day. Even though he had paid for a night and three meals, he decided to check out straight away.
One interesting point is that they don’t give you a keycard, and so you cannot leave your room. If you do for some reason, you might not be able to get back in if the door slams shut. She also said that when I check out, someone will come up to escort me down. I am not sure if that means there is a lock on the lift so people without keycards cannot use it. I will check tomorrow. Obviously you can go down the fire exit in case of an emergency.

In my hotel room, I scanned a QR Code to order my three meals that were included in the package. I had choices between Asian and Western meals. I could also choose time slots for the food to be delivered. They then knock on the door when they deliver. When I went out to collect my first meal, I saw just the food on a table in front of my room. The guy must have quickly run away.
I am going to finish this newsletter now and will write a final special dispatch tomorrow once I have received my test results. I will also do a summary. I just want to add a bit about the hotel as people keep asking me where I am staying. I don’t really want to mention the name as I am not really happy with them. They were very slow about answering inquiries during the booking process and kept making mistakes. I also spotted that my room was 500 baht more expensive compared to Thai people. Mine was 5,200 baht and theirs was 4,700 baht. Everyone got the same package deal and same room. This included airport transfer, swab test by RT-PCR, three meals, and an antigen rapid kit test. On check-in I did ask about this and they said it wasn’t a hotel charge. They said that the swab test is subsidised and that foreigners must pay 500 baht more for this. Other people have now confirmed with me that when they saw their itemised bill that they were also being charged 500 baht more by the hospital. So it would seem to be like that for all hospitals. Though unless you book in with a Thai person you probably won’t get to see that two price policy.
Anyway, time to sign off. Thanks again for reading this far and I hope to see you next time.

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This is the continuation of my special dispatches from London about the reopening of Thailand to fully vaccinated tourists from 63 countries and territories on an approved list. The newsletter today is about my preparations to fly back to Thailand plus some important updates about possible easing of rules for people wanting to enter Thailand. My final special dispatch will probably be on Friday about my flight and arrival in Thailand and the experience at the hotel to do my RT-PCR test. I will then go back to my regular weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter.

I want to start this newsletter with some really good news. After a bumpy start to the launch of the Thailand Pass system, I have finally received approval of my application and my QR Code. From the time that I submitted my documents, until the first email saying that my documents had been received, was about 12 hours. The email said that it could then take as long as seven working days to receive approval. However, as it turned out, it was only 12 hours later that I received the approval email and QR Code. So, just over 24 hours in total. Some people had told me they were quicker and others said they are still waiting. For the latter group of people, it is maybe taking longer because their insurance and vaccination certificate has to be verified. In my case my documents are all from Thailand.
One more good piece of news for expats is that my social security number (SSO) was accepted as proof of insurance. So, if you have SSO, you don’t need to buy any special insurance when you go abroad for a short holiday. For people who need proof of social security, I used this link ssoconnect.mywallet.co and entered my SSO number and telephone number. I was then given a link to add the QR Code to Apple Wallet. Then I did a screenshot and uploaded it to the Thailand Pass system. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also tells me, if you don’t have SSO, then you can use your regular private insurance for the application and it doesn’t have to be exclusively for Covid-19. For other people, you need to buy special insurance that covers the remaining length of your visa.
Over the last week, I have applied for both the Certificate of Entry (COE) and the Thailand Pass and so I think I am in a good position to do a comparison of the two systems. Thailand Pass was touted as a much more simplified system that will streamline your experience. Yes, they did have some teething problems during the first day with server errors, but that kind of thing is not unique to Thailand. Hopefully that is all sorted by now.
Unlike the COE application, your documents are not sent to your local Thai Embassy but to the Consular Department in Bangkok. From what I understand, the local embassy may help with the verification of vaccine certificates and insurance, but everything else is done in Bangkok. One of the complaints before is that the local embassies were never consistent with each other and their interpretation of the rules varied. Hopefully this system will be fairer.
The number of documents you have to upload for each system are similar and so that doesn’t make much difference. However, I uploaded a screenshot of my passport but they didn’t ask to see my visa (in my case it is a re-entry permit) which they wanted for the COE. I also uploaded my vaccination certificate and my hotel booking. For the latter, it was a package that included an RT-PCR test and hotel transfer. From what I understand, you have to book the test through the hotel and you definitely cannot make your own way to the hotel. The government are also trying to standardise, or at least limit the maximum cost of the tests. The Thailand Pass system also didn’t ask for proof of flights. Just the dates. By the way, if you need to change these dates you need to make a new application.
The COE took me only three days to get it approved and to receive the actual certificate. For Thailand Pass, the same process only took 24 hours. Some people told me it took them less and others said a bit longer. The maximum time is seven working days. So make sure you apply far enough in advance so you won’t miss your flight. I think it also speeds it up if your insurance and vaccination certificate were issued in Thailand. What makes the Thailand Pass really stand out is that once you reach Thailand, all you have to do is show your QR Code and your negative RT-PCR test. (The latter has to be done within 72 hours of departure.) For the COE, you need to print out all of the documents that you had submitted online and then present them for checking along with your COE. So more time consuming at the airport.
For me the uploading of documents to Thailand Pass was easy. I had all of the documents already on my iPad. As the system doesn’t as yet accept PDFs, I just did screen shots and uploaded these to the site. One problem that has been recognised is that you can only upload one file for each section. So that might be an issue for say insurance. Hopefully they will rectify that soon. Another problem is the Johnson and Johnson is one jab but it created an error as it wanted details for two jabs. I am sure there may have been other errors like this and hopefully these will be ironed out soon.
I am still getting lots of questions from people about why their country is not on the approved list. Please be assured, that there will be another update to the list on 1st of December. Maybe sooner. Initially they released the names of 46 countries and territories, and then much sooner than expected, they increased this to 63. Hopefully some good news for you soon. Maybe as early as two weeks.
The new rules started on 1st November. A review of this is expected to take place in a couple of weeks. I was told by a senior TAT executive that we might see a relaxation in some key areas. For example, in the near future, there is a good chance that they will stop the need to have an RT-PCR within 72 hours of departure. So, you would only need to do an RT-PCR on arrival in Thailand. I am also told that in the future, maybe in December, this test will be changed to the cheaper lateral flow test. I presume this would mean that if this is done at the airport, then it would literally be a Test and Go and you wouldn’t need to stay one night in a hotel. Let’s see. This is what they want but it is not known how soon that can start.
Another development they want to happen soon is the changing of the exception age for unvaccinated children. For Test and Go, it is presently only for children under 12. The TAT want this to be changed to under 18, the same as for the Sandbox program. This could start as soon as the review in two weeks has been completed. If there are any developments on this I will let you know on my social media channels.
Another thing that is of concern to people coming to Thailand is the rule about High Risk Contacts (HRC). What are the rules if someone next to you tests positive on arrival? Before I tell you about the rules, I just want to throw in my two cent’s worth of opinion here. Modern aircraft all have HEPA filtration which does a great job of cleaning viruses from the air. They also have a good process for ventilation which helps keep the CO2 levels down. So, in many ways a flight on an aircraft is safer than say a visit to your local supermarket. But that is not recognised as yet by authorities.
So, here are the HRC rules for people who test negative but were sitting near a person who tested positive on arrival. Before, everyone in the surrounding area were considered at risk and were put into quarantine. This has now changed. You will only have a problem if the person on your left or right tests positive. You are not considered a HRC if it is a person in front of you or behind you. So, on a flight like mine where there were only 50 people, I think the chances are high that you will have no one sitting next to you. In fact, when I checked in back in Bangkok, I made a point of asking for a seat that had no-one in front of me and no-one to my side. I will do the same on my return flight.
Next, the consequences of being a HRC. At the moment, I am told if you test negative but are sitting next to someone who tested positive, you are both taken to hospital for ten days. There is no home quarantine or hotel quarantine. However, they are now working on reducing this to only 3-4 days if you test negative on the second test. On the other hand, the person who tested positive has to stay in hospital for at least ten days. As always, I will post updates about this on my social media channels as and when I get anything new.
I think I have covered all of the latest developments in this newsletter. There is some information that I want to share with you about the ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022’ campaign, but I will save that for another time. I will stop here as I need to pack my bags and get ready for the flight home to Thailand on Wednesday morning. Thanks for reading this far. The next newsletter will hopefully be sent from the hotel in Bangkok once I get my test results.

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This is the continuation of my special dispatches about the reopening of Thailand to fully vaccinated tourists. In my last dispatch I described my arrival in the UK. I am here for a few days to attend WTM 2021 at the invitation of the Tourism Authority of Thailand. I will then fly back to Thailand onboard a Thai Airways flight on Wednesday morning. This dispatch is about my experience in the UK and a few other important updates that have just been released.

The biggest news over the weekend was the last minute increase of the number of approved countries and territories to 63. Great news for anyone planning on flying to Thailand during the upcoming high season. Like I said before, I don’t advise for you to rush to come during the first half of November, as there will undoubtedly be teething problems during the transition. Anyway, the best time to have a holiday in Thailand is December and January when it doesn’t usually rain and it isn’t so hot. From what I have heard from tour operators, they are already getting bookings for late December and the first quarter in 2022. For the UK market, they are expecting 20-30% of their usual numbers which isn’t a bad start.
My entry to the UK was quite simple and straightforward compared to the amount of paperwork and hoops that are needed to jump through for my return to Thailand. For the UK, all I had to do is fill out a passenger locator form 48 hours in advance of my flight and also book a RT-PCR test. Please note, that since I booked my test, you now have a choice to do the cheaper lateral flow test. However, I need the RT-PCR test for my return to Thailand which must be done no more 72 hours before departure. Which in my case worked out quite well as I will be doing the test for UK authorities on Monday afternoon and I will use the same test results to re-enter Thailand.
For the UK passenger locator form, all I had to enter were details about my passport, travel history, address of accommodation, booking reference number for the Covid-19 test, and vaccination details. They didn’t ask for insurance. After I had submitted all of my details, I received an automatic email back with a PDF of the information I had filled out and also a QR-Code. That was it. Unlike in Thailand where you have to wait 3-7 days for a response. When I checked in at Suvarnabhumi airport, the airline staff asked to see my vaccine certificate (I showed them the green one issued by the hospital) and my passenger locator form. When I arrived in the UK, Immigration didn’t ask to see anything. By the way, I have my yellow vaccine passport with me, but so far, I haven’t used it. At the WTM 2021 travel fair, I just showed the certificate issued by the hospital. Others showed their yellow vaccine passport. They didn’t really care which one.
To go back to Thailand I need a Certificate of Entry or COE for short. This was done in two parts. It can take up to seven days and so I had to do it quickly as I am only away for six days. I had to upload things like passport photo page, visa page (in my case the re-entry permit), and insurance. The following day, I received an email from the Thai embassy in London saying I was pre-approved. I then had to go back on their site and add extra details such as travel plans, flight tickets and proof of paid accommodation. Then the following day, I received another email to say that my application was approved and they gave me a link to download my COE. So less than three days and not really a hassle at all. I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick. But still, the passenger locator form for the UK wins hands down as the results were instant. I did speak to a senior tourism official about this and he said that in the coming weeks and months we could see the process being simplified even more. So, hopeful at some stage it will be quick and simple like in the UK.
Which brings us to today, the 1st of November. This morning, the Thailand Pass went online. This basically replaces the COE for most people, though any COE already issued remains valid. There were two reasons that I woke up early to apply for this. Firstly, I wanted to see how much easier and quicker it will be compared to COE. And secondly, for my COE, I had to buy an expensive one-year insurance policy to cover the length of my remaining visa. The day after I had bought it and uploaded it to the COE site, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs came out to say that expats can now use their social security or regular private insurance. So, I wanted to use my social security number to apply for the Thailand Pass and then, if it was successful, quickly try and cancel my insurance before it is activated on Wednesday. But things didn’t go to plan.
The system went online at 9:00 a.m. Thai time, which was 2:00 a.m. here in the UK. I had to enter personal information about myself and my passport, vaccination details including my certificate, contact details and accommodation booking, and finally my insurance information. This time I entered my social security number. But on the last page I got this message: “Error from API server”. I tried multiple times over the following 12 hours but still no luck. Many people had the same problem as me. However, some managed to get it to work. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs say they are aware of the problem and they are working on fixing it. According to one spokesperson, it should be up and running for everyone by tomorrow, the 2nd of November. Let’s see.
UPDATE: several people suggested putting spaces after my passport. I tried one space first, but it didn’t work. Then I tried four spaces and it did. Now I’m waiting for the email to say my application is approved and for the QR-Code. I will let you know in my next special dispatch.

Useful Tweets

The new Thailand Pass has just gone online for the first time. You still have to upload the same documents, but it will simplify your entry to #Thailand as you will be given a QR Code to show.
✅ Thailand Pass https://t.co/BOxMQhcVhx
✅ Thailand Pass FAQs https://t.co/UIXT04UHPu https://t.co/O8EM3S5hev
For people with social security who need proof, you can get a digital version of your SSO card with QR Code with this link: https://t.co/arVFDAVJiX Just type in your SSO number and your phone number. The next page gave me a link to add to Apple Wallet (h/t @TARGET_ZER0https://t.co/DGZP06VQlb
Big day for #Thailand as it is now being made easier for tourists to visit and for expats and Thais to return home. Out of the three schemes, Test and Go is the best option if you are fully vaccinated and are coming from one of 61 countries and territories https://t.co/KYE51XT31V https://t.co/LiRlzxLrVE
 The latest updates by the @MFAThai for entering #Thailand from 1st November onwards:
✅ Thailand Pass FAQs https://t.co/UIXT04UHPu
✅ List of countries and territories permitted to enter the Kingdom of Thailand for Individuals under category (13) https://t.co/JxC5pmpsoH https://t.co/xIr5LXM9BA
Vaccinated people entering #Thailand to take part in Test & Go (exemption from quarantine) or the 17 province Sandbox programme (stay for 7 nights), must arrive at international airports: Suvarnbhumi, Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Samui, U-Tapao, & chartered flights to Buriram. https://t.co/MY1c4nY0iP
The @MFAThai has just announced that the number of approved countries and territories, where vaccinated people can enter from without having to do quarantine, has now been increased to 63. #Thailand https://t.co/88MAs0Fb0J

I have the COE and so I can still fly to Thailand on Wednesday. I will probably write one more special dispatch from the UK and then the final one will be my flight back to Thailand, the process of going through the airport and then the one day “quarantine” in a Bangkok hotel. I think that is what most people are waiting to hear. I also need to address the elephant in the room. Namely, what happens if you test positive. I am not losing any sleep about it as I am taking precautions. But it is at the back of my mind and there is a slight worry. The problem in the UK is that many people are not wearing masks, even on public transportation. But I am doing so whenever I am indoors or in crowded places outside. I thought at first I would get stares, but there is just enough people doing this, that it wasn’t an issue. Anyway, thanks for reading this far and I will see you next time.

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