Topics for this issue include:
- Updates about Thailand Reopening
- Trip to Phuket
- Khao San Road is Back!
- Thai Taste Therapy
- How much do you trust public drinking water?
- Air Quality in SHA+ Transfer Vans
- Reopening of School Campus
- Updates about Bangkok Railway Station
- Twenty Hour Boat Voyage to Songkhla
- Win a Walking Bangkok Guidebook
- Interesting Tweets
- Bangkok Walking Maps – Part 9
Updates about Thailand Reopening
The Thailand Reopening seems to be going reasonably well. Over the last four days, we have seen an average of 10,000 international travellers arrive every day which is something we haven’t seen for a long time. Sunday was a record with 13,664 international arrivals. Most of these are fully vaccinated travellers using Test and Go. It has got to the point now that I am starting to easily spot foreign tourists in Bangkok. This is because most people are now arriving at Suvaranbhumi Airport – there were 9,279 international arrivals yesterday. In comparison, 3,969 people arrived at Phuket Airport. As far as totals go, we had 133,061 international arrivals in November and 160,445 arrivals in the first 19 days of this month. Obviously a far cry from the millions we used to have, but I like this new look with less tourists. I know I am being selfish, but this is really a great time to travel around Thailand as it is not too crowded.
Although the percentage of people testing positive on arrival has gone up slightly compared to last month – it is now 0.22% compared to 0.13% in November – it is still very low and shows that the various schemes are working. I think we were all hoping by now that there would have been a further easing of the entry restrictions. Unfortunately, although they were getting ready to replace the RT-PCR test on arrival with the cheaper ATK test, and also to increase the number of approved countries, the Omicron variant has thrown a spanner into the works.I don’t think we are going to see any significant changes until the new year now. And it might not go the direction you want it to go. Although the number of new cases in Thailand, including deaths and hospitalisations, are continuing to drop, there is a real worry that we could see a new wave in mid-January. But, as the number of international visitors testing positive are so minuscule, surely there is no reason to bring a halt to Test and Go? But with this government, who knows how they will react. Time will tell.
Trip to Phuket
Now that travel restrictions have been eased, and also because I feel safer to travel a bit further, I did my first overnight trip last week. I flew down to Phuket for a couple of events. It was a useful trip for me as I gained a lot of firsthand experience that is helping me answer some of the hundreds of messages that I get every day. One of the main ones was about domestic air travel. I can confirm that during check-in at Don Mueang Airport I was only asked for my vaccination certificate. If you don’t have one, then you need to show a negative ATK test. This is becoming quite common now. On arrival in Phuket, there were no checks. The same with flying back to Bangkok.
During my first day in Phuket, I did a quick tour of the island visiting some of the major tourist attractions and destinations such as Phuket Old Town, Big Buddha, Cape Promthep, Nai Harn Beach and Patong Beach. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised how busy some places were. Of course, not as busy as pre-Covid, but there were a fair number of foreign tourists on the beaches and at the attractions. The biggest surprise was Patong which was reportedly a ghost town just a month or two ago. Bars were open and people drinking beer. Sunbathers were on the beach or swimming in the sea. And a good number of shops and restaurants had reopened too. Not all of them of course, but certainly enough for the number of tourists that are coming here. I also saw builders working on some of the closed shops getting them ready to reopen.
Khao San Road is Back!
Phuket had a head start over most tourist destinations as they started the Sandbox scheme back on 1st July. But since the main reopening on 1st November, Bangkok has become the number one entry point to the country. Which has meant more foreign tourists are being spotted on the streets of the capital. On Saturday night, I visited Khao San Road to see if that famous backpacker hangout had come back to life. It was certainly lively when I was there at 8:30pm on Saturday night, but it was mainly young Thais. Most of the foreigners seemed to be expats with only a handful of backpackers. To enter the road in the evening, you need to show your vaccination certificate or pay 100 baht to do an ATK Covid-19 test.If you want to see the full video of my walk down Khao San road, see my Facebook Live post.
Thai Taste Therapy
I picked up this book at the Thai Taste Therapy Festival at Blue Tree Phuket. It includes recipes for more than 50 dishes. The tag line is “Let Thai food be your medicine”. You can find all of the recipes and more on their website: https:// thaitastetherapy.com/en I am trying to get hold of some extra copies of this book for a future competition. I will let you know if I am successful.
How much do you trust public drinking water?
At Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports they now have these water fountains and water bottle fillers. I have promoted them several times. But then someone asked me a really valid question. How can we trust that they are changing these filters and cleaning the water stations? So, during my last visit to Don Mueang airport, I took along my TDS water meter which tests for total dissolved solids in the water. Obviously, my meter doesn’t test for everything. For example, it doesn’t detect poisons like arsenic and so it should only be used as a guide.
The first thing I did was test the water quality from the tap in the toilets. This was 203 ppm which is about average for Bangkok tap water. In theory, that is clean enough to drink but I wouldn’t do more than brush my teeth with that. I next tested the drinking water and found that it was 183 ppm. So, not much lower than tap water. It doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad because some filters not only clean the water but they then add minerals. I just don’t know if this one is doing that. I wrote to the manufacturer in America and they replied that they also don’t know which filter they are using as they haven’t ordered any new filters from them for several years. I next tested the water at a filling station further away that I presumed wouldn’t get so much foot traffic. The reading for this one was better at 159 ppm.
Like I said already, this is not a scientific study as you need a lab to find out what else is in that water. But I think what it does do is remind you not to just blindly trust public drinking water outlets. As a comparison, I also tested the water at Phuket Airport. Tap water there was only 92 ppm which was surprisingly good. The drinking water dispenser they have there is from a different manufacturer. The one I tested gave a reading of zero. So, the filters were doing a good job of getting rid of dissolved solids. There of course could be other dangers that a TDS water meter cannot detect. But it is a safe bet that this drinking water in Phuket airport is safe to drink. As for Don Mueang airport, the jury is still out.Visit my richardbarrow.com blog for more pictures and information.
Air Quality in Airplanes and SHA+ Transfer Vans
During my recent trip to Phuket, I also took along my CO2 meter to check on ventilation in various places. I am travelling more now and I want to give people an idea of what situations are potentially dangerous. As you probably know by now, Covid-19 is airborne and so good ventilation is important. Airplanes are generally safe. The new aircraft have a good ventilation and filtration system. Unfortunately, this is not turned on during boarding and landing and so for at least 30 minutes there is a potential danger. At the gate the CO2 reading was 939 ppm (outdoors it is around 500 ppm) and during boarding, the airplane peaked at 1442 ppm.
Compared to the flight, the SHA+ van transfer from the airport to the hotelwas potentially dangerous. CO2 levels with four people in the van peaked at 3196 ppm. At this level, you are basically breathing air that has already been in someone’s else’s lungs. If you ignore Covid-19 for a moment, any prolonged exposure to CO2 levels above 2,000 ppm will cause drowsiness and loss of concentration. I am not sure if you want a driver that has been in a vehicle all day with such high CO2 levels. I did ask him to turn off the “recirculating air” button so fresh air could come in from outside, but he flatly refused to do this. He said he didn’t want the “dust pollution” to come in. This makes me wonder exactly what a SHA+ sticker means. Is it just wiping the seats clean or is it do to with methods on how to prevent the spread of Covid-19?
If I may, I want to give you just one more example of air quality during my trip. Again, this is not a scientific study. I am just leaving it here as food for thought. In the above photos, which of the two CO2 readings would you like to wake up to in the morning? Both of the rooms had sealed windows and no balcony door. One is a hotel that uses a HVAC system that changes the air in your room every hour by bringing in filtered air from outdoors. The other is a hotel that uses a regular air-conditioner that just re-circulates the same air all night and also had a connecting door that brought in air from next door. Unfortunately, it is not possible to ask hotels in advance about their ventilation and filtration methods. But at the least, I would try and avoid rooms that have connecting doors. Maybe this is now the time to stay more at an Airbnb where it is easier to crack open a window or have a balcony door. Just a thought.
Reopening of School Campus
It has been some years since I last taught and so unlike the foreign teachers at my school who have been teaching online since May, I have been working alone in my office at school producing online content for others to use. In normal times, I can visit the computer rooms to watch our students do the quizzes that I designed for English-Room.com. This always made me feel good to see their reaction to new quizzes and games. But these past seven months have not only been very lonely – only a handful of people went to school – but I also didn’t get any job satisfaction. So, I was really happy when our school campus reopened last week. It’s so great to hear the sound of students on campus again. And more importantly for me, I can get instant feedback for my work again when I go to watch the students during their e-learning lessons in the computer room.
Updates about Bangkok Railway Station
Some good news for people who were worried about what will happen to the historical buildings at Hua Lamphong. Local media are reporting that Bangkok Railway Station is not closing on 23rd December after all. The State Railway of Thailand will allow 11 commuter routes to continue to operate out of this station. Most of the other trains will start from Bang Sue Grand as well as from other local stations. I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure there will be a lot of confusion on the first day. Particularly as the SRT still hasn’t released the full details yet. I have bought a ticket for the sleeper train to Chiang Mai on Thursday night. At this moment in time, I am not sure which station it will leave from. Hopefully I can find out before I leave home!
Twenty Hour Boat Voyage to Songkhla
As you know, I love doing train trips. For me, it’s all about the journey and not necessarily the destination. I also like taking the opportunity to do boat trips as I think it is a great way to explore the destination. But I’ve never travelled by boat or even ship to a destination in Thailand. Which is why I am excited to be taking a boat later this month from Sattahip in Chonburi to Songkhla in Southern Thailand. At twenty hours, this is the longest ferry route in Thailand. I will be taking my car with me and will then drive back to Bangkok to compare the experience.The Blue Dolphin, which is owned by The Seahorse Ferry, sails once a week. It leaves Sattahip at 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday and arrives in Songkhla at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The cost for my car, myself and a bed is 5,700 baht. According to Google Maps, the drive back is 1,000 kms. I’m not sure yet how much that will cost me. Foot passengers are 1,000 baht. To take a car is 5,000 baht but the driver and passenger go free. If you want a bed you have to pay extra. I’m going for the capsule which is 700 baht. Rooms are from 3,500 baht but are all sold out this month.More info: https://seahorse- ferries.com/Home/Home.aspx
Win a Walking Bangkok Guidebook
The competition prize this week for subscribers to my newsletter is the guidebook Walking Bangkok. Every week for the past two months, I have been giving you links to PDF downloads for maps of these 15 walks in Bangkok. But many people have been asking where to buy the book. Unfortunately, as it is now out of print, it is very difficult to find. But I have secured FIVE copies of this guidebook for five lucky subscribers.To have a chance of winning a copy, all you have to do is send an email to [email protected] com with the subject line ‘Win a copy of Walking Bangkok’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win a copy of ‘Walking 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. But please, don’t send your address yet. I will contact the winners after the deadline on Saturday 25th December 2021. Good luck!
The 15 walking routes are as follows:
- Nang Loeng – Khlong Phadung
- Thon Buri – Kudi Chin community
- Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
- Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Rad, Chaopho Suea Shrine
- Samsen – Thewet
- Bang Rak – Silom
- Bobe Market – Ratchaprasong
- Bang Lamphu
- Old City – Phranakorn
- Wang Lang
- Yaowarat Buk Ruk Street art
- Khlong San – Tha Din Daeng
- Ban Mo – Sampheng
- Talat Phlu – Chom Tong
It looks like the Immigration Bureau has a new online system for reporting place of residence every 90 days. You can register here: https://t.co/E2x1Tce1Af It was several hours before the confirmation email came back, and it was in the spam folder, but I was able to then log in. https://t.co/RzQ2OsqEJi
New rules for high risk close contacts:
📌 14 day quarantine in hotel for people in families/groups. Must do 3 x RT-PCR testing on Days 0, 5-7 and 12-13
📌 10 day quarantine for sitting next to someone who tested positive on the plane. Must do 2 x RT-PCR testing on Days 0 and 5-
Bangkok Walking Maps – Part 9
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bang Lamphu which is the area around Khao San Road and to the north. 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. Before I forget, in a future newsletter, I will be giving away FIVE print editions of all 15 Bangkok walking maps. These books are really difficult to find now.FREE DOWNLOADS:
- Yaowarat Walking Map
- Nang Loeng Walking Map
- Thonburi Walking Map
- Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
- Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
- Samsen Thewet
- Bang Rak and Silom
- Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong
- Bang LamphuSEE 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 time. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. Thanks!