Welcome back to my latest newsletter. Many thanks again for your feedback and advice. I do appreciate that you are taking the time to read my newsletters. Hopefully you will also enjoy this week’s Letter from Thailand.
The big news this week is that the UK has taken Thailand off the Red List. Not only that, but they are also recognising vaccine certificates issued in Thailand. So, if your vaccine is on the approved list, you can now enter the UK without having to do quarantine. This is good news for me as I have been double jabbed with AstraZeneca. Unfortunately, the news is not so good for other people. The two main vaccines administered in Thailand, namely Sinovac and Sinopharm, are not yet recognised. Nor is mix and matching such as first jab of Sinovac and second jab of AstraZeneca. But you can mix vaccines on the approved list.
King Power Mahanakhon Building
This week, the SkyWalk on top of the King Power Mahanakhon building reopened to the public. I never get bored with these views and so I couldn’t resist going there on opening night. At 314 metres, it is the highest publicly accessible viewing platform in Bangkok. As you can see in this photo by Sam Wyde, it is open air and you can get a 360 degrees view of the capital. On a clear day, you can see as far as the islands near Pattaya. You can actually see the tallest building in Bangkok in this same photo. The Magnolias Waterfront Residence, next to ICON Siam, is 318 meters high. But they cheated as they put a spire on top to reach that record.
Although Magnolias Waterfront Residence and King Power Mahanakhon seem very high to us, they will soon be dwarfed by the 430 metre tower in the Bangkok One project that is being built opposite Lumpini Park. This will be like a mini city as it will have five luxury hotels, retail precincts, offices and residential units. It is expected to be completed in 2023.
Self-Test Kits for Covid-19
I bought a box of ATK for my neighbour whose son tested positive. He doesn’t live with them but they wanted to get tested. They really need to make ATKs cheaper if not free. The price has come down to ฿1,299 for 5 kits. But still too expensive for my neighbour who is unemployed. https://t.co/BCq7MxArRs
I’ve been doing the Antigen self-tests for Covid-19 at my workplace every Monday for the past month. In some countries, this has become the norm though not so much in Thailand due to the cost. They started at 1,500B at Boots for a box of five kits (300B per kit). The last time I bought a box, it had been reduced to 1,299B which is 259B each. Still too expensive for most Thais. However, the government is now distributing them for free to high-risk groups and from 18th October, anyone can buy them for only 40B each from Government Pharmaceutical Organisation pharmacies around Bangkok. I have done a map for you. Scroll down for the link.
Thai schools are talking about going back on campus for the start of the second semester on 1st November. I know some international schools have already gone back. A friend of mine said he has to do the self-test for his kids every Sunday evening and then send the results to the school. I think my school will be doing much the same thing. I am also pretty sure we will be expected to pay for these test kits. Hopefully by then, prices would have come down and become more widely available. Maybe even for sale in 7-11 convenience stores.
Lunch with the New British Ambassador
I had a good lunch today with the new British Ambassador @markgooding at his private residence. We chatted for several hours about various issues that concern tourists and expats living in Thailand. https://t.co/KPYQtz0SkH
I was really happy to be invited to have lunch with the new British Ambassador last week at his private residence. This follows my tour of the new embassy in AIA Sathorn Tower a few months back. I find these informal meetings with ambassadors, and consular staff, very important to get to know each other and to let them know about concerns of the expat community. I share a number of social issues and concerns as them such as tourist safety, road safety, air quality and climate change, and of course, fair and equal treatment of foreigners living in Thailand. During lunch, we talked about ways we can work together to help the expat community.
I didn’t post pictures of what we ate and so quite a few people asked about this. So, if you are really interested, we had smoked duck and mango salad for the starters, seared red grouper with lemon butter sauce and vegetables for the main course, and lemon posset for dessert
I cannot show you pictures of the inside of his residence, but I will say that it is much larger than I thought it would be. I think there is enough room to host a reception here for up to 40 people. Obviously not as many as what they were able to do in the past at the old residence, but you cannot beat the magnificent view that they have now.
The Former British Embassy
After eating lunch with the British Ambassador at his new private residence, I thought it would be a good idea to go and take a look at what has happened to the former residence on Ploenchit Road. I took the above photo about three years ago from the fifth floor of Central Embassy. The mall where I stood used to be the front lawn of the embassy. The remaining land was sold in 2018 for a record at the time of £420 million. It was bought by Central Group and its Hong Kong partner. At the time they said it would become a mixed-use project.
This is how the plot of land now looks three years later. To be honest, I thought there would be more progress by now. I am not sure why it is taking them so long. The War Memorial, which I will talk about in a future newsletter, was moved to the British Club. The Queen Victoria monument was sold as part of the deal. It will apparently be put back in place once the building has been completed. I am not sure where it is at the moment. I also heard a rumour that the former ambassador’s residence would also be reconstructed on site and be used for functions. But that seems very unlikely.
Nai Lert’s Boundary Markers
It’s always good to see some historical landmarks still remaining in Bangkok. This structure in front of Central Embassy used to be one of six boundary markers on the land owned by Nai Lert. This is the information about it from the plaque:
In 1909, Phraya Bhakdinoraseth (Lert Sreshthaputra) bought a vast plot of land near Saen Saep canal. The low lying land, full of tall grass and reeds, was developed, next to the roads which Nai Lert named Ploenchit, Chidlom and Somkid, and turned this land into a huge park where he built a villa, known today as the Nai Lert Park Heritage Home. Nai Lert, the visionary, designed unique boundary markers. The six two metre tall markers, built to imitate ancient cannons with their muzzles pointing to the ground, were placed along the border line to prevent future boundary dispute and to facilitate the boundary survey. Many years later, the markers were dismantled, with only one left at the Wittayu-Ploenchit intersection. This remaining marker is considered to be one of the historical monuments of Pathumwan District in Bangkok.
Blessing a New Aircraft
A monk gives a traditional Buddhist blessing to two new Airbus A330neo aircraft that were recently delivered to Thai Lion Air. Blessing new vehicles is a Buddhist tradition in Thailand. It is believed to bring the owner good luck and to help avoid misfortune #Thailand https://t.co/3txOFORdno
I have attended monk ceremonies before for new houses and even new cars. This week was the first time that I was invited to the blessing of a new aircraft. Thai Lion Air had asked Phra Sitthi Singhaseni, Abbot of Phraya Suren Temple, to come and anoint two Airbus A330neo Aircraft and to give a blessing. Also present at the ceremony were Mr. Thierry Mathou (French Ambassador to Thailand), Mr. Pierre Andre (Head of Country, Airbus Thailand), and Pilot Officer Thanee Chuangchoo (General Manager of Don Mueang Mueang International Airport).
Thai Lion Air recently bought two new Airbus A330neo aircraft, which were delivered last week from Airbus in Toulouse, France. The airline is planning to fly to international routes and air cargo services at Don Mueang International Airport and Suvarnabhumi Airport. As well as witnessing the ceremony, I was able to sit in the cockpit. Really cool.
Commemorative Pepsi Cans
When I was a kid, I used to collect commemorative Coca Cola cans. These ‘Taste of Asia’ Pepsi cans at 7-11 caught my attention this week. It’s a nice souvenir of Thailand having pictures of Thai Street Food on them. I couldn’t resist buying the complete set. By the way, before you ask, it doesn’t have a spicy flavour!
Klong Lad Pho Flood Gates in Samut Prakan
These are the Klong Lad Pho floodgates in Phra Pradaeng district of Samut Prakan. There’s been a short cut canal here for hundreds of years for small boats to shorten their journey to Bangkok. In 2006, the canal was widened, and floodgates built. Now it is a short cut for water flowing out to sea which helps alleviate the flood problem in Bangkok.
The big loop in this section of the Chao Phraya River is 18km long but the short cut canal is only 600 metres. When the tide goes out, they open the floodgates and instead of the journey taking 5 hours, it only takes 10 minutes for the water to drain out along the shortcut canal.
The Royal Thai Navy did some experiments and they found that these purpose built boats moored in place helped push the water through the shortcut canal and out to sea faster than normal. It is claimed that these twelve boats in this narrow canal can push 30,000 to 150,000 cubic metres of water per day. This ultimately helps alleviate flooding in riverside communities. You can read about the math for this here.
Bangkok Walking Maps
In Issue #3 I gave you a link to the first of a series of PDF downloads for a book called Walking Bangkok. This week, the map is for Nang Loeng. 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 discover. I will be doing the Nang Loeng walk this week if you want to follow along virtually.
That’s all for this week. The school holidays have now started and so I will be out and about a lot over the next few weeks doing some exploring. However, due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, I plan to stay close to home. Follow me on social media for the latest pictures of my travels. Links can be found on my blog www.richardbarrow.com