Expat Life

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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This the continuation of my special dispatches about the reopening of Thailand to fully vaccinated tourists. I will be sharing with you my firsthand experience of not only leaving Thailand but also coming back during the first week of reopening. I will also be doing a comparison between life in Thailand and in the UK during the pandemic. This dispatch is mainly about my journey to the UK onboard a Thai Airways flight and what happened when I arrived.

Around 48 hours before I flew to the UK, I had to fill out a Passenger Locator Form about my travel history and travel plans, and my vaccination status. Interestingly, the form also asked me if I had been to any of the islands in Thailand. I am not sure why. Thailand is now on the “non-red list” for the UK which means we don’t have to do a pre-flight covid test and we don’t have to do any form of quarantine on arrival if we are fully vaccinated. All we had to do was book an RT-PCR test for Day 2. Then in this form, I had to enter the test package booking reference number. The test will actually be done on Monday and so I can use the same results to get back into Thailand when I fly out on Wednesday morning.
I have been fully vaccinated in Thailand with AstraZeneca which is recognised by the UK government. Some of my friends are not so lucky as they had Sinovac for the first jab and AstraZeneca for the second. The other important recent development is that the UK government also recognises our vaccination certificates. But which one? I brought two with me. The green paper that was issued to me by the hospital after my second jab and the yellow vaccine passport, which I applied for later, which is meant for international travel.
At check-in at Suvarnabhumi airport, I was asked for my travel documents. She wanted to check the Passenger Locator Form and my vaccination certificate. I just want to add here that nothing on this form was checked by the UK government. As soon as I had filled out the online form, I immediately received an email with a PDF file containing my details and also a QR Code. This is in stark contrast to Thailand. I had to fill in a similar form called COE with travel plans and vaccination history. But, even though I applied for COE first, I am still waiting for final approval. I know some people who didn’t get that approval in time and missed their flight. That’s a worry for me as my return flight is already booked. I also want to add that the UK didn’t ask for any proof of expensive insurance unlike Thailand. Even for foreigners.
Going back to the vaccination certificate. Many people asked me if we really need to carry the yellow vaccine passport when travelling abroad. They also asked if it is recognised. I can say that several of my friends, who went to America, were able to use the yellow booklet to get into venues where you had to show proof of vaccination. So, it works. But I don’t know if the green certificate issued by my hospital works. So, that’s what I am testing out on this trip. At check-in, I showed the hospital certificate and it was accepted. Now the question is whether it will be accepted on arrival in the UK. I will answer that question further down, once I have finished talking about the flight.
As I mentioned before, I am flying Thai Airways. Total journey time is 16 hours as we had to fly to Phuket first. I reckon that during the first leg of the journey, the plane was about 80% full. But most of those passengers got off in Phuket leaving less than 50 people on the airplane. I counted about 4 or 5 who boarded at Phuket airport. For the flight to Phuket I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me or in front of me which was good as I have long legs and it was a bit cramped. After Phuket, they made a couple of announcements to say we weren’t allowed to change seats. Which sounded crazy as most of us were grouped together. However, after the lights were dimmed the person on my row moved elsewhere and I was then able to lie down on the three seats to get some sleep.
Shortly after we left Phuket, at around midnight, they served us a hot meal. Obviously this is a dilemma as we would have to take off our masks to eat. As you are probably aware, Covid-19 is airborne and so it sounds like the worst idea to take off your mask in an enclosed environment where you cannot open the windows. For this trip, I brought along with me a CO2 sensor that acts as a kind of proxy for calculating the risk of Covid-19. It cannot of course tell you if there is a virus in the air, but it can tell you how good the ventilation is. The last thing that you want to be doing during a pandemic is breathing the air that has already been in the lungs of an infected person.
The base line for the CO2 sensor is around 500 ppm which is what it is outside in the fresh air. The airport was around 610 ppm which is good. It shows there is plenty of ventilation. Venues need to try their best to keep this number below 800 ppm. For the flight to Phuket, which was 80% full, the CO2 level peaked at 1,222 ppm. High but not as high as I thought it would be and certainly not as high as my 45 minute taxi ride to the airport that peaked at a crazy 3,190 ppm. So, really, there is more danger from taxis than airplanes. In addition, I am told that the Boeing aircraft has HEPA filters which does a good job of cleaning the air of viruses. What is also interesting to note, for the second leg to London, when there were only 50 passengers, the sensor reading stayed between 684 ppm and 870 ppm. So, with a low reading and the knowledge they were using HEPA filters to clean the air, I felt it was safe to take off my N95 for the short period I was eating. But, like everyone else, I kept it on for the rest of the journey. I am not going to risk it with two RT-PCR tests coming up that could change my immediate future if I test positive.
Before I forget, I want to give you an update about the quarantine hotel in Bangkok as quite a few people were asking for details about how long you had to wait for the test results. Notice what I did there? I called it a quarantine hotel as that is what it is. Although the prime minister said that the country is opening to fully vaccinated travellers from countries on the list, you are still being detained at a hotel for the first day at your own expense while you wait for the test results. The length of time is going to vary from hotel to hotel as some will test you at a swab centre, some will test you when you check-in at the hotel, and some will test you at set times. In my case, they will do at the hotel when I check-in. But the amount of time you have to wait for the results will vary depending on when you check in. If you are unlucky, you will have to wait until the next day. The following is for my hotel. Yours might be different.
* Check-in between 8:00am and 11:00pm and you will get your results before noon the next day
* Check-in between 11:00pm and midnight and you will get your results before 5:00pm the next day
* Check-in between midnight and 8:00am and you will get your results before 5:00pm on the same day.
Obviously, the last one is more attractive as you can then check out the same day. My flight is due to arrive at 6:15am. Even if it lands on time, and I get though the airport quickly, and then there is no traffic to the hotel, it is highly unlikely that I will meet the 8:00am cut-off time. Meaning I will have to stay in my room all day and all night until noon the next day at the latest. By the way, the room rate includes three meals and 20% discount on food and beverage. It’s going to be a long day and night. Even longer if my test results are positive. If I don’t have any symptoms, I will be transferred to a ‘hospitel’ or field hospital where I have to stay at my own expense. If I have symptoms I will be admitted to hospital. I will try and get some more information about this for you later as this is something that is never really talked about when they are promoting Thailand as a tourist destination.
Just a quick update. I have just landed in the UK. They didn’t ask to see any of my travel documents including my vaccination certificate. Obviously the UK is more open than Thailand at the moment. Or they are just more trustful. Heading to the hotel now to check-in and then do some exploring. No quarantine here but we have to do an RT-PCR test in a couple of days. I will give you another update tomorrow. Thanks for reading this far and see you next time.

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This is the second of my special dispatches about the reopening of Thailand to vaccinated tourists from countries on the list. On Friday evening, I am flying to London with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to attend the press conference at the World Travel Market (WTM 2021). They will be launching ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022 – a New Chapter’ and also providing details of Thailand’s reopening strategy to the travel media and tourism operators. (Read Issue #7 for more about this.) I will then be flying back to Thailand on Wednesday. As I will be in a good position to not only learn more about what is going on, but also experience firsthand what it is like flying into Bangkok during the first week of reopening, I will be sending out a series of special dispatches over the next week or so. Then I will get back to my regular weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter on Sunday evenings.

The Re-Entry Permit

Samut Prakan Immigration

This newsletter is going to be mainly about the insurance needed for the Certificate of Entry (COE) and the Thailand Pass which will replace it for most people. But first, if I may, I would like to say a few words about the re-entry permit. I had to visit Samut Prakan Immigration the other day to get this stamp in my passport. (Please excuse the Buriram United football shirt in the picture. I didn’t know the Chief Inspector would come out to greet me.) For those people who don’t know, if you have some form of long stay visa, in my case a Non-B for work, you must get a re-entry permit stamp every time you want to leave the country. Put simply, your extension of stay will be cancelled if you forget to get a re-entry permit before you leave the country.

We’ve had several of our teachers who forgot to get one when they flew out of the country for a holiday. When they came back, the Immigration official treated them like a tourist and gave them a 30-day stamp. The bigger consequence of losing their Non-B status is that they also lost their work permit. I can tell you, it was quite expensive to start again and get them legal. But I digress. I want to ask, why on earth do we need to get a re-entry permit? We’ve already paid 1,900 baht for the extension of stay. Why do we then have to pay another 1,000 baht every time we want to leave the country. (For frequent flyers, you can get a multiple entry one for 3,800 baht.) Are there any other countries that do this? To me this is very much like a tax on expats. And next year they want to give us a tourist tax as well. Where will it end? We are already paying taxes from our salary.

These special dispatches will be mainly about my experience as an expatriate in Thailand leaving the country and then coming straight back in less than 21 days. But I will be touching on things that will be for both expats and tourists. Today I want to talk about the problem regarding insurance. First thing I want to point out is that Thais do not need to take out any special insurance for returning to Thailand from 1st November. They will get free treatment in hospital, which I think is right. It is also right that tourists should be asked to get insurance to cover them for Covid-19 treatment. (Incidentally, this has now been reduced from $100,000 to $50,000.) But my issue with this is that the Thai government is treating expatriates as tourists. Many people like myself pay monthly into social security (SSO). We also pay taxes like Thai people. But for some reason, they are refusing to recognise our SSO.I have brought this up with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) several times. They are sympathetic, as after all, our social security allows us unlimited health care at our designated hospital. The same as for Thai people. So, why can’t we be treated as Thais? The spokesperson at the MFA has promised me that they will bring it up at the next CCSA meeting this week. Hopefully good news soon. Though, unfortunately it will be too late for me as I will be flying to Thailand in just seven days. But it is a win in my book if I can help others.

Baggage Claim at Suvarnabhumi Airport

The other question that came up is about private insurance that many expatriates have. Several people have told me that they asked their insurance company to issue a letter to say that they will cover for Covid-19 treatment up to the amount needed. The letter also needs to say the policy is renewed annually. Which is great for them. But I rang my private insurance provider and they just laughed when I said I needed them to write a letter that I have Covid-19 coverage up to the value of 1.6 million baht. I know hospitals can be expensive, but not by that much. I also have a basic Covid-19 insurance that the school took out for only 500 baht which is more than enough coverage. But obviously, that coverage is no where near 1.6 million baht.
So, my only option now is to take out an additional insurance policy just for this short trip to the UK and back. But then I hit another big problem. For tourists, they only need an insurance policy the length of their holiday. so, only a week or so.

Unfortunately for me, they told me the policy must match the remaining time left on my extension of stay. Sadly, I have about ten months left before my next renewal date which means I need to get an insurance policy for a complete year. The second problem is that none of the insurance brokers have yet reduced the coverage down from $100,000 to $50,000. So, the price I was quoted for the return half of my short trip is almost the same as the cost of the return flight by THAI Airways.
Now, there are a few workarounds. I’ve had several people tell me that they went for a shorter insurance than their “visa” length and it was accepted. But I have also had people tell me that their insurance was rejected as it didn’t match the “visa” length. If you have time, then maybe try the shorter length policy first to see if you have any luck. For myself, I am short of time (I am arriving in Thailand in seven days) and so I might not have any choice on this.

A Quick Q & A by Trunk Travel

My friends at Trunk Travel did a Q & A this morning with an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I am going to paste it below for your reference. I just want to add that it is often difficult to get straight answers from any government official. None of them seem to know the full details and sometimes, are unable to answer when I have specific questions for them. So please be patient if we cannot answer all your questions. This is because the people who are in the know cannot always answer them!
Following a meeting with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and T.A.T, plus other members of the tourism industry of Thailand, we have the following updates –
1. Can we stay in a combination of the 46 safe countries over the 21-days? yes, you can BUT do not mix with any other off the list
2. Can we transit through a not ‘safe’ country? Yes, BUT cannot be for more than 12 hours transit and MUST stay inside the airport ONLY
3. Landing in Bangkok, can we transit to Phuket? Currently, the only allowed transfer through Bangkok is to Samui (sealed inbound flight). Can enter Bangkok under Test & Go and fly to Phuket the following day if negative
4. 2nd test in Sandbox , will it be another RT-PCR? This will change to a professional ATK soon. Date to be confirmed
5. AQ hotels in Blue Zone can get the booking from customers? MFA replied that hotels in the Blue Zone must be SHA PLUS only as of now
6. Phuket and other Sandbox can do Test & Go if come from the ‘safe’ 46 countries?? YES (however, we have spoken to several of the larger hotels this morning and some are offering the Test & Go, some are yet to confirm if they will)
7. Thailand Pass will start running on November 1st, how do travellers wanting to enter on or around the 7th apply for this as they are being denied the COE? The system is mostly electronic, so if the quality of documents uploaded is good, and where applicable shows a QR code, the system will accept relatively quickly. If the documents are not of a good quality, such as hand written vaccination cards, we recommend the traveller to delay their trip by a few days. This will cause a delay of a few days for the Thailand Pass to be issued.
8. When the 2nd test switches to the ATK, where/how does the individual submit the result? Not decided at present.
9. if the 2nd ATK returns a positive, what would happen? The standard quarantine regulations will apply immediately.
10. RT-PCR on day one in Sandbox, where is this done? for Test & Go, it will depend on the individual hotel. For Phuket, it remains at the airport on arrival. Check this with your hotels S.O.P.
11. While waiting for the result, can arrivals use the facilities or do any activities in the hotel? No, stay in room only
12. Thai’s that leave Thailand and return, can they do a Test & Go? If travelling to and from a ‘safe’ country, yes. If not a safe country, the current regulations apply
13. What will be the cost of RT-PCR under the new regulations? Unclear, waffling answering to avoid the facts (politicians!)
14. Can the insurance for entering Thailand be from any country? Yes, as long as it meets the governments requirements
15. Enter as a family, can they stay in the same room? NOT clear at the moment. We hope to know more soon.
16. Flight crews, what rules are applied to them? Sandbox rules.
17. Does the hotel cost include the PCR test on day 0? and if need to refund, how to do so? – waiting for confirmation, but we believe this will be included
18. Does Thailand Pass apply to VoA (Visa on Arrival)? waiting for the answer
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading this far. I think the next special dispatch will be sent from Suvarnabhumi airport on Friday evening. Until next time….
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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

King Power Mahanakhon Building in Bangkok (Photo by Sam Wayde)

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.

An artist impression of One Bangkok

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.

GPO Pharmacies in Greater Bangkok

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.

Lunch with the British Ambassador

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

View from the British Ambassador’s Residence

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

The Former British Embassy in 2018

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.

The Former British Embassy in 2018

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

Boundary marker at Ploenchit intersection

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.

In the cockpit of Airbus A330neo

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 at Bangkachao

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

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by Dan O’Shea

We’re lucky, really, to have an outlet. Through all our years, we’ve gone through a ‘during’ moment. During the war, during the 80’s, during ‘that fashion phase’, during Trump! We now all share a ‘during Covid’ moment.

Well, what did you do during Covid? What have you taken up? Apart from your jeans size?! 

If the opportunity to redo your last 18 months arose again, your best move would be to join the Bangkok Community Theatre (BCT).

Investing in Zoom, alcohol gel and face masks aside, being a part of a worldwide theatre community has been a brilliant release, a chance to feel part of a growing group of friends and a reawakening of the love of theatre in a brand new stage: Online. 

A dynamic company of talent; offering the chance to star in, direct and write your own plays, Bangkok Community Theatre is as close knit group of actors and producers as you could ever hope to have the pleasure of meeting. They have successfully delivered 3 volumes of ‘Shorts’, a series of 10 minute filmed performances. Combining comedy, horror, romance and a close-to-home feel of those Zoom conference calls with your colleagues and neighbours that we’ve all become accustomed to in a fantastic 34 shows in total, over 3 volumes (5 of which from volume 3 were written by BCT’s own membership).

With BCT, there is the opportunity to work with incredible writers who have allowed us to put their words onto screen for 3 volumes since the world changed, and a collection of actors and directors from around the world who – at some stage in their lives have lived in Bangkok and were active in BCT – have now branched out to the UK, the USA, Dubai, South Africa, The Philippines and Pakistan as well as Bangkok and several other cities around Thailand.

If that’s not enough to whet your conversations about which vaccine you took or why you’re immune now, then joining the public Tuesday night play readings is a must for any lover of drama still going strong, this has been a total of 66 plays since the pandemic began (33 plays in 2020 and 33 in 2021 to date) from 7:30pm every Tuesday. On some occasions we were even given the premiere reading of the play by the playwright! 

BCT also moved monthly club nights online for most of the past two years. Would be thespians could be found holding online quiz nights and theatre games plus workshops on Psycho Physical Acting, Character Development, and Page to Stage Script work, among others 

Can you believe there is more that this group of players produce? Well there is! Auditions for the long awaited short movie ‘Go!’ took place this past spring. The film was created in Bangkok by BCT’s own writers, actors and directors, is currently in editing post production and will be released later this year.

All of the active brilliance that BCT offers is, almost, in its entirety down to Bonnie Zellerbach and the BCT Committee who, week-in-week out rally to gather all the players, writers and directors to show off what we have to offer.

Long may BCT continue to entertain us all during Covid, curfews and crash diets and fingers crossed we can soon return to theatres and rejuvenate a lifeblood that has long been missing in Bangkok! Theatre!

If you are interested in learning more, please see Bangkok Community Theatre’s website, facebook and Instagram page and catch up with all the latest Shorts on Bangkok Community Theatre’s Youtube channel. www.bangkokcommunitytheatre.com

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Everyone loves a good love story, right?

Where do I begin? Let me start at the end, when I met Perry at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden in Phuket. He has just returned from his wedding ceremony in Korat in the northeast of Thailand. A glistening gold ring on his finger engraved with Phichawi Perry. This spurred me to write this blog as a testament to a Thai love story.

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden

The love story began at Maybelle’s Coffee Garden, a melting pot for those arriving via the Phuket Sandbox. You will literally find all sorts of people here, from those sipping health smoothies or wheatgrass shots, or those after a pre training coffee who have found Muay Thai as fitness their saviour. Or the ‘Stuff it! Life is for living!’ guys ordering a Big Baddy brekkie with black pudding! From hairy arsed traders to cool crypto currency geeks speaking in foreign tongues, coffee for us ladies – of all ages, we are an eclectic international mix. Drawn into coffee conversations are tales of life’s triumphs and adversities, and occasionally a love story. There is never a dull moment at Maybelle’s!

Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube

Maybelle’s Coffee Garden is an off-the-beaten-track destination, tucked away by the main road. Most arrivals seeking out Maybelle’s million-dollar smile, as Richie calls it, already know the lay of the land from watching Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. 

Here, an overseas bloke meets and falls in love with a beautiful Thai lady. The attraction of their story is replicated many times over in this coffee garden by those drawn to meet them and share their own similar and very personal love stories. It’s not all boy meets girl, this week I meet an Aussie lass who meets and falls in love with her Thai Muay Thai teacher.

Love in the garden

The first thing you see when arriving at the cafe is a giant love heart with a bench in its middle – a perfect Instagram photo spot, or just a place to cuddle up for a happy snap. Richie and Maybelle’s are as captivating in person as they are on camera with an ever growing number of 16,000 plus subscribers.

No wonder they inspired Perry to push through the obstacles of pandemic life to return to his long awaited wedding ceremony to Phichawi. Perry like Richie is from the UK. He has been coming to Thailand for twenty years, returning year after year for the beaches, hot weather, Thai food, attracted by the friendly people and the freedom to explore Phuket on his bike. 

Perry met Phichawi who worked at a restaurant in Patong in December 2018, on a stopover to see his daughter in Australia. Phichawi had moved to Phuket for work after her husband was killed in a motor scooter accident, leaving behind her two children to be looked after separately by her mother and her mother in law. 

Perry laughs telling how the shy Phichawi stood him up when he invited her to join him on his motorbike to visit the Big Buddha. She said she slept in, after all, her work was long hours and she was always tired.

Luckily, Perry gave Phichawi a second chance and by the end his visit they knew it was serious. Perry cut short his Australian holiday returning to Phuket on the homeward leg, to be with Phichawi. 

With Perry’s support, she was now able to realise her dream of owning a shop in her village and give up the all night work. She packs in her job and Perry takes her back home to be reunited with her two teenage children. 

By Jan 2020 Perry returned to Thailand to complete the legal paper work and marry his Thai sweetheart. But with Covid looming they were not able to have the big village marriage celebration they hoped for. Perry returned to the UK for work knowing that Phichawi was safe amongst family in her village. 

During the seventeen months that Covid kept them apart, Perry found Richie and Maybelle’s YouTube channel. With a similar love story to theirs, Perry’s was inspired to return to Thailand arriving via the Phuket Sandbox entry scheme that permits quarantine free entry to fully vaccinated people with a negative Covid test. Perry saw this as his chance.

 

Unfortunately, rising Covid cases across Thailand caused Phuket to instigate additional health safety requirements and closed to domestic arrivals. Additionally, all domestic flights in Thailand were on hold, with Phichawi unable to enter Phuket. 

Meanwhile Perry completed his mandatory 14 days in Phuket then took an overnight bus to Bangkok, a 14 hour journey. From there, another five hours by taxi to Korat.

But love in a pandemic meant no romantic reunion. Oh, no!  After seventeen months apart there was to be no flinging arms around each other, especially under the ever watchful eye of the Korat quarantine officer. Pichawi’s village elder consented to let Perry enter the village providing he did a 14 day quarantine at a motel in Korat. Twice a day Phichawi made the 10km trip to deliver food to Perry. 

Perry is respectful of local rules, which meant that eventually he could return to Phichawi’s village. He realised it was an honour, as he was the only Farang, (western foreigner) there. After a lengthy quarantine and endless negative Covid tests Perry was finally allowed to join Phichawi and her kids. 

The village at the time was in a dark red zone (the highest level of Covid health precautions) so Perry was confined to the house and the garden. The house has been decorated since he last saw it, the walls painted blue, chosen as the perfect backdrop for the wedding photos. Perry never left the premises except for an occasional escorted visit to the 7-11 convenience store.

The wedding celebration was planned to be at home, festively decorated with a banana leaf archway and colourful balloons. The reception was planned for 150 guests, however in Covid times they were allowed only 10 guests within the house, which meant the tricky job of reducing the guest list by 140 and condensing the celebration into three hours. 

Perry amusingly tells us about the wedding ceremony, much of which he laughs in recognition that he had little idea of what was occurring, yet he knows everything is for a reason. Phichawi who speaks English well tries to explain to Perry the many traditions such as the dowry. Perry listens but he wishes he were more skilled at sitting on the floor!

Whilst guests were not allowed in the house, Perry says that somehow he still managed to feed the entire village! He knows this is important as Thai people love their food and he adds with a laugh, ‘If you like to eat 10 times a day, marry a Thai woman. If they are not eating food, they are preparing it!’ 

The following day, one of the wedding guests was declared Covid positive and the house declared a Covid no go zone, with a large warning Covid sign put up and the house taped off. 

After a 14 day of Phuket Sandbox entry, a 10 day motel quarantine in Korat, and now a 14 day Covid isolation is enforced – it is certainly a memorable wedding and honeymoon! 

For more information on the Thai Wedding ceremony here.

Perry is relieved and feels a great sense of accomplishment in being able to finally hold their Thai wedding ceremony. He describes the past year and a half as a testing period, when there were times he wondered if he should sensibly put it all on hold. He felt however that he had to pursue love regardless of the obstacles.

Perry credits Richie with the inspiration to persevere. 

He says, ‘I saw Richie’s love story I thought if he can do it, and he’s from Derby, I can do it as I am from London!’

Wishing Perry and Phichawi a lifetime of love and laughter and happy ever after!

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Moving home?

I have recently moved from a 5 bedroom house on 3 storeys in Bangkok to a much smaller condo on the fourth floor of a condominium in Hua Hin.

Was it worthwhile trying to manouvere the quality king sized mattress down the stairs and then onto the fourth floor of the condominium – I made the judgment not to.

I looked at various alternatives but then stumbled across www.sleephappy.co.th online and I am glad that I did. Reading their website I saw that they delivered your new mattress in a 7’ long x a 18” square box!

The removal company probably could have struggled down from the third storey of my old house but I wasn’t able to move straight into my new apartment as it was being refurbished, so it would have had to have been put in storage for a month. Then moved again when I was able to move in. Sleephappy delivered it via a courier company. The topper that came with it in a 3’ long 18” box.

The mattress I chose is the same one used by JW Marriott – and they know a thing or two about beds. The topper makes it even softer and gives me a good nights sleep.

When we opened it up it was heavily wrapped and compressed in vacuum packed plastic. As it was released from its bond it sprang into action and was finished off beautifully. No scuff marks on it from the dirty floor outside and perfectly clean and ready for use. This is obviously the future for mattresses.

I can heartily recommend www.sleephappy.co.th – it is an evolution of Dreammaster, a company that has been selling beds in Thailand for years.

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