So barely 12 hours after I arrive in Chiang Mai, the Australian Government announces outgoing International travel bans, effectively cutting Australia off from the rest of the world.
I learn about this while sitting in my favourite Chiang Mai cafe having my usual breakfast.
So I check the news. Doom, gloom, fear and loathing as usual…meh.
I panic book a return flight in three weeks (just in case) and get on with my life.
I have to say that the approach that the Thai government has adopted (although some say too little, too late) is actually working ok.
The flight from KL was half full, loads of Thai, one or two Chinese and a handful of Westerners. The flight crew were masked but friendly as usual.
With so few Chinese tourists on board , no-one got up to use the bathroom as the aircraft was taking off, which was a nice change <racist? probably…meh>
Passing through the airport at Chiang Mai yesterday afternoon was incredibly smooth – the usual wander through the cattle crushes into Immigration was quiet, a simple table set up in the Immigration Hall with officials intercepting Farang (foreigners) to check on where they had come from, getting them to download the Airports of Thailand app onto their phones and register their flight details.
Luckily I’d already done all of this while sitting idly in Kuala Lumpur airport for hours and was walked through the process – literally the first foreigner in Chiang Mai to go through the ‘new’ Immigration procedures for Covid-19.
It went a little something like this :
Official “Where have you come from?”
Me ” Sydney, transiting through KL”
Official “May I see your boarding pass please?”
Me “sure…” – handed over boarding pass.
Official “Can you please download…”
Me “already done”…here <shows AOT App on my phone>
Official “Oh, ok…” <checks phone>
Official “can you please go to My Flights….”
Me “Already done…” <shows her my registered details>
BIG smile from Official.
Official “Ok thank you! through you go”, indicating Immigration counter.
Me “Ummm..ok! Thanks!”
<walk over to Immigration counter – wait for 3 minutes>
Immigration official “Hi! passport please!
Me “Sure thing!”
Immigration official tappity taps and checks a few things…
Immigration Official “How long are you here for?”
Me ” 30 days”
Immigration Official “OK…” tappity tap tap…STAMP
Immigration Official “Welcome to Thailand! Bye!”
Me “Umm thanks!. Bye!”
…and that was it. No mandatory quarantine, no cautions.
**The other nationalities behind me were copping some heat though – Americans and Europeans mostly – but i left them in the dust. Australia seems to be noticeably absent from International travel cautions here.
I wandered out of Immigration into the almost empty main arrivals hall and headed for the ATM to get some cash, sanitizing my hands while waiting in line.
Immigration official runs up to me “Excuse me Sir…this is all new for us as well…can you please fill in this form?” <hands me a paper form for personal details, place of residence in Thailand, and wether I have “any of the following symptoms” <goes on to list Corona virus symptoms>
Me ” Sure thing! <big smile and write, write write – hands back form> “there you are!”
Immigration official <big smile> “Thank you!” <runs off>
…and THAT was it!. I was the first one through.,
All that remained was a walk through the terminal, head outside to the metered taxi rank and grab a cab to Nimman (200 baht this time – super cheap).
Total time from landing to hotel check in ? under 30 minutes.
So first impression? Much quieter, no Chinese tourists, little traffic, no queues, no waiting…Thailand for all intents and purposes is open for business as usual but without all the bad bits.
I’m wearing a mask <required as this time of year is smokey as Hell anyway> and washing/sanitizing my hands like a germophobe.
Covid -19 checks? Nothing at the airport at all.
So far, entry into shopping centres requires a temp scan and mandatory hand washing at the doors <security guards enforce this> and as of today, that is about it!
Bangkok are starting to crack down to stop the spread into the provinces – gyms, cinemas,sporting events and large gatherings are being banned as per the norm now, but malls and markets remain open as I write this.
As for Chiang Mai, it’s a lovely 39 degrees each day here this time of year, with mild nights down to 26. There is no flu season coming, there are’nt many people to interact with, I’m the only one in my Hostel, and Im taking more than the recommended precautions…so far so good!
I met up quickly with a traveller friend last night that I’d last seen in a hostel in Timisoara, Romania two years ago – she’s been traveling the world since then, a true nomad. It was nice to catch up and she is pushing on despite the bans <insurance be damned>. After you’ve been traveling alone for so long, you get a little weird, and it was nice to see that the weirdness is universal to true travelers and not just a personality defect on my part.
She talked in an almost nonstop braindump for the quick walk and talk catchup we had , looping around the walled Old City and enjoying a quick Cornetto to escape the bazillions of flying bugs and dengue mosquitos that have invaded the city – I was knackered anyway so it was nice to just walk, nod and listen for a change. 🙂 Super nice to see you Lewis. Catch you in another two years!.
Anyhoo…out for wander today, masked and ready to roll…
Spell/grammar checks plus Pandemic Pics later.