A Note about Travel Now – Siam Summer

I have struggled with whether I should be writing this blog about the time I have spent in downtown Bangkok right now. There are many countries in the world that are still under lockdown and many place are only starting to open their doors back to the world to see what it is like out there. A bunch of uncertainty hangs in the air about what will happen next and whether it is safe to go out and enjoy life again. Bangkok is also going through this. They just happen to be a little ahead of other countries with getting back to a daily hustle and bustle, yet there is still a long way to go. There have been a lot of question bouncing around the back of my mind as I wonder who stayed in this place before us, whether the places I have been going to have been taking it seriously, and why do some people believe they are above common safety reason by walking around without a mask. It makes me wonder if we are safe by doing this.

Then I think about the other side of it. Why am I living overseas? I am here to experience other cultures, and travel and see the world. It is the main reason that we made this choice, and if I spend all of that time in a little house looking out at my mango tree and waiting for a soi dog to walk down my street, I am not really living the life that I wanted to. I know that there are many people out there thinking the same way as they spend another day in quarantine, and it would not matter where I was in the world, but I would have to go through the same kind of experience of staying indoors. Though some people might believe otherwise, this is not a problem that is isolated to one country; it is a worldwide problem. It is just some countries did a better job of handling the problem than others, and if I am living in one of those countries, should I take advantage of it?

Thailand is one of those countries that did a great job of containing this virus. It is not completely under control yet. There are still cases popping up daily, but they are so minor, the biggest spike being 17 people one day in the last couple of week with it usually being under five people daily, that it would seem silly to keep a population of people at bay. Like I have been talking about in my last posts, it is not completely opened up yet, but there are opportunities out there, and as long as I take reasonable precautions, I can enjoy my time out here, and still feel safe.

But this is not the worry that I have while writing this blog. My thought is about all of those people who are reading this still stuck at home while I am out there enjoying life again. I know that I have a lot of readers in America and they have been going in and out of quarantine. I understand your suffering because just like many other people in the world, I have gone through the same experience. It was not fun, and the walls of my place started to beat down upon me and I felt like I would never leave that place. But the time I spent in near isolation paid off as the causes of the disease died down and Thailand is now a safer place to live in. Yes, there are a couple of inconveniences. I have to wear a mask when I go out and I have to be aware of my proximity to other people. They ask that I check in as I go into stores so if there is an outbreak they can contact me about the way I have been exposed, but this is a minor problem compared to the bigger ones that could happen if I contract the disease. It is then that I become a danger to other people, and I do not know if I could have that responsibility on my conscience.

This whole summer has been great to see Thailand without all of the tourists. I have been lucky that way, despite the fact that things were not always open the way that they usually are. I know people are suffering right now, but it is nice to see that things are starting to turn around for them, and the economy is starting to pick up again. But know that just like you, it has not been an easy journey, and they is still a long way to go to fully recover from this. But they understand that everything is very fragile right now, and another outbreak could cause everybody to revert back to the devastating lifestyle we had to endure earlier this year. I hope that never happens, but I am also doing my part to prevent this for coming back as well.

I guess the reason that I wrote about my travels this summer was not to cause you frustration and anger because somebody was able to do something that you were not, but instead I wished to give you hope and inspiration that if you do the right thing, that travel could be in your life again as well. It may not look the way that you had thought it would, and many opportunities might not be available to you, but make the most out of the situation, and you will still find that life can be rewarding. Just know that it will happen again someday, but until then, do you part to help mitigate the problem and you will enjoy that reward even more when you finally achieve it.

A Phuket Sunset – Siam Summer

The sunset from Kata Beach on Phuket Island, Thailand

Most of yesterday was spent traveling and getting situated in our new place. We opted to stay in a Condotel this time around. Yeah, I had never heard of them either, but basically it is a small apartment that is treated as a hotel so you can have a small kitchen and a living space. It is nice to have a kitchen again, and we went to the grocery store so we did not have to eat out for every meal. There was also the washing of clothes that needed to happen on these longer voyages, and a little bit of down time. By the time we got to a place where it was comfortable to go out and explore, it was time for the sunset.

The view from the southern tip of Kata Beach

Considering I have spent the last few nights going out to watch the sunset, it seemed like the right thing to keep up the tradition. This time around we had to walk fifteen minutes to Kata Beach in order to catch it. The walk over reminded me that Phuket is still trying to get up and running again. Many of the places around town were closed down except for the occasional bar, massage parlor and convenience store. It depressed me a little to think that there was still much to endure in this tourist destination and I wondered where all of the people might be found.

People coming back to the beach

Coming to the beach helped me see that there were people out there ready to take advantage to the beautiful weather and the rising surf. It wasn’t as busy as I suspect that it gets normally this time of year, but it was nice to know that things were starting to pick up again. It also made enjoying the beach perfect. I did not have to jostle around to find a spot to relax, and there was enough space to stroll up and down it leisurely. It made for a great spot to watch the sunset.

The Surf House across the street from the beach opening back up for business

There were also a couple of business that had opened next to the beach as well. I counted at least five restaurants that were getting back to helping the small amount of tourists that have arrived out here from other parts of Thailand. Granted, they were still not at full capacity, but it was nice to see that they were open and the whole town wasn’t closed down completely.

It gives me hope that my time out here will be fun and I will get to experience a little bit of Phuket’s culture. At least it will be an educational experience to see what a tourist town is like during the down parts of the year and they grapple with the same problems that the rest of the world struggles with. It is nice to know that things are heading in the right direction, and I hope that wherever you find yourself that they are doing the same thing for you as well.

Leaving Paradise – Siam Summer

The bigger pool at Santhiya Resort getting ready to open up in the next couple of weeks.

I was able to talk to the head manager of Santhiya Resort today, and it was not because I wanted to complain about anything. There was nothing that I could complain about with this part of my trip. He was just at the dock to see us off when we left and while we were waiting for our boat to dock, he was telling us about the current status of the resort. Everyday, they were able to open up a new aspect of it, and they were seeing more and more guests as things moved forward. He expected that by the end of the month, they would be fully operational. It was just a matter of the guests returning.

The view from the dock at Santhiya Resort

This seemed to be moving in the right direction as well. On our first morning here, there were only three or four other couples having breakfast at the buffet, but by the end of our stay, it was hard to find a spot where we could have a meal. It even caused the coffee to be delayed when they made it, but we survived and got to enjoy a couple of cups before we had to pack up our bags and head for the dock.

One of the fishing boats now starting to travel out into the bay

The bay also started to pick up. On the day we came in, we were the only boat that we saw as we made the voyage from Phuket to the dock at Koh Yao Yai, but the way back, we had to weave through many fishing boats. I don’t know if this is because they wait until Sunday to fish this part of the bay, or if this is where they found the fish today, or if it had to do with the fact that more and more people were making their way to this part of Thailand, and the demand for fish was starting to grow again, and they needed to get the boats back out there to help with the demand.

Another amazing wood carving found on the grounds of Santhiya Resort

Everything was pointing to an economy that was jump starting itself once again. It has been the bigger theme I have witnessed everywhere I have gone in Thailand this summer. They are not back to 100 percent yet, but they are taking it slow because they do not want to screw this up. I know that I have enjoyed my time out here this summer, but this is not the height of the tourist season for them, and considering a lot of the economy is based on that, they want to make sure that it is safe for everybody when the reach that time of year. I think of right now as a test run to see what they would need to do if Covid popped up again someplace and if they could contain it before it destroyed all of the places in their land that could be affected by it.

I have seen it happen at least once, and I do believe that they did a great job of containing it. But this is not only the concern of the government. It involves everybody doing their part. If one person slips with their responsibility, it could mean the end for everybody involved. So the temperature checks keep on happening, and people still wear their masks when they are in public.

Moving out to get on the boat back to Phuket

And with that in mind, it is with a sad heart that I need to leave this part of my journey this summer. Koh Yao Yai is truly a magical place, and I do hope to come back to it some day. Sadly, I do not think it will be the same experience the next time around though. The crowds will surely be back, and it won’t feel like the place belongs to only me. I did enjoy all of my time here, but I enjoyed it more when there were less people. It is still an amazing place either way, and it will just be a different way to experience it when everything is opened and there are more options available.

The view from the rooftop at my next place next to Kata Beach on Phuket Island

This is not the end of my travels this summer though. It is just a change of pace. We left Koh Yao Yai behind, but find ourselves at a different part of Phuket island. I know it has not been that long, but it feels weird to be back in civilization. But I am looking forward to this leg on the trip. It looks like I will spend a little more time taking in the culture of the area, and less time lounging around a pool waiting for the next amazing sunset. I hope you join me as I deliver the goods on this part of Thailand as it slowly starts to open up as well.

Until next time, be safe and treat each other well.

It’s No Rayong – Siam Summer

Santhiya Resort on Koh Yao Yai

One of my friends at the school I am working at probably would not like me mentioning the joke that we use now when talking about the places we visit. We make reference to one of the places we visited earlier in the summer when we talk about the place we are staying. We may talk about the beautiful rooms, the expansive pool, the gorgeous beaches, and the way it just calms the nerves yet never be satisfied because, “It is no Rayong.” Rayong is the city that sits across the from Koh Samet, and many people only visit it long enough to catch a ferry over to the island. It is a nice place, but it is the great vacation place that Koh Samet is. We spent a couple of days there waiting for the island to open up, and though we had fun, it was not a place I would go back to for vacation.

A view of the resort that overlooking the bay

The place I have ventured to right now is no Rayong, but it will do. It is a resort tucked on the island of Koh Yao Yai all by itself. It is a paradise. Everything is made of teak wood including the song tols and there is a pool that is a hundred meter walk from the door to my room that overlooks the bay and gave me a beautiful sunset to watch last night. It is a five star hotel and we are getting it for a steal right now because they are trying to attract any person to come out here and enjoy their time. They have been hit just as hard by Covid-19 as many other places in the world, and they are starting to get things running again, but are doing everything in their power to be extremely careful so they do not have to backpedal later.

She told me she was smiling for this picture

This is the reason that I am bringing up Rayong, and the lesson that can be learned from what happened their recently. It turns out that an ambassador’s daughter broke her quarantine early to go out and party with her friends at one of the bars in town. She later found out the she was infected with Covid-19, and now because of her inability to follow the rules, she has caused problems for many people. First, there is the group of people she exposed to the virus. Hopefully, they do not have any health concerns because of this, but no matter what, they will not be able to go back to normal life until they can prove that they are not going to affect other people and cause the disease to spread again.

The marina in Phuket that we had to visit to be taken over to Koh Yao Yai

Secondly, there is the town of Rayong itself that has been affected. The school have been told to close down until further notice. The businesses are going to also have to shut down, and even if they were willing to break that request, there are people who are cancelling their plans to the area so they won’t have the customers they would have had if the outbreak had not happened there. The island of Koh Samet is a great example of going through this problem. As soon as the news came out, many people cancelled their reservations, causing them to slip back into the slump that they were trying to get out of in this first place.

There are many consequences to someone be selfish and not doing what is asked of them. I know that this person was given a special privilege due to their prestige considering that most people who come into Thailand have to quarantine in certain hotels that are closely watched, but the rules are in place for a reason. This disease does not care about who you are or your social status or your political leanings. It does not care about international borders or what timely thing that you might be missing out on. It functions under the laws of nature, and all we can do is the right thing to make sure that we are mitigating any potential of this spreading further and causing more disruption to our daily lives.

We took our masks for a second so we could get a picture on our song tol made completely of teak wood

Life does not have to be miserable and we do not all have to live in our houses if we play it smart. I am lucky to be in a place right now that is letting me have a vacation during my summer months, and I appreciate that. But I know that there are some things that I need to do to make sure that my loved ones, those who I come across and I are all safe. It is as simple as keeping a certain distance from people, wearing a mask while out in public, and if I do get sick, not to go out and try to grab a little bit of fun because I am afraid of missing out on something. If we all do our part, we can all enjoy life until we can discover that vaccine that will keep everybody safe.

Thanks for listening, and I hope you stay safe and think of others around you as we fight this pandemic together the best way we know how.

A Walk Through the Neighborhood – Siam Summer

Overlooking the old part of town of Phuket

I know that I was getting back into the groove of life after my last two trips. Things were getting back to normal, and I was getting used to donning the face mask as I walked around. The bars were still not open, but I never frequented them that much to really care anyway. So I was brought back to the reality of the situation when I finally made it to Phuket. This was one of the places that was hit the hardest during the first wave of the pandemic, and even though, it has been awhile since there has been a new case here, it has taken a little bit of time for it to open up again. We went strolling through the old neighborhood last night looking for a place to eat, but most of the restaurants were not opened up and it took us awhile to find a Tex-Mex place, Amore Cafe and Bar. We were lucky to have found it too because they made some great spicy margaritas, and it was easily the best Mexican food I have found since I have moved to Thailand.

The quiet streets of old town right now. This place is usually packed with tourists.

Though things are really quiet, it does not mean that I will not be able to enjoy my time out here. In fact, it might be the best time to visit Phuket. The throngs of tourists that usually come out here to visit are gone right now, and I get to have the streets to myself. The tourist sights seem to be closed right now, but I am sure I will be able to find a couple of the more natural settings in the area to enjoy. I might have to search a little bit longer for a place to eat, but when I find it, they will be so happy to have customers that they will give me their best service and show me what they can really do with food.

The pancakes available at Pancake Corner and Coffee Club

Besides the Mexican restaurant we found last night, there was also a pancake place, Pancake Corner and Coffee Club, we discovered for breakfast that had some amazing food. I am not really into pancakes because there are too many people that screw them up and they turn out doughy instead of fluffy like they should. This place knew what to do with them though and my favorite thing was they served a side of homemade vanilla ice-cream with the pancakes that added the perfect flavor to this meal. It seems to be a regular condiment that comes with many breakfasts out in Thailand because this is the third place I have been to out here that has served this with either pancakes or French toast.

A statue I found as I wandered towards the end of the street in the old part of town in Phuket

Though it may not be the ideal way to travel, I still cannot complain. At least I have landed in a country that was able to get the Covid-19 problem under control, and I am able to venture out to explore this country. There is enough out here to make it an exciting adventure even if I can’t experience it to the full extent that is available. Also because I have my car with me, I will be able to explore little corners that I wouldn’t have been able to if I had to do everything on foot. I do have a lot of time out here, so I am sure things will loosen up as well as time goes by. It just will have to be slower than I am used to, and considering the patience I have had to endure over the last couple of months, I think I am okay with doing that right now.

Independence Day – Siam Summer

I have traveled all around the world, but most of the time, I am in the United States for Independence Day. It is a great time where family and friends gather together to eat and enjoy the freedom of being away from work for a day. If it falls on a long weekend this feeling is amplified because they know that they will not have to work the next day as well. It usually wraps up late in the evening with the echo of fireworks still ringing in the night sky. For the most part, it is a great celebration.

But there have been a few years where I have not been in the United States and the day does not take on the same meaning. Sometimes, a bar or restaurant will try to capitalize on the fact that there will be Americans abroad, and cater to them in order to make a little extra money, but I have found that this is usually not the case. The rest of the world forgets about the day, as they should.

During my first time I found myself out of the country on this day, I tried to make the most out of it, and celebrate my independence, but I looked like an arrogant fool who was not being considerate of the country I was in. Later, I acknowledged what the day was, but spent it looking at the smaller things and events that presented itself during the day. It wasn’t the American way of celebrating, but it still made for a nice day.

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of vitriol spewing from the social media sites from many of my friends back home in the United States, most of it centered around the loss of freedom and how one party or the other party is responsible for the situation concerning Covid-19 in that part of the world. I do understand that it is an election year, but it is still weird to see how this has been turned into a political argument. I have been forced to spend the summer in Thailand because of this pandemic and I have been reading how other countries have taken extreme measures to ensure the safety and health of their citizens. It does require some sacrifice on everybody’s part and because of their efforts, Thai people and many other places in the world have started to enjoy their freedoms once again. Yes, there are simple measures that people take such as social distancing and wearing masks, but in the greater picture, these are small steps that we can all take to make sure everybody is safe. Because of this, Thailand has not reported the transmission of a case in over thirty days and the only cases that have come into the country have come from Thai people moving back into the country. Due to these measures and the facts that have come out, I feel safe, secure and most importantly on Independence Day, free.

It comes to the statement that I have heard uttered by many Americans over the years, “Freedom isn’t free.” That statement is usually uttered when talking about the armed forces of the United States, and the sacrifice they have made for the nation. But the key to that statement is sacrifice. In order to have freedom, people need to work for it. They need to prove that they have earned it. Sometimes this means making painful sacrifices to ensure not only their freedom, but the freedoms of everybody within their society. This is a time for that sacrifice, but it is not coming from people serving in the armed forces this time. Guns and bombs will not be able to solve this problem no matter how much people want it to. It will only be solved by taking the precautions that will eradicate the Covid-19 virus until a vaccine can be discovered. The sacrifices that are being asked are not absurd. Wearing a face mask and respecting other people’s space in not hard to do. When that happens, then freedom can return. The restriction will be lifted because the safety of the people can be guaranteed.

I am enjoying my freedoms right now, but I would love to go home some day and see the mountains of Colorado and visit my family and friends. I know it might sound a little selfish, but I hope the people of America can make that sacrifice so I can have this happen. But I also hope that they can make that sacrifice for their freedom, so they can enjoy it again without this terrible disease hanging over them and controlling their freedom, so what they are enjoying is not really freedom.

Travel During Covid19 – Siam Summer

Even the stuffed animals are fitted with face masks

Usually, during this time of the year, I will have already hopped on a plane and have taken a long plane ride back to the United States to visit with family and friends. I would be unwinding from a busy school year, and trying to get over jet lag while making the adjustment to the new time zone. It would be a time to cover a lot of ground that I have already been over before, but I would be looking forward to the familiar.

This year has been a little different with the emergence of this new virus that has stopped the world in its tracks. It is an extremely dangerous time to travel, and I had no idea if I would be allowed back into Thailand for my job if I decided to leave it. There were options, but the most logical one was to stay put for the summer and hope that I would not go crazy doing something different while still stuck in the rut that I had experienced at the end of the school year.

So I am here in Bangkok, trying to find ways to enjoy the summer as best as I can.

Luckily for me, Thailand has done a really good job of getting the pandemic under control in its country. It has basically banned anybody from entering the country for unimportant reasons, closed down all of the shops and public places to make sure that the spread of the virus did not happen, promoted a culture of social distancing and wearing face masks, and creating great programs to track people so if there is an outbreak they can quickly get it under control before it gets out of hand. Because of this, many places are starting to open up again, and it is starting to return back to normal.

Of course there are a couple of places that are not allowed to open up yet such as bars, sporting events, and certain kinds of massage parlors, but there is really only one of those that I partook in anyways, so I can patiently wait for the bars to open up again, and it is probably a good thing that they have not done this yet.

There are a couple of hot spots in the nation as well that have not opened up its doors to people inside of the country yet. The pandemic is getting under control in these spots, but it has not been long enough for the government to feel safe to open them up, but most of them are a long ways away from Bangkok and not something that I could get to easily, mainly Phuket, Chiang Mai, and the national parks. There is also talk that the parks will open up at the end of the month and the other will follow soon.

In other words, Thailand is taking their time to make sure that they are doing things right so by the time the dry season starts and tourists want to make it back to the country, they should be able to do it safely. It just means that Thailand will be a quiet country this summer, making it the perfect time to explore it. The plan is to make sure that we are not spending more than a week at home at a time, and spend the rest of the time exploring the different parts of the country. It is still a little too early to go crazy on the coast or the northern mountain regions, but it is a great time to head down to the downtown area and explore the places we haven’t seen there yet. We won’t be able to visit the big tourists sites, or enjoy the rooftop bars, but we are okay with this. It is just nice to be outside of the house, and get to look at four different walls. It is not the summer I would have planned a couple of months ago, but I am still going to be able to make the most of it, and have a great Siam Summer.

Graduation during Covid-19

I have been looking forward to the pomp,
But it’s gone because of the circumstance.
Against the travesty, I want to stomp,
And participate in my tantrum dance.
But against whom do I direct my yell
For the virus does not care about pain
Or has even heard of the place called hell,
So why would it listen to me complain?
The better choice is to accept this fate
Rather than wallow in my misery.
Promoting anger only breeds more hate,
And there’s no way to fight this history.
On Graduation Day, my pride won’t show;
Instead, I’ll take this last lesson to grow.

Waiting for the Door to Open

While watching our society restart,
I know you have wondered where I have been.
I have been huddled down, doing my part.
And waiting for the front door to open.
The bolt has been fastened for way too long
That rust may have locked it into its place.
It will take more than muscles that are strong
To untrigger its mechanical face.
It will take the resolve in me, knowing
That living life is taking that first step.
Though the curve is returning to growing,
Do I worry ’bout where the virus crept?
I guess I’ll continue to hide out here,
Waiting for a new world with little fear.

The New Normal

I look to my money for protection
Because I have found comfort there before.
I can hold it during isolation,
As for the outside, I can now ignore.

I look to all of my guns to save me
For only they can take down any threat.
A danger that’s impossible to see
Won’t survive the power of a bullet.

In these times, I look to my government
Because wisdom comes from democracy.
It is my interest that they represent
In this country called the land of the free.

Holding on to the normal when it went
Does not teach us what’s really important.

(It is week four of quarantine, and this poem is another in the series that tries to explain what life is like now that Covid-19 has changed so much for all of us.)