Thoughts from ASQ
I’m writing this in reply to Stick’s column, 27th of December. I’m not bothered at all by the recent outbreak of C19 in Thailand. Allow me to explain why. Firstly, a little bit about my background situation to explain things better. I’m based in the Middle East where I used to live with my Thai wife and two children. For various reasons which I won’t go in to here, although they are probably worth another submission in itself, the family left the Gulf to permanently move back to Thailand a couple of years ago.
After they moved back I was travelling to Thailand about every eight weeks or so to see them. Whilst not ideal it worked out okay. We all felt that we had enough contact time together and when we did see each other we made sure that it was quality time too. It is a not too uncommon arrangement for expats based in the Gulf. My family lived there with me for six years, so they are no strangers to the region but after a while the pull of home, and cultural differences do start to add up, hence the move was made. It is a man’s world in the Middle East and that will not be changing anytime soon.
The last time I was in Thailand previously to now was in January, 2020. We had planned on going to the UK in March but ended up cancelling the whole trip as countries started closing borders. And thank God that we did because it would have been an absolute nightmare to get stuck for what turned out to be a whole six months of the border being closed. An American colleague left a few days before I had planned on going in March and he didn’t get back into the country until September. That would have been a major problem for me to be outside my country of residence for so long.
As it was, the subsequent lockdown where I live was fine really. Fewer working hours, working from home, only going in for one day a week, but getting a full salary. I’ll take that all day long. I consider myself extremely fortunate compared to many.
Anyway, to bring things more into the present. Flights out of where I live only really opened up in November for expatriates. And seeing how I work in a military environment, it is not always so simple to take vacation whenever you want. Which leads up to me finally being able to get away this month and I am sitting here in ASQ as I am writing this. By the time I am released it will be ten days short of one year since I last saw my family. This is the longest we have been separated from each other by a long way. There were a couple of periods of six months when the children were young and then another period of six months about 5 years ago but never anything as long as this.
Thank God for the technology today that allows us to video call for next to nothing whenever we want to. I am sure I am not the only person to be saying this. If this pandemic had happened 15 or 20 years ago it would have been far more difficult and far more expensive to stay in touch in anything approaching the same way. As it is now though, we can video call multiple times throughout the day and we are always in touch. Is it a substitute for being there in person? No. But it does help a lot.
Against this backdrop I can honestly say that I could not care less what is open or closed in Thailand, or if there is a lockdown or not. Right now, the only thing I care about is seeing my family again. I imagine that for others with families, wives etc in Thailand that the feeling is the same. I will quite happily spend the rest of my trip at home if I have to. Not so good for those that live here permanently I suppose but there you go.
I would also guess that due to the quarantine rules and other restrictions on entry there are practically no tourists coming to Thailand right now, and most people who do come must have personal reasons for doing so. Maybe I’m wrong, who knows, but after experiencing the ASQ I just cannot see why on earth anyone would put themselves through all this just to come for a holiday. I know that I definitely wouldn’t. I would be going elsewhere for sure.
I didn’t really mind the process to get here. Due to the lack of people going to Thailand from where I am, I was dealing with the Charge d’Affaires from the Thai Embassy directly. And I cannot fault him in the slightest. An immensely helpful man, he always replied to my e-mails very quickly, often within an hour, sometimes even at the weekends. He gave concise and detailed information helping me through the process every step of the way. Maybe he has so little to do it gives him something to do. I only wish that my own embassy gave such excellent service, and I know from what I have read online that people’s experiences with Thai embassies in the UK or the USA have been hugely different.
The PCR test and Fit To Fly certificate were fairly straightforward to obtain. I made sure that I went around a few places in advance of when I would need to, so as to find out about timescales and cost. I suppose I was a bit nervous having taken the test, wondering if the results would come back in time but it was fine. Took the test 2 days before my flight, got the results the next day and the Certificate of Entry about an hour after emailing the embassy having got the results.
As far as costs go, I paid 32,000 baht for the ASQ, 6,400 baht for the C19 insurance for 90 days cover, and about another 6,000 baht for the PCR. The extra costs on my trip were about 42,000 baht. The flight was with Emirates which isn’t my usual airline. I normally fly with Gulf, but they aren’t flying at the moment. The ticket was a fairly normal price of about 24,000 baht. I’m not really that bothered by the financial aspects of this as I earn a very good salary by most people’s measure. It’s more the lost time in quarantine that is my gripe.
The flying experience itself is rather surreal. Coming from Dubai to Bangkok on an almost empty plane is a strange experience. I think there were only about 30 people on the plane. And of course, the experience on landing is rather odd too. Very Thai though. Endless checking of the same documents by different groups of people. I am sure they have their system though…
But anyway, I digress. The main point I am trying to make is that Thailand can do whatever they like in the coming weeks and I couldn’t care less. I’ll be reunited with my family again and that is priceless.
The author of this article can be contacted at : [email protected]