Almost Ready To Ring The Bell….
One week turned to one month, one month turned to one year, one year came chasing on the heels of two years. The shutdown of the barfly express to Thailand has been much longer than even the pessimists feared.
Myself? I thought 6 months was a long time away from sandy beaches and fresh seafood. But like most people I hadn’t really understood what a pandemic was. I have never experienced World Wars or huge holes in my space time continuum. The worst I had previously experienced was being trapped during the coup. Even then I was able to find a back-street bar and a few friendly Thais, so when I say trapped I mean trapped in a bar without being able to drink in my usual haunts. Oh, the inconvenience of hiding in the back of CheckInn99 with 1000s of bottles of beer and some attractive bar staff. So how serious this pandemic has been; was a bit of a shock. I think it came as a shock to the most seasoned and educated travellers of our times.
My initial attitude was actually positive. I felt I could do with a break from international travel and enjoy the home I built in the UK, use the high performance sports car I scrimped and saved for to do a few road trips in my country. Due to my work and regular trips to Asia it languished unloved in a garage from one new battery to another. I figured I could spend time improving my Japanese and watching all the movies that life prevented me from reviewing, there would be time to get super fit and alter my diet. Finally I could finish my kitchen and explore some of the wonderful coastal areas of Eastern England. Of course some of those happened and some never got further than an idea. What I never lost during all this time was my longing for a neon-lit night out in the manic sois of Pattaya and Bangkok. The little ear worm was always there telling me, ”You’re certainly getting older but your nocturnal activities aren’t done yet my boy! No time to sit on a part bench when you could be on a stool in a chrome pole emporium of infinite possibilities”. To be fair the earworm usually gets its prompting from my boredom threshold. Still the multitude of Covid delights didn’t seem to be the new Stumble Inn.
Of course I spent a lot of time watching the YouTube reports of the decimation of my old stomping ground. I was horrified at the empty post-apocalyptic streets of Patpong, I watched in morbid fascination the gutted bars in Pattaya with “For Rent” signs, the queues for free food handouts upset me greatly and the knowledge that so many livelihoods with multiple dependants had evaporated was a fact that made my sacrifices in freedom bearable, no actually they made them feel pathetic.
Is it really only a few decades ago that our grandfathers endured smallpox, Polio, measles and hooping cough? Pioneers invented vaccines and communities took them for the greater good. My great aunt died a horrible death at 15 and because of this my Grandma always raised a glass to those that allowed my Dad, myself and my children to live and travel safer than they had. I had both my vaccines and my booster, so did my Thailand drinking team, no side effects and no issues. Personal freedom? Community freedom? World community freedom? A man makes a choice and then lives with it. If Bill Gates wants to track me with microbots then he needs to get a life. If “big Pharma companies“ make billions then good luck to them. If a secretive government agency wants me injected with horse hormones to stop me complaining about devil worshippers pulling all the strings then it worked!
What hasn’t worked is TAT’s ham-fisted approach to sandboxes and testing. The clue should be in the name “tourism”. Oh I’m off on holiday to relax by jumping through hoops which ultimately mean I’m gambling with a hefty bill to watch the beach out of a budget hotel window and catch up on Netflix latest series on the other side of the world. Then get billed for it. NOT! This peacemeal approach isn’t confidence-inspiring, but the earworm isn’t as put off as me. He booked a direct flight from Heathrow to Bangkok at the end of July for a very paltry sum at the height of the hysteria on the off chance the rules were relaxed.
Well, I’m hoping he got it right and this bored Brit with his baht and his Covid certificate gets on that flight and with minimal inconvenience and a bit of insurance gets to relax once again in the most unrelenting holiday environment in Asia. The first thing I’m going to do when I hit my favourite bar on soi 7 alley is ring the bell. I’m ringing it because I made it back, I’m ringing it because those girls need my money and I’m ringing it because the deep rabbit hole that is Bangkok and Pattaya at night deserves a bit of love.
I just hope the earworm pays the tab.
Like you I haven’t really been drinking since the pandemic hit, I don’t drink at home at all. The realization that I’m a social drinker who would rather rent a bar stool than a sofa has made me value my fellow humans that little bit more.
I think you should be ok for relatively hassle-free travel in July. My best guess – and obviously it is just that, a guess – is that after Songkran things will open up and all you’ll need to do is get tested before boarding the plane. May 1st for hassle-free travel with no isolation / quarantine on arrival, perhaps? I hope to be back in June…..I hope!
The author of this article cannot be contacted.