Covid-19 Relationship Strain
While many of us are keen to get back to Thailand for a holiday, some have an even stronger reason to get back – their wife is there and they are not. Being unable to holiday in Thailand might seem bad enough, but how would you feel being thousands of miles away from your Thai wife / girlfriend and unable to get back to her?
The closure of borders around due to Covid19 has had a terrible effect on relationships. In some cases couples have been kept apart. In other cases they have been stuck together in close proximity, 24 hours a day for weeks on end.
These are the stories of four Farang / Thai couples and the effects border closures and lockdowns have had on their respective relationships.
Frank & Nid, USA & Thailand
Frank & Nid’s story is typical of many a frustrated Farang / Thai couple who have found themselves thousands of miles apart due to the over-reaction to Covid-19.
Frank has been employed in the airline industry for most of his working life. He is currently in the USA and unable to get back to his wife in Thailand. They’ve been apart for 7 months and Frank doesn’t know when he will next see Nid and the kids.
Frank & Nid married 15 years ago. Their relationship has always been long-distance. They quickly settled in to a routine that has worked well for them. Frank spends a couple of months working in the US making good coin before returning to Thailand for a month with his family.
It had always worked well. Frank’s seniority meant travel between work in the USA and family in Thailand had always been smooth. The journey between the States and Thailand is long but he would almost always get a seat in first-class on the leg between the States and Asia, which made it much more bearable.
Frank can’t get back to Thailand. He hasn’t seen his family for 7 months since he left Thailand in mid-March. The plan was to work in the USA for 2 months and then return to Thailand in mid-May.
Frank is stuck in the United States. He cannot get back to Thailand and he tells me that he feels like he is in a permanent state of limbo.
There aren’t any regular flights to Thailand at this time. If you’re in Thailand you can fly out of the country, assuming you are traveling to a country that will allow you to enter. Getting in to Thailand, however, is much more difficult. The only option is on Thai government-organised repatriation flights. It requires screeds of paperwork, an insurance policy with specific coverage for Covid-19, oodles of patience and for foreigners, negative Covid tests within 72 hours of travelling. And once you arrive in Thailand you have to go through 14 days of quarantine at your own expense.
Frank says traveling to Thailand at this time would be a considerable hardship, both financially and mentally. Being locked up in a hotel room for 14 days is no-one’s idea of fun.
Frank doesn’t know when he will get back to his family in Thailand and that is putting all sorts of pressure not just on the relationship, but on the lives of all concerned.
Mic & Cam, USA
Covid has caused a real headache for American Mic and his South-East Asian sweetheart, Cam. Unlike Frank and Nid who find themselves apart, Mic & Cam find themselves stuck together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Cam is dependent on Mic, and Mic has really been struggling with this.
Cam can’t get her green card because like so many places in the United States at this time, the offices which process green card applications are closed.
It took Cam months to get her learners’ permit because the Department of Motor Vehicles was closed. Mic has no idea when Cam will be able to do the actual road test for her driver’s license as DMV appointments are all backlogged.
There are few jobs available so Mic and Cam spend all their time together which is putting real pressure on the relationship.
The services that would normally be available to help Cam become more independent aren’t currently available and the couple has been thrust in to relationship mode 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Mic and Cam have discovered something many couples have come to realise during the disruption to everyday life due to Covid – being forced to spend all their time together can be too much for some couples and the relationship can suffer.
A & C, New Zealand
A & C have lived together in Wellington for four years. A retired early and C has a small business.
With Andrew retired and C self-employed in a business that she can run from anywhere, they spend a lot of their time traveling. As Andrew said to me this week, it feels like they are always planning their next trip. They get away from New Zealand at least a couple of times a year, and each trip usually involves Thailand, and a side trip off to somewhere else.
New Zealand’s border is open for anyone to leave. Getting a flight out is easy. Getting back in to the country is difficult. There are limited seats available on incoming flights and limited places in quarantine due to capacity constraints with the number of people given permission to fly in to New Zealand managed. To fly in to New Zealand, one needs a booking for quarantine – which is essentially permission to return. And for any Kiwi leaving the country and returning, the cost of quarantine is $NZ 3,500.
The only flights between New Zealand and Thailand at this time are Thai-embassy organised repatriation flights which cost around 3 times the usual fare. For anyone flying to Thailand – Thai nationals and foreigners – there are numerous requirements. Those who have been through the process have not had anything good to say.
C could travel to Thailand and back to New Zealand, if she was willing to jump through all the hoops. However, they aren’t legally married so Andrew would not be able to join her. As merely her partner, he is not allowed to enter Thailand.
For C to travel to Thailand, she would have to go through the hassle of getting all the documents from the Thai Embassy prior to travelling. She would have to pay over the odds for the airfare, do 14 days quarantine on arrival in Thailand (where the Thai government picks up the bill) and then do the whole thing again when returning to New Zealand – where she would have to pick up the bill for quarantine herself @ $NZ 3,500.
When she is in Thailand, C spends time at the family home with her mother who has a variety of health issues. And given the difficulty in getting to Thailand to see her mother, that’s a worry.
It’s not just the time, hassle and expense of getting to Thailand to visit her mother. If C can get to Thailand, she doesn’t know when she will be able to get back. You can only book a one-way ticket. No-one knows when the next repatriation flight from Bangkok back to New Zealand will be. That means she doesn’t know how long she would be away from New Zealand.
This is a big problem because C will soon fulfil the requirements to become eligible for a New Zealand passport. She must spend at least 8 months a year in New Zealand for each of the previous 5 years. That carrot is less than 12 months away. If she goes back to Thailand and is gone from New Zealand for more than 4 months, the clock will restart and the prized passport that will allow her to visit more countries visa-free than any other will require her to wait 5 more years.
Mum or the Kiwi passport? Mum wins every time, of course. For now, C is holding off travelling to Thailand, hoping that Mum’s health holds up and the borders reopen. The worry is that Mum takes a turn for the worse, C has to rush back to Thailand – but there are no flights scheduled which could mean she has to wait weeks before she can get home. The Thai Embassy in Wellington announced there will be two more flights between Auckland and Bangkok this year. The dates aren’t known. Factor in 14 days quarantine and it could be several weeks before C – or any Thai in New Zealand – can actually get back to Thailand.
A & C have a good relationship but C’s worries about her ageing mother’s health are causing great stress and putting pressure on the relationship. Andrew says he and C have started to argue more and home is not the happy place it was. All their problems come back to the travel restrictions due to Covid-19.
M & D, Singapore
M & D lead a charmed life. M retired early and he and D spend a good deal of their time travelling the world. Seldom do they spend more than a month at their base in Singapore before flying off to D’s homeland of Thailand, M’s homeland of New Zealand or somewhere exotic. They are regular visitors to Europe and their perennial favourite, Japan.
Covid-19 has cramped their lifestyle. At any given time they have numerous international trips planned and booked, but Covid-19 has put an end to that.
M & D went through a period where they were effectively stuck in their condo in Singapore, having returned from abroad and being forced to self-isolate. They coped just fine. Currently they are locked up together in a hotel in New Zealand as they go through 2 weeks quarantine in Kiwiland.
Many relationships face strain when they are forced to spend so much time together. It’s an acid test for relationships and doesn’t only happen due to Covid-19. Think of the guy who retires and finds himself at home with his (possibly much younger) Thai wife, all day, every day. A relationship that had worked well up until then might become troubled as the couple discover that spending all the hours of the day together is too much for them.
M’s view is that anyone whose relationship starts to sour after spending so much time together might be in a relationship that was not great in the first place. For M & D, spending 24 hours a day together is no problem at all.
M says that Covid has reaffirmed that life is short and can be fragile, even at the best of times. He feels that time spent together due to lock-downs, border closures and travel restrictions have reaffirmed the strength of their relationship. They may not be able to travel to exotic locations at this time, but in 2020 just waking up healthy and together beats waking up to a multi-million dollar view in Santorini.
It’s not just married couples or those in long-term relationships who are suffering due to Covid-19 border closures and travel restrictions. Think about all those guys who have a girlfriend in Thailand, many of whom had been planning a future together. For Thai women with options, how long will they wait? There comes a point when she will not be willing to wait any longer – and who can blame her? Lives are being reshaped by Covid-19.
And consider those Thai women who went through the hassle, time and expense to upend their lives and move to a Western country. Now everything is on hold for months – and it could become years. There comes a point when even the most devoted can’t wait any longer and feel it’s time to move on.
And then there is the flip-side, those who had a perfectly good relationship who have found that being together 24/7 is just too much.
Covid-19 is putting great pressure on what were otherwise healthy relationships. Many relationships will fail because of Covid-19. Or to be more precise, many otherwise perfectly healthy and happy relationships will go bad due to the reaction to Covid-19.
Last week’s photo was taken of the shortcut from Sukhumvit soi 6 to soi 8. The camera is looking directly at the closed Kasalong blowjob bar. To the left is the hotel that used to be called Crown. If you walk through the little choke point past the hair salon, Lolita’s is on the right. This week’s photo was taken yesterday afternoon. But just where is it?
Stick’s Inbox – the best emails from the past week.
The Friday ritual.
I was staying in Dolphin Bay, south of Hua Hin, in 1998, when I first heard about Bernard Trink. On Friday morning when the one copy of the Bangkok Post arrived, we would wait our turn as his column was passed around the breakfast tables. Some of us were building homes and businesses and running in to problems, so everyone ended Thai discussions with This is Thailand, or “TIT”.
When I lived in Canberra in the late 80’s and early 90’s, every couple of weeks I would go to the National Library and read the Bangkok Post. I was planning my first trip to Thailand and wanted to learn as much as I could about the place. I found Bernard Trink’s Night Owl column and became a regular reader, looking forward to his column each week. I remember Trink describing one night when he was traveling home on a bus which was stuck in a traffic jam. After sitting for a long time and the bus not moving, he decided to get off the bus and go to the supermarket adjacent and do some shopping. He spent some time shopping before leaving and getting on a bus outside the supermarket, only to realise that this was the very same bus he had been sitting on an hour earlier. The bus had not moved in all that time.
The good old days.
Sad to hear about Trink; his death certainly puts the period on the end of an era. I went back and read your interview with him. In part one, you posted a photo of him in front of a typewriter. Was he still actually using that thing in 2004? <He was using it then and I understand that he used it until the very end – Stick> It blows my mind that his column ran six pages back in the day, but I suppose it helps to have lots of photos of dancers to fill that space. It was interesting to observe that his kids didn’t hang around in Bangkok; instead they upped sticks for Los Angeles. It makes me wonder how common it is for the children of Thai / farang marriages who are born and raised in Thailand to choose to move to their farang parent’s home country. That would be an interesting idea for an article.
Christmas in Angeles City.
You think October is early for Christmas decorations at Burger King in Thonglor? Try Angeles City. At the start of September, the whole shebang swings into action as regular as clockwork, including sickly-sweet Yuletide ditties on a loop in the supermarkets. Enough to make you sick, even before mince tarts!
The effect a nasty, spurious review can have.
I see the Koh Chang review guy had to apologise for his review(s). I followed the case closely since reviews are part of my business. If he’d posted one review, I’d say the hotel was overreacting. But he posted multiple reviews in various locations and several of them were insulting, accusing the hotel of ‘modern day slavery’. To be honest, I can’t believe he wrote even one bad review. He showed up at a restaurant with a bottle of gin, not wine. A 300 baht corkage fee to cover 20 drinks? He expected to sit in their establishment, using their seats, table, staff, glasses and air-con without contributing to the cost of running the restaurant? Worse than that, it was a brand of gin the hotel stocked. So, his demand was, “I want to use all your facilities, free of charge, drinking the same product you sell, in a bid to save me money at your expense. At the most difficult time hoteliers have ever faced.” And the hotel waived the fee? That should have been the end of the issue. As a restaurateur, I would have been furious to later read a negative review after an unreasonable demand had been met. Will it have a negative impact on the hotel in future? Hard to say. Today’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper. I would imagine 6 – 12 months from now, nobody will remember the name of the hotel. But a slew of negative reviews stays forever, dragging down the hotel’s reputation and rating, probably losing them guests for several years.
Up in the north-east.
What I find a bit peculiar up here in Udon is that the Thais have not opened the border with Laos for normal movement of people, only commercial trucks.. I don’t know what the Lao government perspective is right now. The Lao of course claim a tiny Covid infection rate, with nothing in months and months and zero deaths. You would think that would make them a “safe” country and allow the Thai and Lao governments to happily reopen their borders to normal traffic. Udon and Nongkhai made huge amounts of money off the Lao coming over to shop, to stay weekends and buy merchandise of all sorts not readily available in Laos. The three private hospitals in Udon also had a huge Lao clientele. Granted it isn’t a fraction of Thai GDP, but every bit should count. I would imagine by now that the Lao middle class and higher have managed to find alternatives for medical care and buying stuff up in Laos. Despite the border closure, there are a number of folks in our area who are from Laos and seem to have no problems hiring a boat to take them back and forth.
How to have the best Christmas ever.
I think your next column should be about how you can have the best Christmas ever by passing up a holiday to Thailand this year. All those savings one could buy a lot of nice toys and even venture out to one of their neighborhood massage parlors and splurge for a rub and tug.
Girl Of The Week
Liew, Butterflies, Nana Plaza
Liew has worked at Butterflies for about a year.
She had never been photographed until this set.
She’s one of the youngest ladies there at just 19.
She keeps that thin, tiny shape with lots of exercise in her time off.
Things were bad enough with the border closed due to Covid-19 and the rainy season, now business owners have to face the realisation that political protests are back and with that there will be disruptions to business and a further decline in business. As protesters took up positions in various locations around Bangkok yesterday afternoon and in to the evening, the skytrain and underground suspended service and most people stayed home. Bangkok business owners have never known anything like this.
Even before this latest round of protests gained momentum, friends and readers were telling me that trade in the 3 main bar areas had got so bad that they did not know how many bars could justify staying open. As one friend said, the term existential crisis is becoming real, not for the industry as a whole but quite possibly for one of the 3 major bar areas. Could 3 become 2?
On Patpong soi 1, things are as grim as they have ever been in the bar area’s 50+ year history. Super Star was open for a while but has since closed. The dancers and staff have moved to Kiss Bar where the rent is believed to be lower.
Looking at the chrome pole bars across Patpong, King’s Castle 1 and Bada Bing are said to be doing ok trade some nights. Black Pagoda can do ok at the weekend. Other bars like The Strip, Glamour, King’s Castle 2 and Thigh Bar are not doing very well at all.
For naughty boys in Thailand who are looking for a bit of fun but don’t fancy the bars, there are more and more websites with attractive, available Thai ladies. One website popular with Thai men is OffDek.com. These sites have come a long way and OffDek has a nice interface with good, clear information about ladies such as their height, weight, figure and miscellaneous and at times amusing info. It’s all in the Thai language but don’t worry if you can’t read Thai, you should be able to see the lady’s LINE account which is all you need to be able to contact her. Many of these ladies are much more attractive than the ladies dancing in bars popular with foreigners. Asking rates average around 1,500 baht and in many cases are considerably lower – some offer 30 minutes for less than 1,000 baht. The one downside is that some of these ladies are not used to dealing with foreigners and English might be almost non-existent.
Down in Pattaya you don’t hear
much anything about Soi Pattayaland 2 these days and there’s a very good reason for that. Soi Pattayaland 2 is no longer a bar area, but a bar graveyard. For rent and for sale signs can be seen up and down the soi. Bar entrances are blocked, and some are chained up. Old furniture that should have been sent to the dump years ago is piled up outside bars. It’s a similar story in adjacent Boyz Town which is a scene of ruin. The once colourful sois are history. Only Classroom has survived and while the owners are earnestly trying to make a go of it, it’s a struggle. The worry is that if a vaccine doesn’t come soon, what has happened to Soi Pattayaland 2 will be replayed at bar areas up and down the country.
Word is that on Walking Street they are vigilant about mask-wearing, temperature checks and checking in to bars with an app. It’s not like that across town in Soi Buakhao nor are any of these checks a thing in Bangkok bars.
Still in Pattaya, more bars are getting in on the phenomenon of streaming live from the bar to a worldwide audience. Live-streaming allows fans of Thailand’s nightlife stuck in Farangland to tune in to a bar and watch the action live. Those who do so are invited to contribute by making a donation. These live streams use YouTube’s Super Chat where the interface is set up so viewers can click on a button and buy lady drinks for a lady in the bar. It sounds gimmicky but it is really taking off and Pattaya’s largest bar group has got in on it. Expect more bars to follow with reports some people have been making north of $US2,000 / night from live-streaming from a bar. I’m really not sure what to make of it.
One of the curiosities of this new phenomenon of live-streaming from bars is that the ladies seem unconcerned about live video. How will customers feel about it? Will Pattaya locals who stop by be ok with being captured on video (which in some cases are being saved and later appear on YouTube)? I guess there’s probably not a lot of customers in the bar can do about it other than voting with their feet and going elsewhere. The thing is, it looks to me like there might be more money to be made from streaming at the present time than there is from customers in the bar. I get the feeling that this whole streaming from the bars concept could be on the verge of really taking off. If it does, could it become a permanent thing post Covid? Could some bars put more effort in to streaming than the traditional bar experience? So many questions. I think we’ll be hearing much more about this….
If you would like a stroll down memory lane, you can enjoy some of the old Trink pages at this archive which has a few hundred Night Own columns from the later years when they were published in print and online. In fairness, these are hardly the best of Trink’s work – everyone agrees that the early days were the heyday.
I wrote a column back in 2017, Infiltrating The Thai Sisterhood Intelligence Network about Facebook groups where Thai women share info about Western men they have dated. There are a few different groups with names that translate along the lines of “Check out your farang boyfriend / husband”. These groups are still going and every day foreign men are pilloried by Thai women unhappy that the romance didn’t work out. Membership of these groups is carefully controlled and requires prospective members to answer a bunch of questions in Thai – so unless you can write Thai, you won’t get in. A lot of what is said in these groups goes far beyond what a reasonable person would consider fair. Basically, if you are involved with a Thai woman who is a member on any of these groups, be careful.
Out of the blue, the other half said to me this week that the one thing she really doesn’t like about a lot of the foreigners dating Thai women in Bangkok is that……they talk too much! She tells me that some of her friends who have dated Western guys in Thailand say the same thing. They feel that many Western guys dating Thai women really only want to talk about themselves and are not really interested in the lady they’re with. The sample is way too small to say this is a trend, but I thought I’d mention it nonetheless. Maybe there is something in it, and maybe knowing this might give you an advantage over other Westerners dating Thai women?
Bangkok’s oldest Mexican restaurant, Charley Brown’s, has introduced a new weekend brunch menu. You can find more details on their Facebook page.
The Thai government is keen to get the country back open and tourism restarted as soon as they can. Part of the plan is getting every Thai vaccinated against Covid-19. Given how Thailand seems to be keen to position itself closer to China, what are the odds it will go for one of the vaccines being developed in China? How will expats in Thailand feel if the vaccine on offer locally is one of the Chinese-developed versions? There is already speculation that anyone who wishes to extend their visa will need to show proof of vaccination against Covid-19. Personally, vaccines developed in a hurry worry me. A Chinese vaccine developed in a hurry would be an even greater concern.
It would be remiss to refrain from commenting on the political protests in Bangkok that escalated this week. I’ve always enjoyed commenting on the protests in Bangkok, but at the same time it is something I am only comfortable commenting on when I have seen what is happening with my own eyes. I am not there on the ground right now so I won’t be saying much. What I will say is that these protests are markedly different to protests in the recent past i.e. the past 15 or so years. There was often an incentiveto attend the protests but that is not the case this time. Where the protestors were once predominately older or from far-flung provinces, this time around the typical protestor is a young urbanite. I’ve said before that it is the younger generation who will drive change in Thailand – and that is exactly what is happening now.
This Week’s News-Feed / Thailand-Related News Articles
Quote of the week is a comment made on Twitter, “The Trink column cut to half a page was proof that the people we left the West to get away from had followed us here.”
Not a single person applied for the Thai government’s new special tourist visa.
The FBI will open a new office across the border in Cambodia.
In Thailand, political persuasion is a factor in to deciding who to go on a date with.
At a Thai restaurant in New Zealand, customers realise the eatery is understaffed so they jump in to help.
Your Bangkok commentator,
Stick can be contacted at : email@example.com