Greetings and happy New Year to you all.
First, a quick note to say that I’m extending the pause of the free and paid versions of Thai Island Times into the middle of January 2022 — and I’ll alert you when it ends. I’d planned on getting the newsletter rolling again before the New Year, but I recently learned that I need to return to the US early next month and I have many things to do to prepare for my first trip out of Thailand in nearly three years.
Many thanks to subscribers who have reached out to offer encouragement and advice.
I did have one freelance article published recently for CNN Travel. Based on interviews with several experts, it’s a thorough and balanced dive into the controversy surrounding an award-winning photo of an elephant swimming show held at a government-run zoo in Chonburi province, as well as the broader debate about the tourism-related roles that captive elephants fill in Thailand.
The big news in Thailand’s tourism reopening efforts is the recent and ostensibly temporary suspension of the Test and Go inbound travel program in response to concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid. The decision threw a lot of travel plans into question while inflicting more financial pain on the many business owners and workers who rely on international tourists in Thailand. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, little to no government assistance is being allocated to Thai citizens whose livelihoods are adversely affected by the decision.
Currently, the only remaining option for entering Thailand with minimal quarantine is the Phuket Sandbox program. In other words, in terms of inbound travel to the kingdom, we’re back to where we were in July of this year. This could change, though, as more data about the Omicron variant emerges and Thai authorities continue to weigh the risks to both the healthcare system and the economy.
I suggest following Richard Barrow’s Letters from Thailand newsletter to stay on top of developments related to the inbound travel situation. The news outlets and Twitter accounts listed in this July Island Wrap of mine are also still worth following for details on inbound travel, vaccinations and other news about Thailand.
Earlier this month, Chin and I got our first chance since the start of the pandemic to visit some of the beach areas in Southern Thailand including parts of Krabi, Phuket, Phang Nga and Ranong provinces. I’m simultaneously working on several newsletter articles based off this trip and I’ll start getting those out to you as soon as I can. At times it felt like being in the Twilight Zone, with once-packed beach areas now extraordinarily quiet as countless tourism businesses sit empty.
At times it was refreshing to find that life continues to go on largely unimpeded in areas that have always drawn few foreign tourists. One example is the little-known seaside village of Talay Nok, which is one of the places that I intend to share with you soon. Here’s a taste of one Saturday afternoon on the beach there:
And with that reminder of how there is so much more to coastal Thailand than big-name spots like Phuket and Samui, I leave you again for the time being. I hope that 2022 brings you good health, joy and sand between your toes. 🌴