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daydreamer last won the day on February 17

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  1. Yes, I remember the Apache Bar from the 90's, and the loincloth costumes the boys wore in the bar. I remember reading an article in Midway magazine that predicted that the planned skytrain, which was due to open in 1999, would hopefully bring more farang customers to the numerous Saphan Kwai bars. I don't think the skytrain ever made the area popular with farangs. Some of the Saphan Kwai bars I remember offing boys from were: Be High Street Boy Hippodrome Charmming (spelled with two M's) The Eagle Apache Midnight Cowboy These bars were all within walking distance of each other, in the side sois along Pradipat Road.
  2. daydreamer

    Thai Pass

    Not all Thailand Pass approvals are fake. If you receive an email about your Thailand Pass, please note where it is coming from before opening any attachments. Any emails coming from contact@passthailandteam ( .com) are fake. The correct domain address for Thailand Pass is @tp.consular.go.th . Also note that the genuine Thai government address ends in .go.th and not .com This information is also on a pop-up on the genuine Thailand Pass website at https://tp.consular.go.th/ I am posting a screenshot below. I added the blue arrow to make it easier to find the applicable text.
  3. A photo from our last walk on Ao Nang beach, the evening before leaving the south I had to make a new flight booking for us to return to Bangkok. We had missed our return flight due to the quarantine period. Since Thai Airways ignored my request to change our booking, I decided to give my money to a different airline for the return flight. I purchased one way tickets to Bangkok for us on Nok Air. Phang Nga bay from the air, just after takeoff from Phuket: On final approach into Bangkok, the plane flew over the mouth of the Chao Phraya River, where it snakes its way into the Gulf of Thailand Nok Air uses the old Don Mueang airport. The airport still looks much the same as it did years ago, with some renovations. Even though it's a much smaller airport than Suvarnabhumi, they still somehow managed to park the plane at a gate that required about a kilometer of walking through the terminal to reach the baggage claim hall. In Bangkok, we checked in to the same room we previously had three weeks earlier at the Furama Sathorn. The next day was Chinese New Year, February 1st. I had no plans, and that afternoon asked N what he wanted to do tomorrow. I was pleased that he didn't give me that old Thai standby answer, "up to you". I decided to go along with whatever he wanted to do for the next couple days after returning to Bangkok. He made a phone call, and told me we were going on a road trip the next day. What a nice experience he planned for us. That morning, I found myself in a very nice new Honda van with some of N's friends and two Buddhist monks in saffron robes, on a road trip to Ayutthaya. The van belonged to one his his friends, who drove. The plan for the day was visiting two large temples in the historic district of the former capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. For the first part of the trip, N and I sat together in the second row of seats in the van. When the two monks joined us along the way, I switched to riding shotgun in the front, the two monks sat in the second row, and N and a friend sat in the third row. As we drove through heavy Ayutthaya traffic due to the holiday, songs from the Eagles and Aerosmith were pumping from the stereo. I just went along for the ride, carefree and taking it all in, as it was N's chance to entertain me for the day. I had no plans or agenda, and it was kind of amusing to watch N having fun, and acting as the guide, as the day he had planned for us played out. Some of the best and most interesting experiences when you travel happen when you relax, and don't ask too many questions, or as the Thais say "don't think too much". In Ayutthaya, for a couple kilometers, there were vendors lining the main street that leads to the historic temple district. The vendors all sell the same thing - huge bags of air puffed and brightly colored fish food, and small live fish in plastic bags. The live fish are sold for release in the temple ponds, for merit making. This was the first time I've seen these huge bags of brightly colored fish food for sale anywhere in Thailand. I have seen containers of small fish food pellets, and bags of day-old bread for sale near many other wats around Thailand, but not these giant sized bags of vividly colored fish food. Apparently these Cheetos-looking fish snacks are something unique to Ayutthaya. Not to miss out on any potential customers, this vendor also had bags of day-old bread, and bags filled with fish food pellets for sale. They can be seen in the lower right portion of the photo. The first temple we went to was a Buddhist temple with a heavy Chinese influence. There was a huge gold Buddha statue inside the main building. The place was packed with people due to the Chinese New Year holiday. I'm not sure what this man is doing, but he's holding an open bottle of Big C brand cooking oil in one hand and a white lotus bud in the other hand. Of course the lotus bud is commonly found in temples, used in prayer rituals, but the cooking oil? The tuk tuks in Ayutthaya are a different type than the Bangkok style. They are kind of a mini songtaew, with two bench seats in the back, running along the sides. In the front, there is a steering wheel, not handlebars. Also, the front cab has doors, with roll-up windows. They remind me of the three wheeled vehicles that were still in use in rural Japan until the 1980's. This red model is kind of sporty, complete with a set of vintage mag wheels. The second temple we visited had a huge ancient chedi, There was a very steep staircase, where you could climb up into the inside of the chedi. Once up in the chedi, we looked down through an iron grate to see two monks far down inside the base of the chedi, sitting and counting large piles of coins. In the center of the photo, the staircase is visible, with people climbing up into the chedi. We had a fun day trip, and it was good to see Ayutthaya once again, after many years. The following day N insisted we take a tuk tuk ride in Bangkok. I hadn't been in a Bangkok tuk tuk in more than 30 years, but I did not want to deny him his fun. It was my last full day in Thailand, and rather than resist, I decided not to "think too much". Of course, N chose a tuk tuk that made a mandatory stop at an Indian tailor shop on the way, one of the most common tourist scams in Bangkok. The way it works is that if the tuk tuk driver delivers potential customers to a certain prearranged shop, for each visit, they receive a stamp. After filling a card with 10 stamps from the shop, the driver receives 4 liters of free fuel from the shop. Usually these shops are either jewelry stores or tailor shops. So we spent 5 minutes inside, looking at bolts of cloth that could be made into clothing. I had no intention of buying anything, and in 5 minutes, we were back on our way. Our tuk tuk as it entered Silom Road, with Saladaeng Road on the left. Looking back on my quarantine experience, as it worked out, it was really not as bad of an experience as it could have been. I can think of many worse places to be than being sequestered in a hotel room with a hot Thai boy for 8 nights of mandated quarantine. I could have just as easily have caught covid at home, and not in Thailand as I did. But then I would have been in isolation by myself, instead of with N. Luckily, I had enough time in Thailand, and the quarantine happened early enough in our trip that with some strategic juggling of our schedule, we were able to travel everywhere we had planned to, with one exception. The only planned location we had to cancel on this trip due to the time spent in quarantine was a few days in Pattaya. But Pattaya will still be there waiting for my next trip. One benefit of this quarantine escapade is that I didn't need to spend time in Bangkok during my last full day in Thailand to get a covid test to enter the USA. Under the revised US CDC rules, if you can show a positive covid test result within the past 90 days, and have a medical certificate clearing you for travel, no test is required to enter the US. Upon showing these medical papers at Suvarnabhumi, there was no issue checking in for my flight without a covid test. In case you are interested to know what the quarantine expenses were, I paid 30,500 baht for N to stay in the hospitel with me. I exchanged money only once, at the beginning of my trip in Bangkok, enough to cover the entire trip. I then deposited this money in my K-bank account, so I could withdraw it at ATM's. Using the exchange rate at the time I bought my stack of baht, N's quarantine equated to about 910 US dollars. This amount covered both his hotel fee and the hospital charges, and included N's ambulance ride. The hotel and hospital fees were billed separately. My hotel fee and hospital charges came to 41,500 baht for the 8 nights, and there was no fee for an ambulance ride, as I drove myself to the hospitel. This difference in pricing is because of dual pricing for Thai citizens and farang tourists. And this was with my second PCR test being paid for by the Thai government under the amended rules for the 7 night Test & Go program. I have read that some people have been charged far more than this amount to be quarantined in other parts of the country. It probably helped that we were not near any cities. Khao Lak is not heavily developed, and is very lightly populated. I'm guessing in Bangkok or other large cities, the charges may have been substantially more. It also helped that we only needed to quarantine for 8 nights each, not the 10 days they originally told us we would be staying. Several times during our month together, N told me that he really liked to be able to get away from Bangkok. He said he enjoyed being in quiet locations with not so many people, like the bungalow resort where we stayed for a few days. I surely hope to see N the next time I travel to Thailand, and I made that clear to him. He has sent me messages already since I left, telling me he wants to travel with me again next time. Another evening view from the 12th floor balcony of our room at the Furama Sathorn, my last night in Thailand. With the way the world has dramatically changed in the last couple years, I just hope that it won't be much longer until many more people will travel to Thailand, and bring the tourist income that that is so much needed by many people and businesses there. Even though we had to be quarantined, I had a really nice time in Thailand. Would I go again under the same circumstances? You bet I would. It sure beats sitting at home looking out the window, and waiting for who knows how long for the pandemic and travel restrictions to come to an end. I've already started thinking about where I want to travel on my next trip to Thailand. I am counting the days until my next flight to Thailand, when I hear those electrifying words on the loudspeaker, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the captain speaking. In a few minutes, we will be landing in Bangkok". Until that magical moment arrives, I will continue to be the daydreamer.
  4. daydreamer

    Thai Pass

    Just this evening, I received a second one of these fake emails with a PDF file attachment, that if opened, no doubt contains malware. I'm copying the text of the email below. It is sent from contact@passthailandteam I deleted the .com extension from the above email address so nobody will accidentally click on it as a link. If you receive one of these spoof emails, do not open it. I left Thailand more than one week ago, but the hackers don't know that. Beware. Here is the text from the email: There are problems with your information. You can access and download your Thailand Pass QR Code by double clicking the attached PDF Travelling to Thailand 1. Please prepare your documents to present at the check-in counter and to the agencies concerned when arriving in Thailand. The documents are as follows 1.1 Passport with visa (if required) 1.2 Thailand Pass QR Code (on mobile device or printed copy) 1.3 Medical certificate with a laboratory result indicating that COVID-19 is not detected through RT-PCR test (issued within 72 hours before departure). If the Port Health and Quarantine at airports in Thailand discover that you have invalidated COVID-19 RT-PCR test result or if the type of the test is not RT-PCR method, you will not be eligible to be exempted from quarantine, but you may be allowed to enter Thailand by quarantine only. 2. When arriving in Thailand, please present your documents and Thailand Pass QR Code to the immigration and disease control officers. Download the attachment PDF and update the information
  5. The next day we traveled a couple hours from Ao Nang to a remote, but large and very impressive Buddhist wat. This is a place that N had told me he wanted to visit since we had arrived in the south. The wat is beautiful, and there were very few people there, we nearly had the place to ourselves. Of all the Buddhist temples I have seen in Thailand, this one is prominent, due to the rich gold ornamentation everywhere, and its impressive size. These immense cloisters, lined with Buddha statues, extend around all four sides of the base of the main chedi: It seemed odd that such a large and distinctive temple was located very far from any center of population. We traveled through miles of groves of palm oil trees and rubber tree plantations to reach the location of this temple. Rubber trees are seemingly everywhere in many parts of the south. Thailand is the world's leading rubber producer. Our last day in Ao Nang was reserved to visit area a couple area beaches. We had relaxed at the beach for a couple days in Khao Lak before we were sent to quarantine, and were ready for another beach day. To reach the nicest beaches, we took a shared 10 minute longtail "water taxi" boat ride from Ao Nang Beach to Railay Beach. Several of the best beaches in the area are only accessible by longtail boat. Each water taxi holds eight passengers. The longtail boat associatioon is a cooperative run by local fishermen. The boat system is very well organized. There are ticket kiosks at both ends of Ao Nang beach. You tell them your destination, buy a roundtrip ticket at 200 baht per person, and hang out a few minutes until there are enough passengers to fill the boat. If you are impatient, you can pay 1,000 baht, and not wait until the boat is full. We only had to wait about five minutes for the boat to fill with people. There are no piers, you wade out into the surf, and board the boat that is floating in a couple feet of water. The Railay peninsula, where these beaches are located, is isolated from Ao Nang by high limestone cliffs. This beach is one of the most picturesque beaches in Thailand, with the aqua colored water, highlighted by the large promontories at each end of the beach. There are several companies that specialize in rock climbing, and we saw a couple people in harnesses scaling the cliffs in the area. Railay Beach has a population of interesting looking monkeys. They all have white rings around their eyes. Although Railay Beach is beautiful, our destination that morning was Phra Nang Cave Beach. It can be reached on foot via an easy 20 minute walk from Railay Beach. The pathway leads through a grotto filled with limestone stalactites and a few stalagmites. The limestone cliff hangs over the foot path, forming a cool open sided cave to escape the sun. The majority of tourists on these beaches appeared to be Thais, very few farang here: As we were walking through the grotto, I heard a loud thunk, and turned to see that N had walked headfirst into a low hanging stalactite, about one foot thick. It was wrapped with brightly colored ribbons, but like many young people, N's eyes were glued to his phone as he was walking, and he missed the large stone object hanging from the grotto ceiling, at eye level, directly in front of him. Luckily, he had his sunglasses propped up on his head, so they took the brunt of the impact, instead of cracking his head. The only thing injured was his pride. After that incident, he put his phone away for at least two minutes while we continued walking. At the southern end, Phra Nang Cave Beach has two shrines with many wooden penis offerings inside shallow caves in the limestone cliffs. There are no hotels or shops on Phra Nang beach, it is completely unspoiled. We walked about 10 minutes to the northern end of the beach, and had the area all to ourselves. Usually, in high season in pre-covid times, these beaches were wall to wall with tourists. Now was a great time to visit these beaches, as much of Thailand is uncrowded, even at the peak of the tourist season in January. After a couple hours relaxing at Phra Nang beach, we walked the path back to Railay beach. On the way, I stopped to take this photo of someone scaling the rock face. It's a bit hard to see, but if you follow the rope up, you can see the adventurous soul in the center of the photo: Back at Railay Beach. The water taxis are only allowed to stop at this beach. That's one reason we didn't want to stay there. Although the boats make for a visually pleasing photo, they are loud. They are powered by car engines with no mufflers, similar to the boats in the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok. Phra Nang Beach is silent, with no boat traffic. The return boat back to Ao Nang filled up with passengers in just a few moments, and 10 minutes later we arrived back in Ao Nang, just steps away from the hotel. After a few hours exploring and relaxing on the beaches, it was time to head back to the hotel for a quick shower. After lunch, we drove to Nopparat Thara Beach, the next beach north of Ao Nang. There is a nice tree shaded park, and many small shops, just in back of the beach. These were a couple Thai style iced teas we ordered from a local shop along Nopparat Thara Beach. Two fancy drinks that cost 55 baht each: The drinks were artistically made, complete with lots of whipped cream, chocolate wafers, and loaded with pieces of fresh mango, strawberries, and orange slices, crunchy cereal flakes, chocolate sauce, a rolled wafer cookie, and the cups had a handmade palm frond carrying handle. The toppings alone on the drinks were equivalent to a full dessert. Much higher quality, and less expensive drinks than you find in chain stores like Cafe Amazon or Starbucks. It took the lady at the shop about 4 minutes to decorate each drink with all the toppings. to be continued...
  6. On the way to Ao Nang, it was a very scenic trip by car through mountain passes, with many sharp bends in the road. The flat land of Khao Lak begins to give way to impressive limestone karst mountains that seem to pop up around every bend in the road after entering Krabi province. Ao Nang is the center of tourist activity in Krabi province. Ao Nang's location is home to some of Thailand's most scenic beaches. There are also numerous offshore islands that can be visited on day trips from Ao Nang. We stayed at the Krabi Heritage Hotel in Ao Nang. I chose this hotel because of the good location, and the stunning views from the superior sea view rooms located on the top floor. I stayed there for six nights, and N stayed for five nights, since his quarantine in Khao Lak ended one day after mine did. Our room at the Krabi Heritage Hotel The next three photos were taken from the balcony of our room at the Krabi Heritage Hotel. The huge volcanic eruptions in the Tonga islands in January contributed to spectacular colors in the sky every day at sunset. All three areas where we stayed in the south were affected by the tragic tsunami that occurred on Boxing Day in 2004. Of all the locations in Thailand hit by the giant wave, Khao Lak suffered the heaviest damage and loss of life, due to the fact the land is so flat in that location. The wave swept large boats inland about one kilometer from the coast in some areas of Khao Lak. One large police boat has been preserved where it landed about one kilometer inland, as an outdoor display at a small tsunami museum, a reminder of the devastation and loss of many lives in the region on that day. King Bhumipol lost a grandson to the tsunami in Khao Lak in 2004. In beachfront areas throughout the region, there are visual warnings of the danger. One day we traveled from Ao Nang to Khao Sok National Park, in Surat Thani province. The main attraction there is the huge Cheow Lan Lake, and surrounding rainforest. This area receives more annual rainfall than any other part of Thailand. The lake was formed in 1987 when a large dam was built. In order to form the huge lake, a portion of Khao Sok National Park was intentionally flooded by the rising waters, and today the lake provides electricity and a constant supply of fresh water to the region. Longtail boats can be rented to tour the lake and view the interesting landscape of the area. Many boats carry groups on tours, but I decided to hire our own private boat for two hours, so we could have the boat to ourselves. There is only one booth selling tickets for the all longtail boats. The prices are on a large board, and are non-negotiable. We decided that a two hour boat ride was sufficient, not wanting to sit on a plank seat in a wooden boat for longer than that. There were two options for a two hour boat ride; 1,700 baht for an uncovered boat, or 2,000 baht for a boat with a small sun shade. We didn't want to sit in the blazing sun for two hours, so we rented the boat with the sun shade. This being a national park, the fee to enter the national park was 300 baht for me, and 60 baht for N. This is not included in the boat rental fee. Then they charge an extra 20 baht on top of that for a boat usage fee. In addition, they require everyone, both Thais and foreigners to show your vaccination record to enter national parks nowadays. They also wanted to see my passport and Thailand Pass QR code. No buildings can be constructed on land inside the national park, however the government allows some floating bungalows to operate for overnight guests. The neat groups of floating bungalows are anchored near shore, and placed in various parts of the huge lake. About halfway through the boat ride, we stopped at a group of floating bungalows for a toilet break. Attached to the rafts of bungalows was a floating park ranger station. Water everywhere, and that potted plant next to the bungalow died of thirst. Southern Thailand has a large population of Thai Muslims, as evidenced by the numerous mosques and women with scarfs as head coverings throughout the region. This large mosque is right in the center of Ao Nang, on the hill leading away from the beach. Some restaurants do not serve any pork dishes due to their religion. to be continued...
  7. daydreamer

    Thai Pass

    Here's part of the problem. On Jan 7, the governor of Phuket province issued an order for people to wear face masks when they go out unless they are eating, drinking, or exercising. Here are links to two articles from 19 & 20 January telling about the problem of tourists not wearing masks in Phuket: https://www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/general/2250111/phuket-vows-tough-action-on-unmasked-tourists https://thethaiger.com/news/phuket/tourists-not-wearing-masks-face-tough-talk-from-phuket-authorities And then we have the Minister of Public Health Anutin saying there are no legal obligations for people to wear face masks. So since this story is published in the Phuket News, Anutin is basically letting people in Phuket know that the Governor's order is not legal. Earlier on in the pandemic, I remember reading that the governor of each province could order regulations in their province, as they saw fit, for public safety. https://www.thephuketnews.com/anutin-says-no-legal-obligations-for-people-to-wear-face-masks-82953.php Once again, too many chiefs making decisions, and no coordination of the regulations.
  8. Last month I stayed at The Quarter Silom for Test & Go. I arrived at five minutes after midnight. Private car drove me to a drive through testing site at the Paolo Hospital in Saphan Kwai. The results were available when I woke up in the morning. I was at the hotel about 1:15 AM, drinking a cold Singha beer. They advertised a 6 hour test window at the time I booked the hotel package. Only 3,899 for room, test, car, and breakfast. Hard to beat that price. But do check, it may be different now. I booked through Agoda.
  9. daydreamer

    Thai Pass

    Well, I'm sure it was in Phuket that we caught covid last month. My two previous PCR tests before arrival in Phuket were negative. I noted earlier that there were large numbers of farang in Phuket that were not complying with the mask law. When we were in Phuket in January, I would estimate close to half of the tourists wore no masks.
  10. daydreamer

    Thai Pass

    I think when they were calculating the numbers, they had the abacus upside down.
  11. To everyone who has commented, thank you for your kind words. I wanted to make sure N was able to stay in a comfortable hotel room, and he did appreciate that he didn't have to go to the government facility. I completed my travel and health insurance claim today, and sent it off. In addition to the hotel and hospital charges, I included all the canceled nights of hotel stays, and the lost return airfare to Bangkok. My insurance policy included trip interruption, so we'll see how much they will actually pay out. I'll leave a note here in a few weeks, after the claim is settled, to let other Thailand travelers know if it was a good policy that I chose. Although I can't claim N's quarantine charges on my insurance, it was worth the money to have him stay with me. It helped both of us make it through the ordeal much easier than it would have been for both of us to be several kilometers apart.
  12. Later that afternoon, after 2 PM, I drove to the hospitel, only about five minutes away from the bungalow where I had just left N. After unloading my belongings, and parking the car, I was directed to a table set up outside the entrance of the hospitel. Soon a nurse appeared in full protective gear. She was dressed like a member of the Fukushima nuclear plant clean up crew, shoe covers and all. I was interviewed by the nurse. She asked me about any current medical conditions, health history, and of any possible chronic health conditions. This interview and any covid symptoms at that time, depending on their severity are what determine whether you will stay in a hospitel, or be admitted to a regular hospital as an inpatient, and placed under treatment. As a tourist, the positive PCR test dictates that you will be placed in quarantine, under the current regulations. Once the nurse was satisfied that I was healthy, I was given a small canvas tote bag with the hospital name on it. Inside the bag was a digital thermometer, a pulse oximeter that clips on a fingertip, a plastic bag containing 10 green surgical masks, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer gel. We were required to take our armpit temperature and oxygen readings twice a day, at 10 AM and 6 PM. I was instructed to take a photo of these readings from the two instruments, and send them to the nurses at the hospitel lobby via the WhatsApp phone app. There were 3 nurses on duty at the medical station in the open air hotel lobby every day. Check in and check out time at the hospitel was after 2PM daily. At 2 PM, a couple accounting staff from the hospital arrived at the hotel to assist the nurses and hotel front desk staff in coordinating the financial accounts for every person in quarantine. If anyone had symptoms and requested any medication, that was added to the final bill. There was no option to bill the insurance directly, for either the hotel charges or the hospital fees. I tried to get them to accept my insurance directly, and was told that they would not accept any insurance payments or authorizations, they would only take cash or a credit card from the individual as payment. I was assured that the total amount of the two bills together, the hotel, and separate hospital bill, would not be more than 50,000 baht per person. Payment was to be made in full at check out, and before being given the medical clearance certificate. There were maybe 50 - 60 people in quarantine when I arrived. Since the hospital was in partnership with a second hotel, also used as a hospitel, it looked like they were receiving some good income from this side business, while still keeping the hospital beds available for people with serious medical conditions. The other hospitel was also offered to me, but I chose this one from the two. The following morning, N called me from the bungalow, and told me an ambulance from the hospital would be bringing him to the hospitel that afternoon. I could no longer use the car, as my quarantine period had begun, and I was not allowed to leave the hotel grounds. The charge for the short ambulance ride from the bungalow to the quarantine hotel was 2,000 baht (about 3 km). When N arrived by ambulance, I went to the front of the hotel to meet him, and help get him checked in. The ambulance was merely the hospital's taxi. The ambulance attendants did not even open the back door for N to climb out of the vehicle. Not that N needed assistance, but still, it was an ambulance. I watched as N went through the exact same process, with the nurse dressed like she was ready for a walk on the moon. Once we went into the lobby and approached the reception desk, I was told that N could not stay with me, and that he would need to stay in a separate room. I had to get assertive once again, this time with the hotel reception staff and hospital personnel, to again protect our interests. With my best poker face, I politely let them know that if we could not stay together, then N would not be a guest at the hospitel, and he would be going to a free Thai quarantine facility at the government hospital. I was a youngster the first time I came to Thailand more than 40 years ago, and I've observed a few things over the years. One thing I have learned is that Thais will not miss an opportunity to empty a farang's wallet of any baht they possibly can. I was confident they did not want to lose out on the money i was prepared to pay for N's quarantine stay. Sure enough, after a lengthy discussion in Thai, and a couple phone calls, the hotel reception staff and hospital staff switched to English, and a representative from both groups spoke to me. Miraculously, they had changed their stance, and agreed to let N stay with me, in my room. I suspect their respective managers or business offices that they had contacted by phone couldn't bear the thought of my money remaining in my wallet, and not in their cash register drawer. My bluff had worked. Of course, if they had given us separate rooms, we would have stayed together anyway. It just made it much easier for us to be in one room. N's meals would have been sent to an empty room if we had been separated, and it would have created much inconvenience. I must say, they were not very clever at business affairs. By staying together, we freed up another room in the quarantine wing of the hotel that they could then rent to more people, who were arriving daily. No hotel staff were allowed to enter our rooms, so nobody would have checked up on us or have known otherwise that we were staying together. Maid service was not provided. Requests were sent to the front desk for supplies (bottled water, soap, toilet paper, tissues). Plastic trash bags were provided daily, and all waste, cans, bottles, etc went into the bags, and were left outside the door to be picked up. The room was at ground level, so both the entry door and the sliding patio door on the opposite side had outside access, and there were no enclosed hallways or elevators. This photo of our hospitel room shows the outdoor patio where we ate every meal. Of course with no maid service, the room did not look like that for long. We took a larger side table than the one shown in the photo out onto the patio to use as a dining table. Just beyond the wall at the rear of the photo was Khao Lak beach. We were allowed to wander the attractive hotel grounds, but not allowed to use the swimming pool. The hotel had one wing dedicated as a hospitel, and the other side was open to regular hotel guests, so the pool was reserved for the regular guests, to keep them away from the guests in quarantine. As you can see in the photos, the buildings have rooms on two floors. Our room was on the ground floor. The entire L shaped building was reserved for quarantine guests. There was also another quarantine building behind this one, but only a few of those rooms were occupied. This was the view from the patio, where we sat and ate breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. If you look on the grass, you can see a towel and pillow someone used for sunbathing. Three meals a day were provided in take-out plastic boxes. A mix of Thai and Western foods. Always fresh fruit included, and the typical horrible Thai hot coffee every morning, along with fresh orange juice. Luckily I had stopped at a 7-Eleven on the way to the hospitel in the rented car to purchase 10 cans of Nescafe iced coffee, as a substitute for proper coffee, one can for each day. N was not a much of a coffee drinker. The Nescafe canned coffee was much more palatable than the hotel java. The hotel provided each room with a case of 1.5 liter bottles of drinking water, and more could be ordered. There was also a limited room service menu for food and drink items (not included in the hospitel package). The delivered meals were left on a small table just outside the door. A knock on the wooden door let us know it was time to eat. One day for lunch, to give you an idea of the meals, we had BBQ chicken, rice, yum woon sen with shrimp and chicken, and vanilla ice cream for dessert. Don't get me wrong, this was not a banquet, it was small portions served in small divided take out boxes, but it was enough food. We didn't go hungry. We ordered food once from the room service menu, and N ordered a number of big bottles of Leo Beer several times from the bar. Once N realized that the food ordered from the room service menu was from the same kitchen that provided our regular meals, he gave up on that idea, and turned to the old Thailand standby of 7-Eleven. We ordered items to be delivered a few times from a 7-Eleven that was about a kilometer away, including a few of 7-Eleven's infamous microwaved meals. N would go into rice withdrawals if the meal served was western food. One day for lunch the chef had made nice plump homemade beef hamburgers on homemade buns, and served with french fries. N would not touch his meal. He wanted rice three times a day. Although he wasn't fond of western food, he could inhale two bags of Lay's potato chips from 7-Eleven in under ten minutes. The Thai food served was not ultra spicy, but there was enough red pepper in it to let know you were eating genuine Thai food. It was spicy enough for N, so I guess you could say it was medium spicy, but not Isan flamethrower hot. I saw people smoking on their patios, drinking beer, sunbathing in the compound, exercising outdoors, etc. Other than the fact we couldn't leave the hotel grounds, there was no real hardship in staying there. It's not like we were sentenced to Bang Kwang Prison. Since I was able to share the room with N, it certainly made it more enjoyable, if we didn't fixate on the fact we couldn't leave. I must say, if I had to go through that quarantine alone, it would have been a harrowing ordeal to endure. A few times I thought of the Hotel California song by the Eagles, "where you can never leave". N took photos of everything, and I mean everything we had to eat, including our takeout food boxes during quarantine. He did this everywhere during the month we were together, not just in quarantine. He even took photos of some street food that we carried back to the Phuket hotel one evening for a snack. I asked what he did with all the photos of food, and he replied "put on Facebook". I can understand taking a photo of a nice looking multi dish dinner, but fried rice in a plastic take out box served in a quarantine hotel? Now I know why I don't have a Facebook account. I had purchased a bottle of green chiretta at home before my trip after reading about how it is successfully used in Thailand prisons to quell the spread of covid. I had read an article published by Chulalongkorn University, and they indicated that after taking the capsules for eight days, the virus was undetectable. They went on to claim it is effective in inhibiting viral replication, exactly what we needed. It is an herb, the Latin name is Andrographis paniculata, or “Fah Talai Jone” in Thai. I purchased it as a precaution, just in case I needed it on my trip, and was darned glad I had brought it in my suitcase. We both took the capsules for eight days. When I first showed the bottle to N, I asked him if he wanted to take it. He looked it up on his phone, translated in Thai, and yes, he said wanted to take it every day. I didn't need to convince him, after he translated the name into Thai, he was eager to take it. N said the pills can be purchased in pharmacies and 7-Elevens in Thailand, and it is very commonly used. I bought mine through iHerb, it is the Nature's Way brand. I chose that brand because it is an extract, standardized to 10% of andrographolides, so it's a good strong dose, not just powdered leaves as some companies fill their capsules with. Here are links to the article in case you want to read what Chula U. says about green chiretta and covid: https://www.chula.ac.th/en/highlight/50619/ https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/read-medicine-labels-how-to-safely-use-green-chiretta-against-covid-19/?article_id=757479 I have had the vaccines and a booster shot, and N has had two different western vaccine shots. He wisely avoided the less effective Chinese vaccines when they were offered to him. So this certainly kept the virus and symptoms in both of us to a minimum. We both had a very negligible symptom that lasted less than 48 hours. The only symptom we noticed was a slightly runny nose, much less than you would have with a common cold. I don't know if the green chiretta helped, but I would take it again if I contracted another respiratory virus. Chula University claims it inhibits viral replication in the body, so I believe it may have helped to knock out the viral load fast. We were directed to contact the medical team via the app, and only go to the nurse's station if needed for medical issues. A few days before my scheduled release from quarantine, I sent the nurses at the hotel a WhatsApp message asking for my exact release date and time. I had to deal with renewing the rental car contract, and wanted to know for sure when I would be freed from captivity so I could drive back to Phuket airport to take care of the car contract renewal. To my surprise, the nurse responded that I could leave the following afternoon, after paying both the hotel and hospital bills, and then receiving a letter of release from quarantine. This meant only 9 nights total, including check in day, not the 10 plus check in day originally quoted by the medical team. Good news! The way they re-calculated the isolation time was beginning from the day the swabs were done, not the next day, when the result of the test was received. Originally upon check in, I was told my release date would be on January 26, but they modified that to the 25th. I wasn't about to stay there a minute longer than required. One of the nurses sent this flow chart to my phone. Note the original release date of the 26th. The next afternoon I checked out, and I had to leave N to stay alone that night. Out of my month in Thailand, that was to be our second and last night apart. I think he was having thoughts of my possibly driving off into the sunset, leaving him there, and not returning to pick him up the next day. I could not stay at the hospitel that night because my release paperwork was complete, and my bill was already paid in full. I was more than happy to jump in the Toyota and put that place in the rear-view mirror until the next day, when I would be back to settle his bill, and we could continue our trip together. We had talked it over, and rather than rush back to Bangkok, and go to Pattaya for a few days as planned, we decided to continue our travels in the south, and stay an extra five days. My rented car was in the hotel parking lot, and raring to go as soon as we were both free of quarantine. We decided we wanted to see Ao Nang more than we wanted to go to Pattaya for the umpteenth time. I had booked the rental car from Phuket airport for two weeks, and the agency at Phuket said I had to return to Phuket with the car to renew the contract. So since N's quarantine ended one day after mine, I drove to Ao Nang to spend one night alone in a hotel there. This was the same hotel that had to be canceled earlier. The following morning, I drove from Ao Nang south to Phuket province, about a three hour drive, to renew the car contract at Phuket airport. It was an ordeal to get the car renewed. The car rental counters are in the secure arrivals area, and not accessible to the general public. I knew this was going to be an issue beforehand, because of the way the airport is designed. I had N write a note for me in Thai, explaining that I needed to access the car rental counter, rather than chance it to pantomime with the airport police. I showed the note and the rental car contract to two different groups of airport police, and after reading it, they smiled, but would not let me inside. I was beginning to wonder what he had written on the note. Then I noticed a man sitting at a table with a banner above him that was marked "Tourism Authority of Thailand". He spoke fluent English. I let him know it was an unusual request, but since I was a tourist in need of assistance, he was more than ready to help. I explained the difficulty I was having, and just like Moses parting the Red Sea, he had a woman from the car rental counter seated in front of me in under three minutes, writing a renewal contract for the car in the lobby of the airport. Then after a quick lunch, I went back to pick up N in Khao Lak, where he was finishing up his last day of quarantine. When I walked into the room, he was sound asleep at 2 in the afternoon. He said since he had been alone last night, he had stayed up all night drinking Leo Beer, and watching shows on the big TV. Then another long trip back to Ao Nang, where both of us stayed together that night. It was a lengthy day of driving. I spent about 10 hours behind the wheel that day, driving in parts of three provinces to tie up loose ends, so we could resume our travels, and finally put the quarantine behind us. Free at last! to be continued...
  13. Upon check-in at the bungalow, the manager wanted to see my 7th day PCR test result. Since yesterday's attempts to get a PCR test in Phuket ended in failure, it was now day 8, and I still had not been tested. The manager was very understanding and helpful after I explained my inability to find a cooperative test facility for my second PCR test in Phuket the previous day. He made a few calls and found I could receive my second PCR test at a very small hospital in Khao Lak, but he indicated that it might not be free since it was supposed to have been done on my 7th day, and today was day 8. I drove to the hospital, checked in, and waited my turn. There were a number of farang there for the same thing, some were families with small children. The test was free, no mention was made that I was one day late. Khao Lak was sure much more accommodating than Phuket had been to obtain a PCR test. The next morning after my 8th day PCR test, the manager came to the bungalow with some bad news. I had tested positive on the PCR test, although with a very low viral count of covid. I was in disbelief as neither of us were experiencing any symptoms at that time. This meant N would need to be tested by PCR as well. The bungalow staff asked us to both take ATK tests at this time. The ATK tests for both of us were negative. We had been staying together, so we almost certainly both had the virus, and would likely have both been at the same stage of infection. Wait a minute, how could I test positive for covid on a PCR test, yet my ATK tests were all negative? The following link provides the answer. The Omicron variant is not always detected on an ATK or rapid antigen test. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/05/health/covid-rapid-test-omicron-detection.html If you can't access the NY Times site because it may be behind a firewall for you, the article can be read here: https://bdnews24.com/coronavirus-pandemic/2022/01/06/emerging-data-raise-questions-about-antigen-tests-and-nasal-swabs At this point, I asked for a second PCR test, suspecting a false positive. After an hour or so, the answer came back from the hospital - "NO second test will be done. You will be sent to quarantine." I had many questions, and nobody available to answer them. Since I did not have any symptoms, I had visions of being placed in some old unused military barracks as an isolation facility, as without symptoms, I certainly didn't qualify for, or need a room in a regular hospital. Nobody issued any instructions to me, other than that later that afternoon, I would need to report to the hospitel. But after lunch, the hospital called the bungalow manager, and offered me a choice of two hotels that were being used as hospitels, in partnership with the hospital. I looked up the hotels on the web, and made my choice of hospitel. I was told that an ambulance would take me to the hospitel later that afternoon for the check in procedure. Since I had the rental car, and the rental car office was two hours away in Phuket, I could not return the car. I told the bungalow staff to inform the hospital that I would drive my car to the hospitel quarantine hotel, and to please cancel the ambulance. The hospital agreed to that. I was not about to strand N at the bungalow, as he was rather confused by all this as well. In Khao Lak, there is no public transportation, no songtaews, no taxis, no motorcycle taxis, and no way for him to get to the hospital to be tested other than in our rental car. Since I was not yet under quarantine, we put our masks on, and I drove N to the same small private hospital that administered my test yesterday, as he needed a PCR test. At the hospital, there was a lot of discussion, and they then directed N to go a small government hospital a couple klicks away, since he did not have insurance that would cover the cost of a private hospital's lab fees. So off we went, in search of the second hospital. The government hospital was certainly not Bumrungrad quality, but an older, small typical government facility with a billboard in front, displaying a huge image of King Rama X. It took about 45 minutes for N to wait to be tested. Since N's PCR test was administered one day after mine, I would stay that night in the hospitel, and he would stay in the bungalow, as his test results would not be back until the following morning. The doctor at the small government hospital told N that if his test was positive, he would be sent to stay at the same government hospital for his isolation period, as it would be free of charge for him. Out of earshot of the doctor, I told N that he would not be going to the government hospital if he tested positive, but he would stay with me in the hospitel. This caused an immediate problem, as I was seen as trying to override the decision of a Thai doctor. At this point, I decided the doctor's loss of face be damned, N was going to stay with me if his test result came back positive tomorrow. N went back to speak with the doctor again. The doctor tried to dissuade N, telling him how much I would have to pay for his stay, while he could stay in the government hospital for free. What the good doctor didn't understand was to never get in the way of a determined sex tourist. I didn't travel on three airplanes, across 12 time zones, all the way to Thailand to stay alone in quarantine for 10 nights of my holiday, and I wasn't about to allow a Thai doctor to prescribe celibacy for both of us, in order to save me some baht. Arriving back at the bungalow, I packed my belongings, and I gave N some money for meals and beer. He was distraught at the thought of my leaving him alone, and the uncertainty of what would happen to him. I assured N that he would almost certainly be coming to the hospitel tomorrow, as I saw zero chance that he could not have contracted the highly contagious virus as well. N told me several times he would go to the government isolation facility, as he was very concerned about the cost that I would have to pay for him to stay at the hospitel. I let him know that I would not leave him to stay alone, far from home. I would have felt like a complete jackass to abandon him at that point. The following morning N's PCR test came back positive, as expected. Of course if one of us had it, we would both have it, as we had been sleeping together since my release from the first night of quarantine at the Quarter Silom one week previous. In both our cases, the ATK tests had given false negatives. I would hesitate to put my trust in an ATK test in the future. All I know is they were useless in our two situations in identifying any virus. Two ATK tests each, two days apart, and all were negative. My second ATK test was negative even after a PCR test had proven otherwise. The doctor said we both had very low viral counts, and may be released in 5 days because of it (a white lie). I had N ask the doctor in Thai why our ATK tests were negative. He said because we both had very low viral counts, so the ATK tests would not detect it. This corroborates the information from the NY Times article I linked above. Thinking back to where and how we were possibly infected, we decided the most likely place of contact was our second night in Patong, while watching the ladyboy show. Although the show was outdoors, the tables were not far apart, and we were there about 90 minutes, unmasked and amongst a group of other unmasked customers. Sitting in close proximity to other unmasked customers, even though outdoors, seemed to be the path of transmission. The doctor told N that the new variant was possible to catch in under one minute outdoors, if unmasked and in the close vicinity of an infected individual. We had both been careful of mask and hand gel protocols in order to avoid catching the dreaded virus. We tried to avoid crowded places, and aimed to eat at open air restaurants with not many customers. But in the end it was not enough to avoid a few stray covid particles. At least I know I did not import covid into Thailand, as I had two negative PCR tests, one three days before departure, and one about 4.5 days later, upon arrival in Bangkok. I had thought we were safe in the outdoor seating area, but apparently not. In the future, if this pandemic persists, I intend to avoid outdoor seating areas where people are unmasked as well, unless the tables are spread far apart. In any case, we were both headed to quarantine. Last photos of the beach at the bungalow resort: to be continued...
  14. Thanks for the link. There is some useful info there, but some of it is not correct. The website says it was updated on Feb 08, 2022, but it has this line: What happens if I test positive? - If you test positive you will have to go to an AHQ hospital, and will be there for 14 days. That may have been the case at one time, but it is not true today, nor was it true in January 2022 either. Quarantine is currently 10 days, and there is now a chance of being sent to either a hospitel, OR a hospital, depending on your circumstance.
  15. Up to this point, I had followed the health regulations of Thailand under the covid rules. I downloaded the Morchana app before arriving in Bangkok, wore a mask, used hand sanitizer, scanned my temperature upon entering businesses, etc. But it all started to fall apart on my 7th day. This was the day I had planned to get the required second PCR test under the one day Test & Go entry program. I had checked the Ministry of Public Health web site to access the list of approved labs for PCR tests in Phuket. Of course this being Thailand, the list was outdated, or at least the list in English was. I chose a private clinic in Patong from the MOPH list. I took my paperwork, and drove to the clinic. There were no customers when I arrived. The receptionist/nurse went in the back to show the doctor my papers. He flat out refused to test me. The nurse told me to go to Patong Hospital (not on the MOPH list). So I then drive to Patong Hospital, and after sitting in the waiting area for my number to be called, a nurse at a desk in the lobby told me they would do the test, but I needed a letter from my hotel. So back to the hotel I went, and asked about a letter at the front desk. "Not our hotel, you get letter from your Bangkok hotel". I asked the receptionist to please call The Quarter Silom Hotel, where I had spent my first few hours in Thailand. I figured she would get further than I could on the phone, as she seemed to understand my plight. Of course, the Quarter Silom refused to issue me a letter. The Quarter Silom insisted that the pink paper given each passenger arriving at the airport was all that was needed to obtain permission to receive the second (free) PCR test, and to receive payment from the Health Ministry in Bangkok for the cost of the second PCR test. So back to Patong Hospital we went in the car. By now, the hospital lobby was packed with people awaiting assistance. This second attempt at Patong Hospital was as useless as the first visit. After sitting in waiting area once again for my number to be called , again they refused to help, still insisting on a letter from the hotel. The Quarter Silom was correct, as I found out the following day in Khao Lak. Since the private clinic and the Patong Hospital were uncooperative, I was fast running out of options and time that I was willing to invest in this fruitless pursuit. At this point, after spending nearly the entire morning running back and forth and getting nowhere, I said fuck it all, and just decided to chill. If two approved medical facilities were unwilling to help after my repeated attempts, I decided I had done about all I could to comply with the arcane rules of the Kingdom, at least for today. I wasn't trying to flaunt the rules, but I think many others would also have given up by this point in the day. Since the morning had been wasted trying to get a PCR test, after lunch we purchased ATK tests at a pharmacy. I had totally given up on the Thai red tape to obtain a second PCR test until we left Phuket the next morning. I thought both of us taking ATK tests was the next best thing. N's test was negative. My sealed test packet from the pharmacy had no liquid in the vial, not one drop, so it was useless. That was 150 baht wasted. The box said the test was made for a German company, but in small print, it said "Made in China". Typical of shoddy Chinese manufacturing and quality control. We went to a 7-Eleven and bought a different brand of ATK test for me to test with. My new test result using the 7-Eleven kit was also negative, the same as N's. That evening, we went to Soi Bangla one more time after dinner, and walked on the beach for a while, before winding up back on the balcony at the hotel for drinks and some moo ping. The following morning, we would be driving about 2 hours north from Phuket to a reserved beach side bungalow in Khao Lak, in Phang Nga province. This is Saphan Sarasin, the bridge that connects Phuket island to the mainland of Phang Nga province. When driving into Phuket from the mainland, all vehicles must pass through a military police checkpoint. The MP's wanted to see my passport and driver's license both times upon entering Phuket province by car. Since the bridge is not very long, there is also a nice foot and bicycle pathway to cross the channel This narrow channel of water is all that separates Phuket island from the mainland. There are many food vendors and a waterfront restaurant at the southern end of the bridge After crossing the bridge, you are in Phang Nga province On the way to Khao Lak from Phuket, we took a detour to the Samet Nangshe Lookout. It's located on a mountaintop, with a gorgeous view out over Phang Nga bay. Much of this area of Thailand features limestone karst formations that are covered in rainforest vegetation. Similar to Guilin in China, or Halong Bay in Viet Nam. And the unique karst formations are not only in the sea, they are spread throughout this region on the land as well. The road to the top of the lookout is a heavily rutted and extremely steep dirt road. Since the lookout is on private land, everyone is charged a small admission price. You have two options, either walk to the top of the mountain for 20 baht, or ride in a 4 wheel drive songtaew for 80 baht each. I didn't see anyone walking to the top. In just a few minutes, the songtaew filled with passengers, and we were off. It's the only time I have ever ridden in a 4 wheel drive songtaew with big off-road tires. The ride requires you to hold on tightly, as the truck bucks and heaves over the potholed and heavily rutted steep road surface while slowly making its way up the rough hewn path to the summit. Before arriving at the lookout, I had envisioned driving the rental car up the mountain, but there's no way a car could manage to traverse the road to the top. 4 wheel drive truck, or by foot were the only options. Samet Nangshe Lookout, high above Phang Nga Bay: The bungalow resort was located on one of the best beaches in Khao Lak. The sand at White Sand Beach was soft like powdered sugar. The water was very warm, and perfectly clean. And plenty of natural shade to escape the heat... There was room to park the car right in front of the bungalow - just make sure you don't park beneath a coconut palm tree. Falling coconuts can really put a dent in your ride. There are several bungalow resorts located adjacent to each other. They all offer beach front dining. Unlike Phuket, the food and beverage prices are very reasonable. The food was very good. Everything we ordered was tasty. Our first night at the small resort, a man from Germany saw us headed to eat dinner at the beachfront. He stopped us to tell us how much he enjoyed eating here, saying the food was excellent. There are attractive beachfront dining areas at the resorts to be continued...
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