Thailand Weekly Vol. 30
Thailand news and stories delivered free every Sunday 🇹🇭
Happy Sunday everyone! Welcome to Volume 30 of Thailand Weekly. I’m testing out this awesome program right now that allows you to generate pictures based on keywords you type in. A little bit of AI art if you will, so if you notice a change in the style of the photos throughout this issue, that’s why. Let me know if you like it or not. I want to start to make this newsletter a bit more of an ongoing discussion, so it’ll be great to hear your feedback. Anyways, hope your weekend has been awesome and the week ahead is a good one. Cheers!
Thailand’s Emergency Decree Finally Comes To An End
Thailand’s Emergency COVID Decree will come to an end this Saturday October 1st after being extended 19 times since the start of the pandemic back in 2020. This will result in a few of the following key actions:
Dissolving of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA)
Visitors will be able to enter Thailand without any proof of vaccination or negative Covid test (if unvaccinated)
No mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid
Any controls targeting events or large gatherings are dropped (Music Festivals, Concerts, Events, etc.)
The only comment I have here goes a bit like this… about time! Although I will say that in all honesty, since the dropping of the mask mandates a few months ago, things have felt pretty normal to me. This feels more like a formality than anything else, but it’s nice to see that authorities over here are starting to look at Covid in the rear-view mirror and tourists will no longer have to show anything aside from their passport and visa (depending on where they’re coming from) when arriving in the Land of Smiles.
Army Helps Man Walking 1350 KM Back Home
This past week, the Royal Thai Army displayed an amazing sense of humanity and what it means to help people when they assisted a man who lost his job in Southern Thailand. Unable to afford a bus or train ticket, the man had been walking for 12-days and was about a quarter of the way into his journey when he stumbled onto the grounds of army barracks in Phatthalung province. At first, the soldiers were confused and brought him in for questioning, but once they understood his situation, they offered to pay for his plane ticket back home. Unsure how to take a plane, the man insisted that he travel by train, so the soldiers gave him 1000 baht and brought him to the nearest train station where he made the 13-hour trip up to Bangkok and then another 8-hour ride to his hometown in Buriram. He made it back safe and sound and his entire family was extremely grateful for the soldiers’ help.
I loved this story. A classic case of humanity at its best. I get it, it’s not like the army is changing the world or anything like that, but with the news cycle often being this endless loop of negativity, it made me feel good that good old fashioned kindness is alive and well.
Thailand Travel Tip
For this week’s Thailand Travel Tip section, I wanted to provide some insight into the BTS and MRT public transportation systems here in Bangkok. I’ll keep this breakdown as simple as possible with the hope that it helps make your public transportation experiences here in the Big Mango as seamless as possible.
What is the BTS and MRT?
The Bangkok Mass Transit System, commonly known as the BTS Skytrain, is an above-ground rapid transit system with 3-lines and 64 stations spanning across the city
The Metropolitan Rapid Transit, also known as the MRT is a mass rapid underground transit system with 2-lines (3 more in construction) and 53 stations spanning across the city
Which One Should I Take?
The answer to this question is completely dependant on where you’re looking to go. In general, if you’re looking to travel anywhere along the popular Sukhumvit corridor, the BTS is what you’ll want. If you’re looking to travel into the older parts of Bangkok down by the Chao Praya River, then the MRT is better. Obviously these are just two very basic examples, but the point is, each system runs through their own respective areas, so just make sure that you don’t confuse the BTS (above ground) and the MRT (below ground) when looking on Google Maps and planning your travel between destinations. When I first moved here, I probably jumped on the wrong train about 5x times before I finally figured it out
Are The BTS and MRT Systems Connected?
Although there are several cases across the city where the BTS and MRT lines lead into a single station, the answer is no. These two public transportation systems are totally separate from one another
How Much Do They Cost?
I would say that the BTS costs anywhere from 8 to 12 baht per station, depending on the card/ticket you use to pay. For example, if you’re travelling from Terminal 21 in Asoke to the popular W-District in Phra Khanong (4-stations away), the fare would set you back 26 baht. You can also get an unlimited one-day pass for 140 baht, which is a great option
Slightly cheaper than the BTS, the MRT seems to cost anywhere between 3 and 8 baht per station depending on the card/ticket you use to pay. For example, if you’re travelling from Asoke’s Sukhumvit MRT Station all the way up to the popular Chatuchak Market (11 stops), the fare would set you back 35 baht
How Do I Pay To Use Them?
Given that these two systems are currently operated as totally separate entities, your BTS day-pass (for example) won’t cover you for the MRT. You’ll have to purchase your MRT fare separately. If you’re in Bangkok for less than a week, you’re probably fine to purchase one-off trips on both the MRT and BTS at the easy to use kiosks at every station, but if you’re in the city for longer than a week and plan to use either network a lot, you should definitely get a Rabbit Card (BTS) and/or a Stored-Value Card (MRT). Just load a few hundred baht on either of them and all you need to do is tap before getting on.
Thailand Leading Asian AGODA Bookings
A recent report from Agoda states that Thailand has been one of the first Asian countries to rebound following the pandemic. They reported that although inbound searches are still down 39% compared to September 2019, it has increased exponentially since the start of 2022 with the chief of the popular booking platform saying that “Thailand is leading Asia in terms of inbound tourists, but it has not yet reached 2019 levels”.
He also stated that “It will take about three to six months for such search rates to return to pre-pandemic levels, but that it’s contingent upon major inbound markets like mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan reopening.”
Similar to the report from AirBnb that I wrote about last week, it’s nice to see that people haven’t forgotten about Thailand over the past two years to look elsewhere. Quite the opposite based on data from the two platforms. After visiting close to 25 countries, I firmly believe that Thailand has dialled in tourism to a degree that is extremely hard to match. There’s a reason that Bangkok is the most visited city in the world and Thailand as a whole is the 8th most visited country in the world.
Only In Thailand 🇹🇭
Man, what is it with people and their exotic animals? Whether it’s the multi-coloured axolotls in Chatuchak or armadillos being brought in to BKK in someones luggage, I definitely seem be reading a lot of strange animal stories these days. This past week, Thai police arrested a man for illegally smuggling and selling piranha’s worth tens of thousands of baht over the internet. Officials went on to say that piranha’s, which aren’t native to Thailand, pose a massive risk to the marine ecosystem throughout the country. I never would have thought that people would pay hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars for a single pet fish. Wild.