Anniina is a Phuket long-term resident giving us a weekly dose of Thai life. Read from her weekly blog what's going on in the land of smiles.
If you are one of the lucky ones who have been able to visit the paradise island of Phuket then you will most likely remember everything you've experienced with warmth. Maybe you have even returned to the island again year after year?
You’ll remember the tropical heat, the turquoise sea, the awesome shopping trips in the hustle and bustle of the street markets or in a world-class malls. You enjoyed the beach days and your biggest problem in the evenings was what to eat today because the selection was countless. The days flew too quickly to the moment when it was time to return home. Seemingly, many things remain the same; the sea is in a more natural state at the moment and the beaches are more beautiful than ever but otherwise the devastation of the corona pandemic has arrived.
The streets are empty, the hotels are closed and many companies were forced to close down permanently.
This year, the so-called tourist season ended short. Chinese tourists disapppeared from the streets early as late January, and by mid-March, even the last travellers from all other countries had been sent home. The use of face masks became mandatory from the beginning of April and continues with a fine of just under six hundred euros. This was followed by a curfew in the evenings. Regional Lockdown was introduced in April under military control.
The Thai New Year, Songkran, which celebrates the start of the rainy season and is the most important family celebration of the year and brings people to the streets to rejoice in water games, was canceled (cf. Westerners would cancel Christmas). The ban on the sale of alcohol, which began in Songkran, lasted just over two weeks. Patong Beach, where the most corona cases were found, was completely isolated from the rest of Phuket so that the municipality supplied food and water directly to homes for the people living there. Small supermarkets serving up to 24 hours, such as 7Eleven, were closed. The opening hours of the shops were changed to comply with the curfew, and restaurants and outdoor and recreation areas were closed. The beaches were also closed and remain closed. Areas favored by tourists in particular are completely out of action.
Now we are slowly returning to “normal” everyday life but what that “normal” means, no one will be able to say for a long time to come. However, we have been able to buy mandatory goods as before and there has never been a shortage of food. Nor did we feel the need to hoard anything. Everyone wears a mask when going outside the home and fever is measured at most locations at the entrance. Disinfectants are available everywhere and social distance is respected.
With the opening of Lockdown, 40,000 locals applied for permission to get out of the island to their home communities as the means to earn a living in Phuket ran out. Phuket has mainly followed the orders dictated by the state, although the municipalities have been given some power to decide on a case-by-case basis and the people have obediently followed the instructions given.
However, the Thai mentality, life day by day has received a permanent bump. Many who have lived hand to mouth so far are certainly considering starting to save in the future. Municipal districts have distributed food packages to residents and Westerners living here permanently have also started the support and food is distributed free of charge in several places daily.,Now humanitarian aid is more necessary than ever.
It is a fact that Phuket’s natural resources have long been overstretched and nature has now been allowed to rest, but the downside is the complete loss of earnings for many families. The economy is almost entirely dependent on tourism, so we are in trouble, that is the honest truth. Only the wealthy have the opportunity to consider this unexpected time as a privilege. A worker needs a job to live. Not to mention the side effects that long-term unemployment brings when it comes.
Phuket is now weak. But change for the better sometimes requires hard action, and this island has also been in need of change for a long time. If only our decision-makers found the wisdom to start investing in more sustainable development and the development of a more environmentally friendly and safer travel destination. In this way, we could start from a clean slate and get back on tourism field as even more authentic and interesting destination. There is no going back to the old anyway, so there is every opportunity to create a new one for the better.
It is more important to be part of the solution than the problem and I think many Phuket friends here share my opinion.
Check Thailand Covid-19 statistics
Check Thailand Covid-19 statistics