Travel Post-Lockdown Bangkok: Empty Temples, Nightclubs, and Hotels

01:52  28 july  2020
01:52  28 july  2020 Source:   cntraveler.com

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Some vendors and customers remove face masks at Wong Wian Yai market in Bangkok on Thursday even though the government is asking people to wear them. He also said the government was considering financial aid for temples where all activities stopped including donations from the public.

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a small boat in a large body of water with buildings in the background with Wat Arun in the background © Getty

I’ve been living in Bangkok for almost seven years, and have visited many times before settling down here. But I have to confess, with great embarrassment, that I had never been to its most spectacular sight, the Grand Palace. I’ve walked past its eye-blindingly white walls, I’ve seen its ornate golden roofs shimmer in the sun, and on multiple occasions I’ve been tempted to take a peek inside. But the idea of wandering between these glittering spires and pagodas with hundreds of other tourists was enough to deter me. Until last week, when the pairing of closed borders and an empty museum finally pulled me in.

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Over 30,000 hotels are set to lose all revenue in April as the lockdown intensifies in provincial areas, while hoteliers in Phuket are bracing for the greatest Mr Surapong said most hotels in provincial areas prefer a clear order from the authorities to close all hotels for the sake of employees, making

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) on Tuesday dismissed as untrue reports that it will announce a full lockdown and keep city City Hall spokesman Pol Capt Pongsakorn Kwanmuang said the rumour about a full lockdown might have been triggered by Monday's meeting of BMA executives.

On January 13, Thailand was the first country outside China to report a case of COVID-19, but it wasn’t until March that local infections started spreading. In reaction, the government closed schools, malls, and parks, and while we were still allowed to move around the city, much of the infrastructure was shut down. Bangkok's international airport, the entry point for most of Thailand's 39.8 million tourists last year, stopped almost all international flights in April. Most hotels shut their doors, restaurants pivoted into delivery businesses, and a 10 p.m. curfew was imposed. Face masks, which many had been wearing pre-pandemic due to smog pollution in the sky, became mandatory in most places.

a large building: Bangkok resident's finally have the Grand Palace to themselves. © Chris Schalkx Bangkok resident's finally have the Grand Palace to themselves.

While drastic, the measures seem to have helped. Thailand has registered only a handful of daily new COVID-19 cases since May, with most positive test results coming from quarantine facilities for Thai citizens returning from abroad. And so, lockdown restrictions slowly eased. Phase by phase, spas, markets, and museums were allowed to operate again, culminating with the reopening of malls and restaurants in mid-May.

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Pattaya will enforce a ramped-up coronavirus lockdown tomorrow with more screening checkpoints being set up in this resort city in Chon Buri. Pattaya mayor Sonthaya Khunpluem said the number of checkpoints has been increased from five to eight along Sukhumvit Road leading to the city to screen

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Hints of those carefree pre-pandemic times have begun to return. Street food carts reconquered the sidewalks, and savvy street vendors started hawking bootleg designer masks instead of novelty T-shirts. But we’re not letting our guard down. A visit to one of Bangkok’s many malls now involves multiple temperature scans and a QR-code check-in and check-out routine. No mask? No entry, kha. At some upscale places, temperature-checking robots roam the hallways, and hand sanitizer dispensers are so commonplace that I’ve now subconsciously started rating establishments based on the quality of their gel (the jasmine-scented one at the Muji store is a winner in my books).

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Though everyday life is picking up again, the city’s booming tourism industry is hurting. Only a very select group of people are currently allowed to enter the country, and tourists aren’t among them. A stroll through the riverside district, where most of the popular attractions are concentrated, makes this painfully clear. The rainbow-roofed long tail boats usually zooming over the muddy waters of the Chao Phraya are nowhere to be seen. Riverside terraces, often crowded with visitors taking a break from sightseeing, are almost empty. Some have simply closed, possibly forever. Khao San Road, the city’s party-hard backpacker hub, and Patpong, its nightlife district, have turned into ghost towns, and an after-dark drive past the city’s high-rise hotels sees only a few rooms lit up.

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PATTAYA: This resort city will be locked down to outsiders from Thursday afternoon following a rise in new coronavirus infections. The resort city has the most infections in Chon Buri province. The meeting agreed to a full lockdown of Pattaya from Thursday and forwarded its resolution to provincial

Phuket: The governor of Phuket has ordered a weeklong lockdown of the tourist destination in a bid to control the spread of Covid-19 after nine new cases emerged yesterday, bringing the provincial total up to 26. Pakkhapong Thawiphat said he has decided to impose the lockdown immediately until March 31.

Bangkok's postcard sight, the Grand Palace, reopened on June 7, and I finally saw the chance to see it for myself. On the day of my visit, a balmy Thursday afternoon, the foreign visitor’s registration list only covered half a page. Save for a handful of Thai worshippers and some saffron-robed monks, most of the intricately frescoed galleries, dizzying mosaics, and manicured gardens were deserted. I sauntered the grounds for a good three hours, snapping away with my camera, often with the gold-encrusted guardian statues as my only company. Without the loud tour guides and selfie stick-wielding tourists, it finally felt like the royal sanctuary it was intended to be when it was built in 1782.

a green plant in a garden: An empty pool at Bangkok's Mandarin Oriental is no longer a rare sight. © Chris Schalkx An empty pool at Bangkok's Mandarin Oriental is no longer a rare sight.

Other palaces, those of wellness and indulgence, also remain blissfully quiet. A weekend at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok’s most revered hotel, usually involves a busy breakfast buffet and vying for a cabana at the pool, but a staycation earlier this month revealed a different reality. After a temperature check and a squirt of hand sanitizer from a crystal bottle, I had the flower-festooned lobby almost entirely to myself. Dinners at Le Normandie, the hotel’s celebrated French restaurant, were set up in hotel suites, complete with butlers and sommeliers donning masks and face shields, while socially distanced afternoon tea was hosted at the storied Royal Suite, now empty in lieu of presidential visits.

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I always wear double layered(2*4layered filter)masks everywhere I go out. And maintain social distance. And take multivitamins and other supplements.

The Club at Koi Bangkok is a sophisticated nightclub and lounge where the glamorous come to play. You should dress to impress here, whether you intend to shake it on the dance floor or chill in some of the central booths with a few friends and a top-shelf bottle.

However pretty my people-free photographs at the Grand Palace turned out, and as utterly relaxing it was to have the Oriental’s pool all to myself, these experiences are bittersweet. This isn’t the city I fell in love with. I never thought I’d miss the tuk-tuk drivers hustling me for their next fare, but I do. The riverside isn’t as colorful without the souvenir shops and umbrella-toting tour groups. And while you can now simply walk up for a table at Michelin-starred street food joint Raan Jay Fai, that two-hour wait for a giant crab omelet was actually part of the thrill.

Here’s to hoping that the Kingdom will open its gates again soon. Plans to welcome tourists from September onward are currently being drafted, because living in Bangkok without visitors is like a tom yum goong without chile—it still packs a punch, but it's missing its zing.

We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis. Find all of our coronavirus coverage and travel resources here.

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