Travel in the time of Corona

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By Henrik Bolte

Phuket Sandbox Highlight | Promthep Cape

Phuket Sandbox Highlight | Promthep Cape

Recap

If this is your first time visiting, welcome! If you are following my journey, you know that in January 2020, I began my Thai adventure. I left my hometown of Hamburg, Germany, and boarded a long-haul flight to Thailand. I settled in Krabi—the west coast of southern Thailand, and remained there through much of the early stages of the pandemic.

I feel compelled to continue my adventures in Thailand—a place easy to call home. I‘ve adjusted quickly to living in Thailand. Nid, now my girlfriend, made the transition much easier. I’ve established healthy daily routines and enjoy a superb quality of life here in Thailand. With monthly expenses less than $1,000; its difficult to justify living anywhere else.

18 Months Later

Meanwhile, I was missing friends and family back home in Germany. So, I began preparing documents for a visit home in late May 2021—flights, visa re-entry, health insurance, and Certificate of Entry (COE). One week before my departure, there was a surge in daily Covid cases, resulting in my flight from Krabi to Bangkok being canceled. A week later, PCR test in hand (needed for Germany), I boarded my flight from Krabi to Bangkok.

Phuket Sandbox Program

In July 2021, the Tourism Authority of Thailand opened the beaches of Phuket to vaccinated travelers—provided they stayed in Phuket for a period of fourteen days before moving on. Because I wasn't vaccinated at the time of my departure for Germany I had to quarantine in Bangkok for 14 days and could not participate in the program on the way back.

July 9, 2021

Bangkok International Airport was a bit of a ghost town—impressive considering 2019 hosted 40 million travelers. Prepared and ready, I boarded a flight to Germany to holiday with friends and family for three busy weeks.

My flight was relaxed, enjoying three seats to myself. Still, when I arrived in Amsterdam for a 3-hour layover, I was shocked by the 10°C temperature, which felt more like -10°C after 18 months of balmy Thailand sunhine.

My family met me at the airport, and I enjoyed three weeks of quality catch-up time with family and friends. The German summer weather was glorious, and time flew by too quickly, as it always does on holiday.

I received my first Covid vaccination on my third day in Germany, making me eligible to participate in the Phuket Sandbox Program on re-entry into Thailand.

July 29, 2021

Before my return trip to Thailand, I had another PCR Test. I've never had so many wooden sticks stuck up my nose! The next day I took a quick one-hour flight from Hamburg to Frankfurt. Again, all documentation (and body temperature) in Frankfurt were checked. Onboard my Frankfurt flight to Phuket, the plane was divided into three main groups:

  1. Vaccinated on route to Phuket Sandbox – no current quarantine required
  2. Unvaccinated on route to quarantine in Phuket
  3. Unvaccinated on route to quarantine in Bangkok

Phuket Resort

Because the COVID-19 epidemic has severely influenced the tourist industry in Thailand, the famous resort island of Phuket became the first area in Thailand to accept vaccinated travelers without quarantine. As of July 1st, 2021, it was possible to travel to Phuket under the 'Phuket Sandbox' program.

I advanced-booked three PCR tests and took a direct flight from Frankfurt to Phuket—no Bangkok transfers were allowed. As a vaccinated tourist flying from Germany to Phuket, I was required to find an SHA (Safety & Health Administration) certified hotel. SHA hotels have to ensure safety protocols are followed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Upon arrival in Phuket, my documents were rechecked. After clearing immigration and baggage claims, I was given one of my pre-booked PCR tests and proceeded to board a shuttle to my hotel in Phuket. Home away from home, at last!

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Six hours later, I received the negative result of my PCR test, and I was free to enjoy the beaches and fine offerings of Phuket. My hotel was fantastic—a small villa with direct pool access. I met and enjoyed the company of many fellow travelers visiting from France, the United Arab Emirates, and England.

On the third day of my documented Phuket accomodation, I was joined by my girlfriend Nid, who drove the 2.5 hour trip from Krabi to share the remainder of my hotel stay in Phuket.

Within the week, I had retuned to my work schedule, but Nid and I still managed to enjoy some fabulous day trips during our time in Phuket.

Promthep Cape

Located on the southernmost part of Phuket Island, Promthep Cape is known for its historical lighthouse and its stunning sunsets. Promthep Cape offers the perfect vantage point to view other neighboring islands.

The Big Buddha

Perched high on top of a hill is an imposing white marble statue known as Big Buddha. Construction of the Big Buddha statue began in 2004 and is dedicated to the late King of Thailand. Alongside Big Buddha sits a modestly sized statue made from brass, devoted to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit.

Khun Jeed Yod Pak Restaurant

Khun Jeed Yod Pak is a popular restaurant, and Thai food dish of wide rice-noodles served with meat or seafood and vegetables in a gravy-like dressing. Delicious!

During my two-week stay in Phuket, there were daily body temperature checks and QR app-tracking, and a total of three PCR tests. Having completed my 14-day quarantine holiday, I received a discharge certificate and was free to go.

On route home to Krabi by car, Nid and I passed through Phuket immigration at the Phang Nga bridge. Phang Nga is known for its tall, distinguished islands of limestone.

What's next? Now that quarantine has been waived for fully vaccinated, I plan to return home to Germany for Christmas.

Check out this user-friendly check list before traveling to Thailand.