Before coming here we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Its safe to say that we have not had the typical touristy Thailand experience that people normally have. From almost breaking the law to saving an extra buck, there are a lot of factors to weigh in when living in Chiang Mai during this global wide pandemic.
Let’s start with the pros!
We were able to get $150 off of our monthly rent at our condo! We were very lucky and since our airbnb host had no bookings in the future she cut us a deal. We were also fortunate because when we moved to a place closed to the old town, a lot of listing on airbnb had a major discount so we got our new condo for $352 instead of $900! Cha-ching! Since there are no travelers coming into Thailand we took full advantage, which brings me to my next point…
Having only a few expats and retiree’s in Chiang Mai made it seem like old Chiang Mai 10 years ago! (Well I can imagine at least) Walking down the deserted roads and having a whole restaurant to yourself is something to get used to. The people here are very friendly and are always wanting to work on their English so you are never really that lonely.
On the contrary, this may be a positive aspect for me but, the tourism industry been impacted greatly. The elephant sanctuaries are struggling to stay afloat as well as some tour companies. Small business were hit hard due to this factor and it is causing a big change in the tourism sector. It will take a long time for the economy to recover.
Deals at Restaurants and takeaway
Because the restaurants and entertainment business got hit the hardest, they are offering 20%-30% off their menus. Once the restaurants got the O.K. to open back up, they welcomed us with wide open arms and hungry bellies. Even when we couldn’t eat in the restaurant, they would still offer a good discount for take-away food. Going out to eat was definitely something that I missed the most and I took full advantage of these discounts! I always make sure to support the local community by going to the smaller restaurants and cafes instead of putting my tourism dollars towards large companies like Starbucks or McDonalds.
For about a week or so, Tarin and I debated on going back to the U.S. to be with our families. We were in the middle of our TEFL course and had a big decision to make. We weighed our pros and cons and decided that staying put would be the best option and I am so glad we did. As of right now (June 2020) Thailand has around 3,100 cases with only 52 deaths, while the U.S. has over 2.9 million!!!! We feel a lot safer here especially since Thailand is not taking this matter lightly. There is temperature checks everywhere, hand-sanitizer available at every store, car, market, even elevator. I was impressed with the supermarket especially because they wrapped all the fruit and vegetables in plastic. (Which also upset me greatly at the same time.) Everyone is required to wear masks and they must sign in and out of malls to keep track if there was a person affected. All in all, I think Thailand did a great job containing the virus.
Now for the cons….
As mentioned previously, it’s important to acknowledge the fact that less tourists are visiting and that is a major set back for businesses. Not all business are allowed to open yet during phase three; Massage parlors, national parks, and bars to name a few. However, restaurants and cafes are slowly starting to open up and welcome customers. Yet, there are a few places that are refusing to open up despite the restrictions. They are worried there are not enough tourists visiting to operate a business so they are keeping their doors closed in the meantime.
This was a tough one for me. There was nothing to do during our time in our old apartment since we didn’t have anything that we normally do back at home (i.e my painting supplies, workout gear, books, board games) It was next to a huge highway so going on walks were not that pleasant, although we attempted them a few times just to stretch our legs. I even walked around our apartment complex for an hour just to get out of the house! It was a struggle but I was thankful that we had each other. I spent most of my time on my laptop, working on my blog, researching places to travel to in the future, YouTubing yoga videos and even accomplishing a 30 day yoga challenge! I got back into old hobbies like macrame and I made a holder for my water bottle! But, not going to lie, I spent a lot of my time being productive, but I also spent a lot of it binging through Netflix shows. #NoShame
Because we were in two-weeks in to our four-week TEFL course when the virus hit, our school was faced with an issue that has never been presented before. Schools were closing and it caused our whole program to shut down as well. We weren’t able to go into the school but SEE TEFL found a way around it. They conducted the rest of the training online and we got to do our teaching practices at a co-working space with a whiteboard set up and computer. It could also be seen as a pro but we didn’t get the usual classroom management experience by teaching a group of students in a school. Even so, our school got creative with what they had and I am so glad I have some sort of online teaching experience under my belt now. Especially now since I am an online English teacher!
The curfew right now in Chiang Mai is from 11:00pm to 4:00am which isn’t that bad. During phase one, the curfew was from 10:00am to 4:00am and little did we know that any public transportation would stop an hour before curfew. This included buses, taxis’s, tuk-tuk’s, anything you can think of. We had no idea that they would stop at 9:00pm and one night we were friends place, (with social distancing of course) we went to book a grab (Thailands version of Uber) back home and noticed that NONE were available! Since we were in a remote area, we thought maybe there would be some cars available when we got closer to town, so we started walking very quickly to the main road. Still no rides. We were left with two options…. to stay at our friends tiny hotel room for the night or to run 2 miles back home. Before we knew it, my boyfriend and I were running for our dear lives! We had twenty minutes to make it back home or get fined a ridiculous amount of money and even worse, get thrown in jail! The Thai government was taking it very seriously and we were not going to let that happen. As we were running through the empty streets, we passed a few cars on the way but not one soul was in sight. I started to panic thinking we weren’t going to make it, so we kicked it into high gear and ran even faster. Once we got less than a half a mile away, there was a police check with about 30 policeman waiting around the highway. We rushed passed them and my purse strap broke causing my bag to fall right in front of them. I picked it up as fast as I could and just kept going. Finally, our building was in our sight and I sighed with relief. I looked at the clock and it read 9:59pm. We had made it with one minute to spare. I couldn’t believe it!
Moral of the story: Don’t wait till the last hour to decide to go home during curfew and if you do, you better be in good shape!
In my opinion, the pros outweighed the cons by a lot. We are now able to walk around without much worry and know that we have a slim chance to catch the virus. We saved lots of money by not returning home and even getting discounts on our housing and food. In the end, we learned the hard way about cutting it close to curfew and I found a new hobby: yoga! I wouldn’t have traded this experience for anything and I am happy to support Thailand in this time of need.
How has your experience been during quarantine? Have you been enjoying your time at home? When do you think it’s okay to go into public again?
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