It used to be so simple to be a tourist to Thailand in the old days. If you were lucky enough to come from the preferred countries, all you did was buy an air ticket, turn up and head for your budget hotel in one of the tourist ghettos of Bangkok.
Then after a quick shave and scrub under the armpits it was time to don the fake Lacoste you’d just bought in the street and head for happy hour. You finally staggered back in the early hours and paid the tuk-tuk driver his deserved pittance. Then it was time to better get to know your new found local friend by engaging in some cultural exchange.
Ah, happy days.
For the modern tourist the sense of discovery is all but gone. The ghastly availability of online information has spoilt all the surprises – even the rip-offs are expected. And now in the era of Covid-19 you’re lucky to be able to get here at all. Indeed, the latest developments suggest you’d need to be seriously loaded.
In a bumper week of news on Thaivisa what tourists remain in Thailand – reports suggested there were as many as 150,000 ‘stranded’ in the kingdom – didn’t know whether they were coming or going or staying.
The visa amnesty was up yesterday and immigration offices nationwide reported a lively trade. Unless you were sick or really unable to get back to your home country, immigration advised you to get out or face the consequences.
On balance this seemed harsh. Some on the forum complained that tourists had been given ample time to leave and there were plenty of flights. Others thought that the Thais – in desperate need of some tourist dollars – should have just allowed everyone to stay.
The latter made sense to me. They may not be the well-heeled that Thailand courts but at least they should be Covid free and would spend something.
Onliners called out immigration for being economical with the truth and once again their lack of consistency from one IO to another angered both tourists and residents alike.
Thailand’s embattled tourism minister, billionaire Pipat Ratchakitprakarn, started the week getting a result with his request to superiors for long holidays. The week ended with calls from an incredulous online community for men in white coats to come and take him away.
First off Prayut acceded to the idea for two further long weekends in November and December. Only one extra day was actually added so it seemed a reasonable bit of jiggery-pokery and from this parent’s perspective meant no more loss of school time.
Whether the hols would generate more revenue than the September 4-7 Songkran replacement break is another matter. Pipat said they would, to the tune of 24 billion baht. Even more than he and his wife have in the bank.
Emboldened by this, Pipat came out all guns blazing on Friday with news that his STV (special tourist visa) would be revealed in all its glory next Tuesday. (A YouTube video explained the process in thirty hoops).
Yes, he said, only 300 would be coming on October 1st but after the first batches smelled nice he would open the floodgates to a thousand per day even three! And what’s more they would only do a seven day quarantine. What Prayut and the men in white coats with clipboards think about that remains to be seen. On Saturday a doctor pooh-poohed the idea.
Pipat’s pronouncements came moments after TAT governor Yutthasak suggested October 1st was a D-Day-Dodo. Had these heavyweights of Thai tourism not agreed tactics? I doubt it. Much of the Thai response shows tangents, lines that never quite touch the circles that go round and round.
From whence Pipat’s thousands of tourists are coming was not explained either but as we all know Thailand is just amazing so they probably can’t resist.
Yutthasak continued that thousands of the stranded tourists had been queuing up for the Elite Card. Furthermore, he was going to offer long term residence to anyone who could afford to invest $1 million in the country. They could buy a condo or two, he suggested, and he would throw in a work permit.
Just don’t get cold feet and withdraw your assessment, he warned, or we’ll throw you out with a flea in your ear!
Thai Rath put a picture of backpackers on their report – someone has a sense of humor!
Rooster, whose keyboard had barely recovered from coffee splutter, then translated a story about another doctor recommending quarantine in massage parlors.
Well done doc! He’d clearly got the message after Pipat massaged his own ego and Yutthasak had massaged the figures that massage was obviously the answer.
To wit, prostitutes in Chiang Mai have been signing a petition to decriminalize the sex trade. Slap and tickle, that employs far more than any official in Thailand is ever able to admit and keep a straight face, has been illegal for decades. This is so that plod who run it can have an alternative revenue stream when crackdowns are ordered by their political overlords.
Empower Foundation in the north said that 24,000 prostitutes are prosecuted and fined by the RTP annually.
The police are thus unlikely to be signing the petition. Particularly as much of the trade is increasing slipping out of their long reaching arms by going online.
Uncle Too – our father who art in khaki, hollow be thy name – had a varied week. The protests came and went and he was still employed and even had a souvenir plaque. At least no one died. What’s a few missing dissidents between friends.
Sanam Luang was momentarily “declared” Sanam Ratsadon in a barb at higher institutions while the protest leader called “Penguin” said that the plaque – itself a replacement for one removed years earlier – would be recast and dotted about all over the capital.
Maybe they could fill the potholes with them or plug the drains. The flooding in Krung Thep this week inspired some amazing videos of motorcycles circling like sharks!
Clearly relishing the opportunity to deflect criticism from the protests, Prayut won’t have been dismayed by the thorny issues of Boss and Big Joke.
Prayut asked Interpol to slap one of their Red Notices on Red Bull. As Rooster pointed out in a commentary piece, the issuing of a red notice means rather little. It’s a convenient way for the PM to make it look like he is doing something while accepting that no one will. Boss could be found and extradited tomorrow if there is the will. There isn’t.
Though it struck me that Pipat could be sent to London to offer him an STV. Or maybe Yutthasak could con him into buying a penthouse condo on the site of Prem’s iconic old Dusit residence that’s been demolished.
(Incidentally, Yutthasak said that interest in the STV had been enormous. At the London TAT office they had received FIFTEEN (yes 1-5) phone calls and, wait for it….SIXTEEN emails. Have you ever seen an inbox stuffed like that?)
Adding idiocy to incompetence, his deputy then said that Thai quarantine would be sanukker than sanuk with online shopping, yoga, balcony concerts and pizzas slathered in Green Curry. Memories of tourism minister of yore Kobkarn and her tasty durian Kit-Kat masterstroke.
Big Joke – former IB chief Lt-Gen Surachate Hakparn and onetime poster boy of the RTP before his fall from grace – is suing the PM for transferring him to his office. This met with the forum’s approval for “standing up to a bully”. In fact, now that BJ is out of the limelight – that forum curmudgeons hate when it’s hogged – they are warming towards BJ.
He’ll be a senior politician one day, mark my words.
Ghastly Thai crime – that area of local activity that ranks alongside the road carnage as something the powers-that-be love to slip under the thickest of Thai shag pile – was particularly prevalent this week.
In Chiang Mai a father who already had two growing daughters but wanted a son took his six day old little girl out in the car, borrowed a shovel and fed her toilet cleaner before burying her in Doi Saket. His wife did a service to society by reporting him.
Having three gorgeous daughters myself I would know what to do with that shovel.
In Bangkok an tomboy immigration policewoman shot her former lover four times in the head at a temple in Bang Khae where she had gone to make some early morning merit. Well, that clearly didn’t work. It concerned possessions and a threat to inform a superior. (I use that term loosely when referring to plod).
One also suspects that a crime of a different nature was committed after some hateful online bullying of a beauty queen who won Miss Grand. She sided with the protesters – as did many other contestants – and was then attacked in a string of racist comments by several compatriots.
I agree with a daily paper who suggested in a comment piece that the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society should go after the bullies for hate speech. They won’t of course as their agenda is set in a direction to protect the elites at the expense of the public’s rights. Right on cue the minister went after Facebook, Google and co.
In related news, a resort owner in Phuket called for student political activist Panusaya to be jailed then found himself at the center of suggestions that his property is illegal. He was obliged to cancel a DJ-ing session in Bangkok so at least got a version of comeuppance.
A newspaper in Ireland said that Neil Elliott, who the QUOTES police arrested for murder a while back after he attacked a woman with a pool cue and a machete, had returned home. Mystery surrounds how he managed to escape Pattaya plod.
Answers on a postcard to Yingluck Shinawatra, c/of Vorayuth Yoovidhya, Mayfair, London W1.
In international news Eton Mess Boris Johnson announced everything would be Hunky Dory come spring but, in the meantime, he was shutting all the pubs on the dot at 10 pm. Reminds me of Basil Fawlty saying “I’m awfully sorry but I made a mistake”.
The entertainment industry went ballistic as did young people who are increasingly victimized around the world when it comes to the pandemic.
The US surpassed 200,000 deaths while a French/Canadian was arrested for sending ricin to the POTUS.
At Helsinki airport dogs are being trained successfully to sniff out coronavirus among incoming passengers. Don’t tell the Thais otherwise they will spend 2 billion baht on mutts who have sinusitis.
In Vietnam a trader was arrested with 320,000 used condoms being resized on a wooden dildo ahead of resale. That was the long and short of it.
In sports news a beefed-up Bryson DeChambeau bludgeoned his way to an easy triumph in the US Open golf. In the UK fans at stadia were put on hold again amid the renewed crackdown.
Though clubs in all sports face going to the wall, at least the EPL is on TV. I must admit I have got rather used to having no crowds. Last week’s matches were amazing entertainment.
Back in Thailand dogs had their day. A resort owner in Ao Nang said that a dastardly foreign neighbor had let out his Rottweilers who savaged her Bangkaew. In Sattahip two kind hearted locals saved a dog tied up next to the road.
In Ayutthaya a pit bull called “Bomb Bay” savaged its husband and wife owner leaving them in hospital with sixty stitches. The forum was also in stitches when mum next door went to the media to try and find a home for Bomb Bay and fellow pit bull Boo Boo who was apparently innocent.
In Ratchayothin, Rooster found himself in the doghouse after allegedly forgetting his wife’s birthday on Thursday. The trumped-up charges were denied and all the upset resulted in the accuser falling sick. I don’t believe in karma but sometimes you have to wonder.
Justice minister Somsak Thepsuthin nearly dislocated his shoulder at a back slapping event celebrating his first year in office. He didn’t mention his stunning idea to open clink to tourism because his initiative to reduce prison overcrowding was proving equally innovative. Bunk beds.
A staggering eighty percent of the 300,000+ prison population is in for drugs. I’d suggest stopping the unwinnable war on drugs as an alternative to two-tier sleeping. But then silly me. Where would he get his 2 billion in assets seizures, a figure he said would be 6 billion in 2021. Ka-ching!
In carnage news, three people died in two separate accidents near some condos I own on Ratchada in Bangkok. The gentle bend features one of those trees encircled by cloth in the median; a reminder far more poignant than a road sign to take extra care. In the first accident a drunk father, angered by an insurance claim for a prior scrape not being accepted, was followed by the assessor who saw him murder his wife and child.
A car seat and toys were all over the road.
In the second accident a well-known DJ died.
A dash cam clip from Nakhon Pathom showed a Vios driver weaving in and out before mowing down a M5 schoolgirl on a zebra crossing. He said she ran out but the footage and other cars stopped at the crossing caught him in the lie. Rice gruel for a very long time, please.
Some good news came out of Phuket where it was reported that the annual death toll had diminished from 300 annually to just 150 since 2018. Improvements to 200 accident blackspots in the province, better training of the young and insistence on helmet use had worked wonders.
I noticed that on Thaivisa on Facebook the accident stories were running red hot with comments while the Phuket story had one. My goodness they love to bash on FB and with the almost complete lack of moderation it can be a shocking free for all making the regular forum look civilized in comparison.
Finally, THAI have a cunning plan. Following news that an airline in Australia was taking tourists up to see sights like Uluru, the beleaguered national carrier is now contemplating their own flights to nowhere. For a few thousand baht you can have a meal and admire all that Thailand has to offer on a two hour jaunt:
“This is your captain speaking. Below you can see the desperate, starving and jobless population waving up at us appreciatively. Bless them!
“And there! To starboard, observe the flooding and the traditionally dressed villagers awaiting rescue on their roofs in stoic magnificence.
“And yonder, to port, the tailback on Mittraphap where the yaba crazed driver fled the scene after jack-knifing and mowing down a family of eight.
“My! See him run displaying such athletic Thai prowess.
“And to aft! The beautiful clear road ahead of the politician’s motorcade. Ah Amazing Thailand!
“Oh-Oh…ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your seatbelts.
“There’s some turbulence ahead”.