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Hello and letter from New Forest Mark now travelling in Thailand

Letter from Mark - in Thailand!

Quarantine hotel in Thailand

New Forest Mark is on far flung adventures which have inspired him to tell another tale 

Ed Note: Through Covid and lockdowns of varying intensities writer Mark and cartoonist Hugh lifted our sometimes sombre spirits with their time consumingly researched, cleverly concocted, relevant and thought provoking, informative and often educational, always entertaining and sometimes quite hilarious, articles and cartoons.That series came to an end earlier this summer but now Mark is travelling in Thailand and has sent us a new story, which in this strange year of non-travel for most, we thought you'd like to read.

If you don't already receive our weekly e-newsletter full of useful local information and news told with a personal twist do sign up for it here - and then read on!

 
 

Letter from Thailand!

Those of you blessed with a memory will recall that a while back there was some ill thought out drivel published at the heel end of Weekly What’s On. I have grim news. It’s back! Those of a nervous literary disposition, look away now.

For personal reasons I decided to travel. I’ve no real idea why but I suppose I imagined that a complete change was needed. Let me tell you that coming to Thailand has been the most incredible experience. I ought to apologise to experienced travellers in advance, after all, many of the things I find exciting will be old news to some. But if I can in some way pass on the excitement, the joy and the sheer contrast to English life as we know it then it’ll be worthwhile.

The flight out with Singapore Airlines was a pleasure, I heartily recommend them. I changed at Singapore to fly to PhuketThai airport arrivals camera pronounced ‘pookette’; bar room bores have another pronunciation, yawn.

Covid safe entry via Phuket is on another scale!

In order to generate some much needed tourist income the Thai government invoked the ‘Sandbox Program’.

This scheme allows the safe entry of foreign tourists into and only into Phuket; this is an island connected to mainland Thailand by an isthmus.

To say that the system is efficient would be an understatement. There is a testing booth at the airport; the tester is completely isolated in a perspex booth; arms are threaded through elongated gloves in order to carry out the swab. At no time is the tester at any risk.

Then it’s directly to the hotel to isolate until the test proves negative. Then there is a day two swab followed by another at day twelve. All results are emailed the next day. The airport was stuffed with infra red cameras. I was fascinated and so I stopped to watch the screen. The camera faced incoming foreigners, wobbling around each face was an outline box which was measuring the temperature of all those walking towards it.

Astonishing. You have to wait until you are recorded, only then do the gates open.

Public health first

These cameras are everywhere. Even in tiny 7-11 shops there is a hand temperature sensor. You have to beep it before you enter. The level of organisation for the swabs was very impressive and right here and now I take my hat off to the Thai authorities for a stunning piece of work in safely getting some tourist cash back into the economy. Cynics that say that the sandbox program is just a money generator don’t know what they’re talking about. Public health has come first, cash second.

My hotel, The Senses Resort (top photo) was a dream. Super helpful and polite staff, more marble than you can shake a stick at and the best view in town.

Let’s not forget that in 2004 the tsunami killed two hundred and forty people here, two hundred of whom were tourists. Nature can be a wondrLady on tricycle in Thailandous and spiteful thing.

The camera faces west towards the Andaman Sea which is the direction from which the prevailing winds blow. This results in an almost continuous surf which makes bathing tricky. There are lifeguards and the beach is flagged with the safe areas clearly designated.

A walk around the beach area tells the true story of how the pox has affected this area. Massive bars (I counted the tables on one alone and there were two hundred seats) are wire fenced shut.

I spoke to a couple who were here two years ago and apparently the area was full of holidaymakers all having a blast. These days it’s a ghost town. The employees who flocked from poor rural areas have returned to their cows and crops. No doubt they will gradually filter back. For now though this place is on its knees.

Thailand and the scooter 

If there is one thing that defines this place for me it has to be the scooter. More precisely the Honda Wave. This scooter is a direct descendant of the Honda Cub with which Soichiro Honda re-mobilised Japan after the second world war. They are everywhere and they are used for everything.

This photo however is a trike.

A sidecar is welded to the side of the luckless 125cc motor which is then loaded with insane cargoes. I was lucky enough to be loitering when this lady arrived to collect some scrap iron.

The fella in yellow is helping her to manhandle the thing into place. She also collects plastic for recycling. Please note the helmet samother and baby on scooter in Thailandfely stowed in the front basket. If there is a police roadblock she will stop (in full view of the police, I have witnessed this) strap on the helmet, go through the checkpoint and then afterwards, remove it again.

When these little Hondas are in tricycle form and so heavily laden they become little more than mobile traffic calming devices.

These bikes are family transport. On many occasions I witnessed two mums and two toddlers on one bike. This photo  just about sums things up. Please note the kevlar coated bamboo and the friction resistant flip-flops.

I was so grateful for the photo that I bought the lady the supper that she had stopped for.

The motto here seems to be:

‘Yes you can……but be careful’.

Ed note: We send our best to Mark on his continuing travels, we may hear from him again!

Mark and Hugh's illustrated tales for Lymington and the New Forest 2020-21

If you'd like to read or re-read any of the articles on diverse subjects written and illustrated between June 2020 and June 2021 by Mark and Hugh, just click here!

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