Day 201: Bangkok by bus – you’re not getting on without a mask

At some point over the last 24 hours, Thailand upped its game on coronavirus.

The bars in the street around the hostel while open were noticeably even quieter than previous evenings. The music wasn’t pumping out as loudly.

This morning, breakfast TV was focusing on pop videos where facemasks feature strongly and new releases clearly about handwashing. I’m basing this on what I was seeing, as I don’t understand Thai.

I headed for the bus station.

The market was busy with traders – especially hawkers selling food – but there didn’t seem to be many buyers.

Thai people are changing the way they go about their daily lives. The street food sellers don’t serve only the tourists – the locals buy their snacks and meals there too.

Going out to eat is the norm here. Usually.

On arrival at the bus station there was again the same friendly helpfulness.

“You want a taxi?”

“No, thank you. A bus.”

The taxi driver alerted the bus drivers.


“Yes, please.”

“Over there. A1, A1, A1.”

I wrote about the lack of temperature screening when I arrived into Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Terminal. There wasn’t any when I caught the bus to Erawan yesterday.

Today? Still no temperature checking but I wasn’t allowed to board the bus until I had bought a facemask.

The lady at the desk led me to the shop where they were on sale. There was a whole range of designs, all on the pink and flowery side.

She and the shop assistant laughed when I had a look at the offerings and said: “I might as well have a stylish one.”

I now have a nice blue one, which doesn’t fit properly, threatens to unhook itself from my ears everytime I turn my head but serves a purpose in making everybody else feel better.

I also look like Ned Kelly when I put my hat on.

I was initially surprised that the other passengers on the bus didn’t think it was a stick up when I boarded, but everyone else was wearing a mask too.

The only sign of concern was when I needed to clear my throat.

One thing that has struck me with buses in Thailand… it’s a really good idea to arrive early as I’m not sure they’re too worried about timetabled departures.

From both Bangkok and Kanchanaburi, I’ve left 15 minutes early. Maybe they just put you on whichever bus is ready to go. If you’re there and there’s room, why wait?

When the guy at the back of the bus started coughing everybody turned around to look. The nervousness was very apparent.

The girl behind me sneezed.

I’ve never seen such concern about respiratory hygiene. I wonder if it will last post pandemic.

The journey took a couple of hours and I was back in Bangkok, this time in daylight.

I just had to find my hostel and this is where I discovered the biggest inconvenience with a facemask. I have facial recognition software on my phone. I just have to look at it and it unlocks.

My phone no longer ‘knows’ who I am!

I’m having to TYPE in my password.

Oh, the humanity*.

Os we pulled into the bus station, one of the other passengers asked me if I needed the subway station. Yes, I did. That would make my life easier.

As we climbed off the bus and walked to the subway, he told me that all schools in Bangkok were closed last night and all of the exhibitions are now closed.

Once I had bought my ticket, very easy, I wandered down to the deserted platform, just in time to hear a Public Health message on facemasks.

They’re only to be worn if you already have a cough or a cold – as per the advice in Singapore, Malaysia and pretty much everywhere. Try telling that to everyone else around me.

However, they do serve as a visible reminder for social distancing. The man on the bus was quite unusual in striking up a conversation with me – as a wearer of a mask.

The train, when it arrived, was not crowded. A woman boarded wearing not only a facemask but a plastic visor.

An information film showed the work being done by the Bangkok subway to sanitised the trains regularly.

They’re searching your bag, but they aren’t doing temperature screening.

A woman wearing plastic gloves sat down beside me.

Station announcements are made in English as well as Thai, making it easy to know when to get off.

Once out of the station, the picture in Bangkok was mixed.

In the park I walked through, people were exercising together at the outdoors gym. Joggers wearing masks were sweating along the paths: mask wearing I these temperatures is not comfortable.

The shops were quiet – shopkeepers sat alone with their wares.

After dropping off my rucksack at the hostel, I headed off in search of lunch. At the end of the street I found two women with an empty cafe and portable kitchen (like hawkers use) ready to fired up.

Did I want Pad Thai?

Of course.

I watched as the older woman cooked up a piping hot plate of noodles a veg for me.

After I had finished they asked me if I’d enjoyed it and chatted about whether it had been easy to enter Thailand, how long was I staying and what is England doing about the virus.

Telling me to stay safe, they waved me across the street to the coffee stand.

As she handed me a takeaway cup, the stall holder waved me to a comfortable looking stool saying: “Relax and revive.”

She called out to two or three passers by – none of whom stopped – and told me that business is incredibly quiet.

The numbers of visitors have plummeted and she is struggling. These are not easy times for people reliant on tourism.

*Obviously, I am joking and making light of the situation.

Categories: Public Health, Public Transport, Thailand, TravelTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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