Some days I have a plan and some days I go with the flow, and today’s blog is a little late because I’ve been distracted by a couple of hiccups in the travel masterplan.
I’ll get to these glitches but you won’t be surprised to know that the problem is caused by something that starts with a ‘c‘ and ends with an ‘us‘.
I had a plan this morning but then I got intercepted by a tuktuk driver with an offer to drive me around a number of temples, to a boat tour and to the Grand Palace for 60THB.
I would have to pay for everything separately and there would be an obligatory trip to a tailor, even though I made it clear I wouldn’t be buying anything… but once everything was totted up, and bearing in mind process inflation for the driver’s cut of the profits… it STILL worked out cheaper than booking an online tour.
Let’s face it, paying the driver £1.50 for three hours doesn’t seem fair.
Plus I could spend as long as I wanted in each spot without being hurried on by a tour guide.
So, I have had a day zipping around a variety of temples, visiting a Big Buddha…
a Happy Buddha…
and a Reclining Buddha.
I’ve sailed in a boat down the Chaophraya river and seen the traditional houses, fed the fish and waved at kids on the riverbanks.
At one point, we were supposed to sail alongside the floating market. Today’s floating market was one man in his boat.
I find myself wondering if the reduction in tourists means people think what’s the point in going out to sell their wares if they’re only going to see a handful of people.
And a handful of tourists is a fair description of numbers in Bangkok at the moment.
While I was riding the boat I was the only tourist on the river for the first thirty minutes. I then saw another two or three boats – each carrying a couple or a family of four.
These are not huge numbers.
Creating a physical distance between myself and others is not difficult. I haven’t been less than one metre apart from anyone today.
There are no crowds and everyone is conscious of keeping their distance. Masks are everywhere.
With the exception of staff, I was the only person on site at Big Buddha or Wat Intharawihan, to give the temple its proper name.
At the Grand Palace, I had the highly surreal experience of wandering the absolutely stunning grounds of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha by myself.
The usual procedure in visiting a site of national, historic and cultural significance is to vainly try to get an angle where you haven’t got a thousand people milling around.
This can take some time.
Or you can just give up.
Not today… at least until 12.30pm when it appeared every Western tourist in Bangkok had decided this was the moment to trails through my shot.
Yep, that would be all thirty of them. That is just the number of people I saw at the Palace – I have no idea of the total numbers in the city.
Howecer, they were the same people I saw at Wat Pho (home of the Reclining Buddha). Small numbers and you quickly recognise the same faces.
It’s incredible how quickly you become used to not seeing Western tourists. Once again, I am the only person staying in my hostel.
Bangkok is a stunning city. It’s odd to see it without crowds – I am reliably informed that hustle and bustle is more usual.
At one of the temples I found a woman talking to two monks. An older man outside told me that she had come to pray for guidance on coronavirus.
He told me that a lot of people were coming to the temples for private sittings with the monks to pray for protection.
There are warning signs as well as expressions of solidarity up all over the city.
Temperature screening was in place at one of the museums in the grounds of the Grand Palace and at Wat Pho.
For completeness of reporting, Public Health geeks my temperature came in at 34.7°C and 35.5°C respectively.
The restaurants on Khaosan Road are also checking diners’ temperatures before anyone is shown to a table.
So tonight’s glitch… Laos… my first indication of a problem was the cancellation of bus tickets. I’m not due to be using these until late April but the cancellations have already been made by the travel company.
Laos has changed its entry criteria in light of fears about coronavirus and a fairly complicated categorisation process seems to indicate 14 days of quarantine no matter which of four boxes I tick.
I am hard pressed to see how I wouldn’t be quarantined on arrival. So Laos is on hold.
Do I press on to Cambodia on Tuesday, as planned… or do I stay in Thailand until mid April and then go to Cambodia?
Staying put in one place rather than moving on would probably be the better Public Health action, at least for as long as my visa allows.
If I delay… what if Cambodia closes its borders?
But if I don’t delay… one of my booked hostels has (temporarily) closed down because of lack of business and what if I can’t then return to Thailand (as planned)?
This is one to sleep on… though I need to make a decision tomorrow.