This is part 3 of the trilogy about our escape from the coronavirus and its effects in Southeast Asia. In the 1st Part our journey leads from China to Vietnam, from where we come to Laos in the 2nd Part and finally make it just to Thailand in the 3rd Part.
Third part of the trilogy: Corona always a chain length ahead
Unfortunately, the restrictions because of Corona are also becoming stricter in Thailand peu à peu and the national state of emergency is already being declared 10 days after our entry. Prayut Chan o Cha, the Prime Minister, will now announce a new regulation every day with sole power. A large number of other cyclists with whom we are connected have already cancelled their journey at that time or have even been expelled from their country of travel. The return flights to Germany are in full swing. Thailand has been politically led by a military-ruled regime since 2014. Like thousands of other travellers, however, we are not afraid of unusually harsh measures against Western foreigners and definitely do not want to return to our country of origin, Germany. There we are homeless, it is winter and there is a curfew. Not the best prospects and besides, we have nothing to lose in Thailand.
Cycling in a state of emergency
In order to escape from the mountainous north of the country and not to stand in front of closed provincial borders, we decide to take a bus to the sea. Once again, we unfortunately have to delete parts of our itinerary or Skip. But, if already stuck, then at least somewhere on the beach. Just one day later, all buses are already sold out, thanks to a new distance law only every second seat on the bus can be sold.
– Just lucky again. –
Arriving in Phetchaburi, a Thai town a little south of Bangkok, we cycle along the coast for the next 2 weeks along the Gulf of Thailand. We deliberately avoid large roads in order to avoid police checks and have been complying with the now prescribed mask requirement for some time. From one day to the next, a nightly curfew is imposed between 10 pm and 4 am and the police discovers our tent with headlights right on the very first day. Without further problems, however, they continue. Overall, life in the villages still seems to be going quite normally and we are happy not to have flown back every day. We are not afraid of an infection with the coronavirus. Our immune system is more boosted than ever by the 1.5 years of cycling, the daily sports dose and living with the elements.
Through the media, we watch as one province after another from Bangkok closes immediately behind us, also proclaiming a state of emergency and travel bans. We are always a chain length ahead of Corona and its restrictions.
We learn from cycling friends that they have settled on one of the popular islands of Koh Phangan, and later Koh Samui, in the Gulf of Thailand. However, we would like to go a little further and decide to cycle on from Chumphon to another ferry port 300 km ahead where it is cheaper to get to the islands.
In the long run, however, this approach is unlikely to go well. Since we cycle down the Gulf of Thailand by bicycles, we hardly see any more tourists. All hotels and resorts are closed and tourism seems to have come to a complete standstill. Slowly but surely, we must find a place where we sit out the Corona Crisis as well. The border with Malaysia is already closed. Western individuals who remain there gather in the country’s tourist centres. Infrastructures in the form of accommodation are more than sufficient and prices fall into the basement.
Choosing the torment of our quarantine island
For us, the decision becomes clear, we must also go to one of these centres. The island of Koh Phangan with its alternative touch seems to us to be suitable, but otherwise the larger neighbouring island Koh Samui would also go. Initial rumours are circulating on social media that the islands are closing because of Corona. No tourist should soon be allowed to go up. We pedal really hard and shorten our arrival time to the nearest ferry pier in Don Sak by a whole 2 days. Immediately before the departure we check the news again. Getting clear information is sometimes quite difficult, as in each province the governor also cooks his own soup. Many new, valid, but also invalid statements written in Thai, swirl through the neural expanses of the Internet.
– Ok, that’s fine. –
Koh Samui, on the other hand, does not want to let anyone on the island from tomorrow. And if so, then only with a valid health certificate of the last 48 hours. Paradoxically, however, no doctor in the country issues this certificate. Because, of course, no one can guarantee that you are not contagious. This also requires a fresh COVID-19 test. This is currently only available in Thailand for several 100 € in a few specific hospitals.
… – So senseless rule. –
… – No tourist is allowed to go up from tomorrow. Today it would still be okay. –
… – Hmm, difficult decision. –
… – Today we are allowed to go to Koh Samui with ease. But we prefer to go to Koh Phangan, where information is leaked, you get a slight quarantine. (Koh Tao was already completely dense and too small for a longer quarantine). All or nothing, on to Koh Phangan! If they don’t want us, we could still try to transfer the first ferry from there to Koh Samui the next morning. Maybe we’re lucky and we get on it. Despite a complete ban on entry for tourists and even without a health certificate. –
For safety, we are already looking for accommodation on Koh Phangan online for the first three nights. However, we do not book it yet, as we hope to get a better offer on site thanks to Corona. The plan is to find a permanent accommodation on Koh Phangan for one or two months. In other words, our new self-chosen Corona Quarantine Home. This usually does work on the usual hotel booking pages.
Upon arrival at the port, all passengers are directed to a temporary health check station. Temperature measurement and hand disinfection are now part of everyday life in Thailand and no shop can be entered without prior fever control and only with mouthguard. In addition, we should enter our personal data and the most important travel data via a tablet.
– No problem, quickly done. –
When we get asked in which hotel we stay, we show our previously researched accommodation. The health commissioner would like to call them, as a new rule has been in place since yesterday. All tourists must be picked up by the hotel owner in order to go into quarantine. When she learns that we haven’t booked the accommodation online yet, she asks us to do so now. A free Wi-Fi system was installed at the port. – Well, then we book it online now, is not so expensive. –
During the call with the hotel owner, she suddenly tightens the quarantine regulations. He should now pick us up at the port and has to sign a contract on the spot, that he is liable for it and make sure that we stay with him for the next 14 days in quarantine. We are not allowed to leave the room during this time. When we explain to the woman that we have to get out every now and then to buy us something to eat, she strongly denies this and claims that we have to order all our food in the hotel restaurant for the next 2 weeks. The hotel owner has to put it in front of us, as with a predator feeding, and we are only allowed to open the door for a short time and bring it into the room when he has already left. Otherwise, it is not allowed to leave the room for the next 2 weeks. In addition, the quarantine is to be checked daily by a supposedly unannounced visit, so that one does not come up with stupid thoughts. At the same time, another employee puts a note with all the important information in front of us. It says, however, that we are still allowed to leave the house for errands, but should not try to make excursions as we have read it online. When we point it out to her, she replies coquettishly that this note is no longer up-to-date and has not been valid since today.
We feel very cornered, but try to stay cool. Meanwhile, the hotel owner also shows up at the port to have the exact procedure explained on site. This new registration procedure also seems to be very stupid and excessive as well. He makes it clear to us that no one can stand it in his rooms for 2 weeks. They have only one fan and are quite small.
When Gnubbi suggests, let’s just try. In case it doesn’t work out, we might be able to change to a bigger hotel and travel on to another island. These words seem to upset the whole reception committee. This is absolutely not possible, once we go into quarantine, we must not simply change or cancel. Impossible!!! The mood is slowly rising. The hotel owner finally gives us a clear rejection and moves from there.
– No hotel owner wants to be liable for this type of prison, nor do we really want to go in voluntarily. If only we could get past this awkward port control. Once we are on the island, the mood is more relaxed and it would probably not bother when we are where. –
Unfortunately, it is now 9.30 pm and there are only 30 minutes left until the night curfew starts. In this short period of time no other hotel could pick us up. Since we run out of opportunities, we give ourselves a beat and offer to disappear with the first ferry the following day to the neighboring island Koh Samui. We have a tent with us and could just sleep on the harbour. No, that would be absolutely not clear, we absolutely still have to take the night ferry.
“Uh, what night ferry?”
“There is a ferry to Surat Thani in 30 minutes.”
“What! Surat Thani? It was only this morning that we started by bike. That would be another 70 km to the ferry port to get to Koh Samui! That’s unfair. We come from Don Sak, not Surat Thani. We don’t want to be sent back any less far.”
No, no chance, either we would take the night ferry now or we would come with them to the police station. When Gnubbi notes that staying with the police would be an option for us, the barrel overflows.
▶ It must be said that Koh Phangan is a rather small island, completely populated by tourists. There are probably mainly a few Germans, Russians or French imprisoned because they have drunk too much. ◀
The other party, employees of the hospital of Koh Phangan, gets very loud and hysterical. They had been trying all the time to use the police as a means of exerting pressure on us. Again they repeat that if we did not go on the night ferry, we would come to the police station. Gnubbi suggests that we spend the night with the police and take the ferry to Koh Samui tomorrow. But no, it is not possible. If we were to be picked up by the police, we would not be able to get out until 2 weeks after the quarantine is over.
– Grrr. No chance, they just don’t want to let us drive over from here to Koh Samui. –
Very frustrated we give ourselves beaten and move on to the night ferry. It should also be three times as expensive as our outward journey. Gnubbi doesn’t see it to pay for a ferry that he absolutely doesn’t want to take. He pushes his bike onto the ferry without paying. Anja follows him. The officials are weathering from the shore, we have to pay for the ferry. After all, Anja does not want to cause us any further inconvenience and goes off board again to pay for the crossing. On the ferry we meet another German couple, which informs us if we had not noticed that the world was in a state of emergency because of the coronavirus and we should fly back as they did. We just think thank them and wish them a good journey home.
On to the second round
Gnubbi tries to find a bit of sleep in the few hours. But Anja researches all night, looking for other possibilities to come to one of the islands. At 4 o’clock in the morning we are left out at our original starting point of the last day. We don’t want to give up yet and immediately decide to cycle the same 70 km to the ferry pier to Don Sak. Since it is still so early in the morning, we are making very fast progress. The sun has hardly any power so far, so the kilometers melt only so. This time we want to be better prepared. Anja has been scouring every corner of the internet overnight and has come across a few 14-day all-inclusive corona offers in apartments or small bungalows. To these we write without hesitation during the breakfast break to see if they are still valid and would welcome us. Ferry traffic has also been shut down partly since today, but we can follow the new departure times via a live ticker. Only a few kilometers left and we are at the ferry pier again. With a little luck we make it to the 12 o’clock ferry to Koh Samui. If you don’t want us there within the first 2 hours, we could even take the last ferry directly from Koh Samui to Koh Phangan. It’s going to be tight, but we’re pedaling again with all our strength. The sweat runs in currents at over 70% humidity and 32 °C in the sun.
– Buy a ferry ticket quickly. –
… “What? Yes for the ferry in 5 minutes.”
… “Here’s 400 Baht.”
… – Oh no, the woman takes too long with the change. Faster, faster, faster. –
… “Yes, thank you and kiss.”
– Quickly again the temperature check –
…. “We’re going to wait? Why? We don’t have time.”
– Ahhh. Okay, a Corona info sheet for the island. Well, give it quickly.–
When we finally reach the pier, the ocean is just 5 m between the ferry and us. But still too far to be able to roll up quickly. We missed it! The nextferry leaves in 2 hours.
– Then we can only try one island today. –
We book 3 nights in a luxurious resort to be prepared for any regulations at the harbour. Finally arrived on Koh Samui, we hardly trust our eyes. Everything takes its normal course, just a short signature that we don’t have a Corona, done.
– Wow, we’ve done it! –
Finally arriving in paradise
After 30 hours without sleep for Anja, 30 € less in the purse, and the loss of lots of nerve cells with anger, excitement and nervousness, we have finally arrived on our personal quarantine island Koh Samui. We were playing high poker, pushed a quarantine place in front of us for a long time, tasted out the road to the very end, but also had nothing to lose. Here we spend several weeks, get used to the home life again and cook ourselves crisscrossing the culinary cuisine of Thailand with the freshest ingredients of the country. We quickly make new friends and are all the more sure. It was the best decision to sit out Corona in Thailand and after 2 years of cycling on the road not to have boarded an expensive return plane to Germany, to which we are now so distant “home”.