23-02-2020 – Week 1 Around Chiang Mai
With Neil and Connie headed for Australia, we now planned 3 weeks to recover from 6 weeks of driving around Thailand by just soaking up Chiang Mai. One of the markets we generally stay away from was the Sunday Night walking market, but we decided it was time to see it again. Strangely, it was little quieter than we remembered and it was then we realised world was changing rapidly and we had front row seats. The little know Coronavirus which had reached Chiang Mai 8 weeks ago appeared to be under control in China and in Thailand, but not in Northern Italy. The markets had less Chinese tourists and we were starting to see a drop in numbers from European countries. We were also witnessed an increase in case numbers reported in Australia. We were concerned and getting a little worried. We tried not to worry and got on with enjoying Chiang Mai. It was obvious Chiang Mia was becoming a ghost town.
01-03-2020 – Week 2 Around Chiang Mai
News reports have become quiet worrying on Coronavirus and its affect on the world. Luckily, we actually felt safer in Chiang Mia than the news reports coming from Australia. It was at this point the idea we might become stranded in another country occurred to us. Thai Airlines cancelled some of the flights from Chang Mia to Bangkok, luckily our flight was still scheduled. We realised that we were on some nights thinly guests staying in our hotel and the markets we had been to only a week earlier were now strangely quiet and without tourists. The Thais were restricting sale of masks (and other medical supplies) which concerned us as we wanted a small supply to be able to fly home to Australia. Strangely, someone was looking out for us as quite by accident we ended up on the end of a queue to buy the last of the limited supply of masks on offer from a local pharmacy. 20 Baht purchased us 10 disposable face masks. This was all we wanted. The only reports we were hearing from Australia was the shortages of toilet paper. The Thais are well known for the charging of tourists more for the same service or ticket than a national is charged. Richard Burrow (an English expat) has written and pushed to end this discrimination. Sadly we saw this with the charge for Covid-19 testing where tourists was requirement to pay 25,000 baht. If proved positive, a hospital stay of at least 14 days @ US2,000 to follow. Ouch, not something we hoped for.
09-03-2020 – Week 3 Around Chiang Mai – Home to Australia
I think the thing we dislike most about Chiang Mai at this time of year is the pollution levels are extreme. This comes from the burning off around the area. Some days Chiang Mia is the worst city in the world for air quality.
The Thai government were even experimenting with large vacuum machines to try and clean the air. The machines were made from stainless steel with a huge vacuum motor and a filter medium.
Our worries about Covid-19 increased this week and every day we expected our flights home to be cancelled and for us to be left unable to fly home. We also were avoiding crowds, people and markets as we didn’t want to be able to make our flights, only to be turned around due to a temperature at one of the screening points at the airports. We has also noticed these screen points around shopping centres. We must admit, we still think the Thais did a much better job of preventing the virus and what we were reading on Australia. We genuinely felt safe here, especially now the streets were virally empty and we were the only ones staying in our hotel.
8am on the 11 March I headed off to walk the monks trail to Doi Su The – this is one of the most difficult walks I have undertaken. By 11am I reached the temple, a little bit easier than last year, but happy. The temple was deserted in tourist terms which was a unique thing to experience.
15 March – The flight home was something we realised later very lucky. 3 seats to ourselves on a plane that hadn’t been cancelled. Chiang Mia airport was virtually deserted was a shock. We wore masks and used large amounts of disinfectant for the trip. Our wonderful friends organised our car to be waiting at the airport so we could drive straight home, so lucky to have them! Thank you Mark and Christine. We arrived home very tired, but safe.