Greetings from Thailand!
Although the borders remain closed here, the government here has been encouraging domestic tourism, and so I took the opportunity to do some exploring in Northern Thailand, including a trip to the former backpacker mecca of Pai, and some poking around the hills and caves near Chiang Mai. I've had some incredible motorbike journeys and met some really interesting people...all in all, a good trip thus far.
The mood here in the North is quite a bit more relaxed than in the South, because although it too is much quieter than usual, the local economy here is powered more by agriculture and other exports than it is by tourism.
Locals I chatted to definitely acknowledged the pain many people were suffering without the tourists, but were also quick to mention that they were pleased with the government's response to the situation, and that they felt safer as a result of keeping the borders closed.
Valid perspectives indeed, and ones that more nuance to my understanding of Thailand's decisions and handling of the pandemic. I often wonder how long the country's economy can hold up without the significant contribution from tourism, which in the southern part of the country is much more visible. Coming here was a reminder of the vastness of the country and the many lifestyles and livelihoods of the Thai people.
I'll share one more piece of my trip to Northern Thailand in next week's newsletter - today (Saturday) marks the Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand, a festival where the Thais release little flower and candle boats into the river that symbolize a wish or a prayer, or a letting-go and a fresh start. Chiang Mai is known in particular in Thailand for the beauty of this festival, where they combine the river lanterns with aerial ones to make quite a spectacular event...I'm hoping to get some great photos and videos!
I'll certainly be putting a little boat in the river with a prayer that this virus situation comes to an end as soon as possible, and a wish that we can begin travelling with friends new and old once again. Stay warm, stay safe, and stay positive...there will be new beginnings in our future too.
P.S. Just a quick note on what's coming up in the week ahead - we've got Part I of our webinar series on Incredible Rail Journeys, where we'll be looking at the Silk Road Express, the Trans-Siberian, and a lesser-known trip through Spain called Al-Andalus. Join us for a virtual adventure as we take a closer look at what it's like on these magnificent rail experiences!