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Letters from Thailand - #13

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Topics for this issue include:
  1. Updates about Thailand Reopening
  2. Queen Victoria’s Statue
  3. Taking the Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai
  4. Railway Exhibition at Hua Lamphong Station
  5. Long Weekends in 2022
  6. Win Hua Lamphong 100th Anniversary Stamps
  7. Interesting Tweets
  8. Bangkok Walking Maps - Part 10

Phra Mahathat Chedi Phakdee Prakat in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
Phra Mahathat Chedi Phakdee Prakat in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
Updates about Thailand Reopening
There was a lot of drama this week about the Thailand Pass. It started on Monday when the Minister of Public Health proposed that there should be a cut-off date for Test & Go pass holders to arrive in Thailand. This was repeated after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday. When the Thai media reported on this, they made it sound like it was a done deal. My contacts inside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Tourism of Authority of Thailand (TAT) told me it was still under discussion.
On Thursday, the Health Minister said he will now propose the cut-off date to be on 15th January. The main CCSA meeting was on Friday and when 15th January was mentioned again during the press briefing afterwards, the Thai media immediately reported that was the official cut-off date. I was sceptical and so I again spoke to my contacts at the MFA and TAT who again told me that there was no cut-off date. They said that the meeting on Friday had come to no conclusion about this. They said we should wait for the final wording when it was published in the Royal Gazette. Which was what I tweeted.
Then came the official announcement this morning in the Royal Gazette. This clearly said that new registrations for Test & Go would continue to be suspended but those people who had already successfully applied for it could continue to enter until further notice. There was no mention of any cut-off date. Some critics accused the government of doing a flip flop decision. But really, it was the media jumping to conclusions without checking the facts. All they had to do is pick up the phone like I did and ask people in the relevant offices.
The other news in the Royal Gazette is that the eight countries in the African region will be taken off the banned list and that three more provinces will become sandboxes. The TAT Newsroom has done full press releases on this:
Infection rates for each scheme
Infection rates for each scheme
One of the reasons that they have been talking about having a cut-off date for Test & Go is that the infection rate for international arrivals has been rising. This is the rate for people testing positive on arrival for the last three months:
  • November: 0.13%
  • December: 0.45%
  • January: 2.79%
Some countries like the UK and the US are even higher. Most of these positive cases are from the Test & Go scheme:
  • Test & Go: 2.98%
  • Sandbox: 1.60%
  • Quarantine: 2.24%
The future of Phuket Sandbox was also under question this last week as there were urgent meetings to discuss what to do with the growing number of people testing positive. But then on Friday, the Thai government announced that they would be adding three more provinces to the Sandbox scheme. Which made it look like Phuket Sandbox’s future was assured. But is it?
Just yesterday, there was a record 635 new cases in Phuket. 416 were local cases and 219 were international arrivals. I have said this before but I want to repeat it here. It is not really wise to go on an international holiday during a global pandemic. Anything could change at short notice. Of course, I hope they honour your Thailand Pass if you already have flights and hotels booked. But if you really need to come, I would strongly urge that you come sooner rather than later. I have a bad feeling about this. I just hope I am wrong.
Queen Victoria's Statue
Queen Victoria's statue on Soi Som Khit
Queen Victoria's statue on Soi Som Khit
The fate of the Queen Victoria statue, which was kept at the former British Embassy in Bangkok, has been unknown for several years now. The War Memorial was moved to the British Club, but nothing was known about the statue. However, thanks to a tip from author Simon Landy, I’ve finally located the elusive Queen Victoria statue. It’s down Soi Som Khit which is between Central Embassy and Central Chidlom. This is now the fourth time the two tonne statue has been moved. Although the public can see it once again, there is no direct access as it is on the other side of a smelly canal. Most people walking down this lane probably wouldn’t even notice. Not really a fitting place for the empress. I am sure Queen Victoria wouldn’t have been amused. Hopefully Central will move her to a better position once the building work on the other side of that fence has been completed.
Queen Victoria on Charoen Krung Road
Queen Victoria on Charoen Krung Road
The statue of Queen Victoria was originally at the front entrance to the British Consulate on Charoen Krung. It was paid for by British subjects living in Thailand. The unveiling ceremony took place on 23rd March 1903. The bronze statue, which is 30 feet wide and 14 feet high, is the reproduction of a statue at Winchester Castle. The inscription on the plinth reads, “Victoria, Queen of Great Britain & Ireland, Empress of India. Erected in loving memory by her subjects in Siam. 1903.” Queen Victoria was also highly revered by Thai women who believed that she brought good luck. Some prayed to her for the winning numbers in the lottery. Others were more interested in having many children like the British queen.
Queen Victoria in the former British Embassy on Ploenchit Road
Queen Victoria in the former British Embassy on Ploenchit Road
When the British government bought a new plot of land on Ploenchit Road in the early 1920’s, Queen Victoria’s statue was moved to this new site. At the time, this was on the edge of Bangkok and many British citizens complained that the new embassy wasn’t so convenient to visit. The first structure to be built was the War Memorial in 1923. The buildings in the compound were completed in 1926. The statue was boarded up during World War II, but the Japanese kindly provided a peephole so that the ghost of Her Majesty would not be upset.
The present locaction of Queen Victoria on  on Soi Som Khit
The present locaction of Queen Victoria on on Soi Som Khit
In 2006, the British embassy sold 3.55 acres of land which included the front entrance. In 2007, the War Memorial was relocated from its original site close to Ploenchit Road to a new site directly in front of the Ambassador’s residence. At the same time the statue of Queen Victoria was removed from its site overlooking Ploenchit Road and relocated to a new site in the rear of the ambassador’s garden by the lake. When the remaining land was bought up and the embassy moved out, it was rumoured that the statue was part of the sale price. It is hoped once they have finished building the new mall, that the statue of Queen Victoria will be put in a prominent place with public access.
Taking the Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai
Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai
Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai
At the end of December, I took the No. 9 sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. The scheduled departure time for this train is 6:10 p.m. and arrives at 7:15 a.m. on the following morning. There is also a No. 13 sleeper train to Chiang Mai that leaves at 7:35 p.m. However, the No. 9 train has the newer carriages and is therefore more expensive.
Seats for two people. The one on the left gets the lower berth
Seats for two people. The one on the left gets the lower berth
I went in the 2nd Class carriage and the ticket for the lower berth is ฿1,041 and the upper berth is ฿941. The lower one, which I chose is more attractive to people as it is slightly longer and more importantly, not so close to the bright lights which are kept on all night. 1st Class has separate compartments for more privacy. It is ฿1,653 for the lower berth and ฿1,1453 for the upper berth. If you are travelling alone, you can book the entire cabin for ฿2,453. For train No. 13 the cost is ฿841/฿771 for 2nd Class and ฿1,453/฿1,253 (฿1,953 if alone) for the 1st Class cabin.
One thing I like about Train No. 9 is the power socket for each berth and a light. You also get a free bottle of water. Train No. 13 doesn’t have these features. There is also a washing area and toilets at the end of each sleeper carriage. There are two toilets and one urinal per carriage. During Covid, there is no restaurant carriage. But you are allowed to bring your own food.
Sleep Train to Chiang Mai
Sleep Train to Chiang Mai
After we left the station, an attendant came round to make up the beds. One person gets the lower berth and the person in the other seat gets the upper berth. Down below I had a window with curtains. Up above they are nearer the light and cold air-conditioning. I prefer the lower berth.
Railway Exhibition at Hua Lamphong Station
Steam locomotives at Bangkok Railway station
Steam locomotives at Bangkok Railway station
There is an event at Bangkok Railway Station called ‘Hua Lamphong in Your Eyes’ from now until Sunday 16th January 2022 where you can get up close with steam locomotives and also visit places in the 105-year-old station that are not normally open to the public.
Railway Museum
Railway Museum
As well as taking pictures of the steam locomotives, there are also various carriages on display from the wooden benches in 3rd Class to the sofas in the 1st Class carriage. There is also a boardroom with a very long table.
At the front of Hua Lamphong station, you will find the railway museum which is open every day during the train exhibition. Entry is free. There is a lot of train memorabilia that will fascinate all train fans.
Balcony at the front of the station
Balcony at the front of the station
You are probably very familiar with the front view of Hua Lamphong station, but have you been up to the balcony on the second floor? Until 16th January you are allowed to go up. Entrance is through the museum to the left of the building.
During the event at Hua Lamphong station, there will be live music every weekend in the afternoon of Saturday and Sunday. There is also a photo exhibition. You can also enter your own pictures with a chance to win big prizes.
View from the 2nd floor where the hotel used to be
View from the 2nd floor where the hotel used to be
There are ten places at Hua Lamphong station which you can visit to take pictures. At each location, get a special card stamped. Once you have finished, you can pick up a free souvenirs.
Another place you can visit at Hua Lamphong is the entrance to the former hotel on the second floor. Entrance is by the toilets. Upstairs, there are some good views looking down to the tracks which you don’t normally get to see.
Long Weekends in 2022
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province
The Thai government recently announced an additional four special holidays called “bridge days” as they help make a one day public holiday a long weekend. They did this in order to help stimulate travel and the local economy. Though in reality, factory workers and many office workers won’t get these additional holidays.
  • 13-17 April: Songkran (5 days)
  • 30 April-4 May: May Day and Coronation Day (5 days)
  • 14-16 May: Wisakha Bucha Day (3 days)
  • 3-5 June: Queen’s Birthday (3 days)
  • 13-17 July: Khao Phansa (5 days) *
  • 28-31 July: King’s Birthday (4 days)
  • 12-14 August: The Queen Mother’s Birthday (3 days)
  • 13-16 October: King Rama IX Memorial Day (4 days) *
  • 22-24 October: King Rama V Memorial Day (3 days)
  • 3-5 December: King Rama IX’s Birthday Anniversary (3 days)
  • 10-12 December: Constitution Day (3 days)
  • 30 December-2 January: New Year (4 days) *****
NOTES:
  1. You must take leave on 3 May
  2. Special holiday on 15 July
  3. Special holiday on 29 July
  4. Special holiday on 14 October
  5. Special holiday on 30 December
Win Hua Lamphong 100th Anniversary Stamps
I’ve been collecting Thai stamps for many years and in my collection, I have these stamps celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Hua Lamphong Railway Station in 2016. The station has a special exhibition going on at the moment. As not all railway enthusiasts can make it, I thought I would give away these stamps in my collection. The first prize winner will get the First Day Cover and TEN sets of the stamps. The other four winners will get the special stamp sheets.
To have a chance of winning the stamps, all you have to do is send an email to competition@richardbarrow.com with the subject line ‘Win Hua Lamphong 100th Anniversary Stamps’. In the body of the email, you just need to copy and paste this: “I would like to win the Hua Lamphong stamps. I live in Thailand.” As I am paying to send these out myself, your address needs to be inside Thailand. Or it can be the address of a friend or a hotel if you are not here yet. But please, don’t send your address yet. I will contact the winners after the deadline on Saturday 15th January 2022. Good luck!
Interesting Tweets
Richard Barrow
The BMA are preparing to introduce electric commuter boats on Saen Saeb canal between Wat Sriboonreung and Min Buri District Office. This is due to start at the beginning of February and will be free for the first few months.

📍MAP: https://t.co/aI22Kxi1fj #Bangkok #Bangkok4Free https://t.co/On85uJDkdu
Richard Barrow
🌳 Looks like they’ve opened another section of Banjakiti Forest Park since the last time I visited. Worth a look if you haven’t been already. It’s not your average city park as there are swamps. It’s due to open by next year.

📍MAP: https://t.co/C9UKxAlYx3 #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/Z04DGiZJ0O
Richard Barrow
The government has announced four additional holidays next year to make four more long weekends in order to help stimulate travel and the economy:
✅ Friday 15th July (5 days)
✅ Friday 29th July (4 days)
✅ Friday 14th October (4 days)
✅ Friday 30th December (4 days)
#Thailand https://t.co/Oq0lbcYhAl
Richard Barrow
For those people who prefer to do their own ATK testing at home, 7-11 are now selling kits for 49 Baht each.

* This and other tweets are just for information purposes. No need to reply if you think these tests are useless or that Covid is a hoax, etc. etc. Thanks. https://t.co/2Ax0eMHv3k
Richard Barrow
Do you need to do a 2nd RT-PCR as part of your #Thailand entry requirements? Here’s the latest list of where to go:

✅ Private hospitals: https://t.co/q6yksUm6Bm
✅ Public hospitals: https://t.co/KMcDOsghsa https://t.co/HHQQSYtIhl
Richard Barrow
Probably not surprisingly, the @JohnCleese event, due to take place next week here in #Thailand, has been postponed due to the current situation. A new date will be scheduled once things improve.If you had bought tickets already, they will still be valid. https://t.co/fDsCGHdKoi
Richard Barrow
If you live in #Bangkok and have #COVID19 and need a hospital bed or other information about treatment such as medicine, here is how to contact health officials:
1. NHSO hotline 1330 press 14
2. Erawan Center Hotline 1669
3. LINE @BKKCOVID19CONNECT (for beds) https://t.co/MIR54sDDuf
Bangkok Walking Maps - Part 10
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for the old city around the city wall. If you are doing these walks and are posting your pictures on social media, please use the hashtag #walkingBKK as I would like to see what you have discovered. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another free download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
  4. Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
  5. Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine
  6. Samsen Thewet
  7. Bang Rak and Silom
  8. Bobe Market and Ratchaprasong
  9. Bang Lamphu
  10. Old City
SEE YOU NEXT TIME!
That’s all for this week for my weekly Letters from Thailand newsletter. Thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next time. Once I reach 10,000 subscribers I will be having the biggest competition so far! So, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. Thanks!
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand