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Letters from Thailand - #8

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Topics for this issue include:
  1. Thailand Pass Updates and News
  2. Loy Krathong Festival
  3. The British War Memorial
  4. Hidden Dangers of Taxis
  5. International Lantern and Food Festival
  6. Annual Monkey Party in Lopburi
  7. Monks Doing Alms Round by Boat
  8. Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
  9. The Grand Palace
  10. Changing the Emerald Buddha Costume
  11. Interesting Tweets
  12. Bangkok Walking Maps - 5

Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Thailand Pass Updates and News
The Thailand Pass system seems to be improving with time. Certainly, less people complaining about server errors. In fact, quite a few people have told me that they were approved and received the QR Code within minutes. However, there are still people who are reporting it is taking up to a week or more to get approved. While there are some who have had their application rejected. According to the latest statistics, 214,251 people have now applied for the Thailand Pass with 167,415 being approved so far. They don’t say how many are rejected or still waiting. But they do say that 86,719 people had their applications accepted automatically.
To have a better chance of receiving automatic approval for Thailand Pass, you need to come from one of these 30 countries that share a PKI key for vaccination certificates. At the meeting I had with the consular department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see here), they said they are planning on extending the number of countries that they will be able to do an automatic approval for vaccination certificates. One of the improvements about the Thailand Pass that has now gone live is the ability to log in to check your registration status. You will also be able to download the QR Code instead of waiting for an email.
There were some updates that we were hoping to see on the 15th November that haven’t been passed yet. For example, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) were pushing for the RT-PCR test on arrival to be changed to the faster and cheaper ATK test. But that was rejected by the CCSA at their last meeting. The TAT also wanted the age of exemption for unvaccinated children taking part in Test and Go to be raised to under 18, the same as for the Sandbox. But again, no sign of that happening. There will be another review before the 1st December and then again before 15th December. Incidentally, Cambodia is now allowing fully vaccinated tourists to go there without quarantine. Like Thailand, you have to do a RT-PCR test 72 hours before departure, but once you arrive, you only have to do a rapid antigen test.
Useful Links:
Loy Krathong Festival
The Loy Krathong festival this year is on Friday 19th November 2021. This is one of my favourite Thai festivals that is celebrated on the full moon on the 12th lunar month according to the Thai calendar. This is usually in November but once it was on Halloween Day in October. Loy Krathong takes place all over the country. People will go down to their local river or even pond to float a small container which is traditionally made from banana leaves. In Thai, the word “loy” means to float. They will put a candle, incense sticks and often a few coins for good luck into their krathongs. They will then float this on the water asking for forgiveness from Mother Nature for polluting waterways. As they crouch there and watch their krathong float away under the gaze of the full moon, the Thai people believe that the krathong is also floating away their bad luck. 
Where will you be celebrating this year? One of my favourite locations is at Sukhothai Historical Park. But this year, I don’t want to attend a major event. Loy Krathong is celebrated anywhere around Thailand where you can find water. I remember asking my students one year where they celebrated Loy Krathong, and one kid replied, in a tub of water in the back garden! If you are in Bangkok, the main areas are Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street (map) and under Rama VIII Bridge (map). The BMA are also allowing people to float their krathongs in 30 public parks in Bangkok. The most popular will most likely be Lumpinee Park.
If you are looking for more ideas about where to go around Thailand, then TAT Newsroom has just sent out this press release: TAT highlights unique locations throughout Thailand for Loi Krathong Festival 2021.
One final note about the Loy Krathong festival. Please think carefully about water pollution. Don’t use krathongs made from foam or plastic. Buy something that is biodegradable. These days you can buy traditional ones made from the trunk of a banana tree and banana leaves. But make sure they are pinned together with wooden pins and not metal. You can also buy krathongs made from bread. The BMA has been running a campaign for a number of years now to encourage people not to use foam and to also only float one krathong per family. Last year, the BMA collected 492,537 krathongs in Bangkok. 96.4% were made from natural materials and only 3.6% from foam which is good progress.
The British War Memorial
The war Memorial at the former British Embassy in Bangkok
The war Memorial at the former British Embassy in Bangkok
The annual Remembrance Sunday service took place on Sunday at the British Club in Bangkok. It was good to see the service well-attended by ambassadors and the expatriate community. The event does not only commemorate British, Commonwealth, and allied personnel, but all those who have been affected in all conflicts. According to the British embassy website, the Remembrance Day service “serves as a reminder that nations who fought so bitterly against each other can come together to promote peace and stability in the modern world”. The cenotaph was relocated here from the former site of the British Embassy about three years ago.
The Ploenchit Road access to the former British Embassy where Central Embassy now stands
The Ploenchit Road access to the former British Embassy where Central Embassy now stands
The war memorial used to be situated near the Ploenchit road gate at what was then the compound for the British Legation. In this old photo in the national archives, you can just see the Queen Victoria statue behind it and the ambassador’s residence at the back. Back in 1919, the British community in Bangkok wanted to erect a memorial in honour of the British subjects from Siam who had fallen during the Great War. The cenotaph was unveiled on 10th January 1923. The service was led by the Reverend R.J. Hitchcock. This was the first structure to be built in the new compound. The legation officially moved here in 1925, though most buildings weren’t finished until the following year.
War Memorial at the former British Embassy
War Memorial at the former British Embassy
After the sale of the front part of the British Embassy compound, to make way for Central Embassy shopping mall, the war memorial was moved from the front entrance on Ploenchit Road to a spot in front of the ambassador’s residence, and Queen Victoria’s statue was moved to the back. The “front entrance” of the embassy for the public was now on Wireless Road. However, the memorial still faced the same way with the front facing Ploenchit and the back facing the residence where the Remembrance Day service is held. This small mistake has now been corrected at the British Club. Twenty-five men of British descent living in Siam gave their lives during the Great War of 1914-1918. Their names are listed in alphabetical order clockwise around the four sides of the Cenotaph with “A” being at the front.
Hidden Dangers of Taxis
Before and after CO2 readings in a Bangkok taxi
Before and after CO2 readings in a Bangkok taxi
If you have been following me on Twitter, you would know that I’ve been highlighting the dangers of being in unventilated spaces during a global pandemic. This is because Covid-19 is airborne and aerosols with viruses can linger in the air for hours. There’s no cheap way of detecting if Covid-19 is present in a room, but you can use a CO2 meter as a proxy to work out the risks. For example, anything over 800 ppm means that you are breathing in the air that has already been in someone else’s lungs. You don’t need me to tell you of the risks you are taking if someone in the room has Covid-19 or any other airborne virus. And it doesn’t matter if they have already left as the aerosols will linger for several hours afterwards.
Of all of the places that I have tested for CO2 on my travels, the taxis in Bangkok are potentially the most dangerous. More so than cinemas, supermarkets and even long airplane flights. In the photo above, you can see that as soon as I got in the taxi, the reading went from around 500 ppm to 2778 ppm. I’ve been in taxis before where it went as high as 3200 ppm. You definitely need a tight fitting N95 masks for taxis. A regular surgical mask offers no protection. So, what can you do to lower your risk? The first thing is to ask the driver to turn off the “recirculation” button. This then brings in air from outside. As you can see in the photo, within ten minutes it had dropped to an acceptable 677 ppm. You could also open a window. But from my experiments, you need to open the front left and back right window which will change the air quicker than just one window alone.
International Lantern and Food Festival
Richard Barrow
This evening I’m at a press preview of the “Thailand International Lantern and Food Festival” at Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan. The event takes place from 12th November to 6th December 2021. There will be special activities on Loy Krathong Day and the King’s birthday. #Thailand https://t.co/UlOxmXJRME
The Thailand International Lantern and Food Festival is taking place from now until 6th December at Ancient Siam in Samut Prakan. I went for the press preview last week and it looked really great. They have over 1,000 lanterns. They have also lit up some of their buildings and monuments. The best days to go are for Loy Krathong on 19th November and King Rama IX’s birthday anniversary on 5th-6th December as there will be extra activities. It is easy to reach there now by taking the Skytrain to the end of the Green Line to BTS Keha station and then a ten-minute taxi or songtaew ride. Unfortunately, this is one of those places that have two prices, but if you live or work in Thailand, you can get the Thai price. I personally think it is worth it.
More information: villageofillumination.com
Annual Monkey Party in Loburi
The annual Monkey Party in Lopburi has been confirmed to take place on Sunday 28th November at Pra Prang Sam Yod in the city. There will be four rounds: 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm. If you are going up for the weekend, you might want to look out for the sunflower fields that are popular at this time of year. I might be going again this year and so look out for more trip details and photos on my social media. The State Railway of Thailand do weekend day excursions to Pasak Chonlasit Dam in Lopburi. I will try and get some confirmed information about this for you in the next newsletter.
Monks Doing Alms Round by Boat
Offering alms to a monk on a boat
Offering alms to a monk on a boat
The tradition of offering alms to monks on boats is not seen so much these days. In the old days, when canals were the highways, it was more common. One place where you can still observe this is at Kwan Riam Floating Market in Minburi district of Bangkok. If you come at 7:30am on Saturday or Sunday, you can offer alms to monks on boats. Once finished, you can then have breakfast in this riverside market. They also do short 30-minute boat tours from here along Saen Saeb canal. It is a nice market, but it is not my favourite.
MORE PHOTOS: richardbarrow.com
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
One of my favourite riverside markets is Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market in Taling Chan district of Bangkok. I went there the other weekend and it was just as popular as ever. If you are worried about crowds, I would strongly advise you to arrive by 9:00am at the latest. This is a great place to come to eat a meal or two and do some shopping. We also did a boat tour from here which lasted about one hour. You can take the public boat, but we decided to rent the whole boat for only 300 baht. I highly recommend doing this trip. If you don’t have your own transport, then just take a taxi. As long as you don’t come back too late in the afternoon, you won’t have difficulty in finding a passing taxi to take you back home.
MORE PHOTOS: richardbarrow.com
Richard Barrow
We had a really great boat trip this morning from Khlong Lat Mayom. You can either share a boat with others for 100 Baht each or rent the whole boat for 300 Baht. We did the latter. We stopped at Wat Saphan floating market and then Luang Niyom Orchid Farm #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/DLX2rggvHS
The Grand Palace
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Now is a great time to re-visit or take visitors to the Grand Palace as there are hardly any tourists. Usually there are long lines to take selfies, and then you will always get strangers in your photos. Not so at the moment. Entrance fee is ฿500 for foreigners and free for Thais. I’ve never seen the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace so empty. It’s really weird not seeing group tours. It’s also very nice, as the Thais here were really happy to see us. They kept asking, “Where are you from?” - This is really a good time to come to Thailand.
MORE PHOTOS: richardbarrow.com
Underground Walkway
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace
The construction work is still ongoing in front of the Grand Palace. They are building an underground walkway from Sanam Luang to the palace and the pier. There will also be public toilets down below. It should be finished by the end of the year.
Changing the Emerald Buddha Costume
Richard Barrow
Three times a year, the King changes the costume of the Emerald Buddha. He will change it from Rainy Season to Cool Season on “แรม ๑ ค่ำ เดือนสิบสอง” which according to the astrological calendar is 20 November 2021. The Chapel of The Emerald Buddha will be closed on that day. https://t.co/9pdogmhHmd
A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I posted an advance warning that the Emerald Buddha chapel will be closed all day on Saturday 20th November in preparation for the changing of the Emerald Buddha’s costume from rainy season to cool season. The Grand Palace will also be closed from noon onwards. What I didn’t really mention is the back story. From what I understand, only the King, the heir apparent, or the regent, are allowed to touch the Emerald Buddha. The King doesn’t have a regent and his son is at school in Germany. What is going to be interesting is that the King has now gone back to Germany according to the German media. Will he return to Thailand on Saturday just for this event or will he appoint someone? If so, who? In past years, he has flown back just for a day or two for important events. So, he may come back briefly this weekend. I will let you know in the next newsletter.
Interesting Tweets
Richard Barrow
The Pattaya Fireworks Festival is taking place from Friday 26th - Saturday 27th November on Pattaya Beach. There will be four sets of fireworks per day. Beach Road will be closed from 4pm-midnight as there will also be concerts. #Thailand https://t.co/M0qUoLnqum
Richard Barrow
For those people planning on applying for the yellow vaccine passport at the Department of Disease Control in Nonthaburi. Please note, the service will move to Bangrak Building, 15th Floor, South Sathorn Road, Sathorn District, in Bangkok from Monday. https://t.co/4dlGLdsv0W
Richard Barrow
💉 Top 5 Vaccinated Provinces:
1️⃣ Bangkok 87.5%
2️⃣ Phuket 79.6%
3️⃣ Chonburi 71.8 %
4️⃣ Samut Prakan 60.8%
5️⃣ Phang Nga 59.9%

Source: Ministry of Public Health #Thailand https://t.co/Ji9l0kW1iN
Richard Barrow
Doi Inthanon National Park opened this week to visitors. TAT said last year they wanted to stop the #2pricethailand policy in order to encourage expats to travel. But it is still ฿50 for Thais and ฿300 for foreigners. I would visit parks more often if they were better priced. https://t.co/myDGuK3m7O
Richard Barrow
Museum Siam has announced that entry will be free from now until 21st November 2021. The museum has easy access via MRT Sanam Chai. Map: https://t.co/EZgPsgCsmE #Bangkok4Free #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/n5fSVYASnd
Bangkok Walking Maps - 5
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Sao Ching Cha, Dinso Road, and Chaopho Suea Shrine which are in the old quarter of Bangkok to the south of the Democracy Monument. 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
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 week. If you like this newsletter, please suggest to your friends to subscribe to it. It is 100% free. 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