View profile

Letters from Thailand - #4

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Welcome back! This is now my fourth newsletter. Thanks again for all of your letters of support. I really do appreciate it. I read all of the emails that are sent to me, though I may be slow in replying sometimes. It is not always easy balancing my fulltime day job and the work that I do on social media. I get about 200-300 messages a day. I am doing my best to answer as many questions as I can, but I’m afraid I often fail. So, my apologies if I haven’t replied to you yet.

Chatuchak Weekend Market taken by Mr Piyawit
Chatuchak Weekend Market taken by Mr Piyawit
Thailand Slowly Re-opens to Tourists
The biggest news this week is that Thailand is gradually reopening to tourists. Starting from 1st October, quarantine has been reduced from 14 days to seven days for fully vaccinated international travelers. Not only that, people can now come from any country. Yes, there is still quarantine of sorts, but if you go to one of the sandbox destinations like Phuket or Samui, then you can spend the seven days sitting on the beach or exploring the island. After that, you are free to go anywhere in Thailand. There is no guarantee, but maybe in November or December, fully vaccinated visitors, may be able to enter Thailand without having to do quarantine.
TAT Newsroom
TAT Newsroom
TAT Newsroom
If you are thinking about coming to Thailand, whether as a tourist or you are a returning expat, I strongly suggest that you keep an eye on the TAT Newsroom website. They often publish press releases with everything that you need to know. But it is not just for tourists as they often translate official documents published in the Royal Gazette by the government. They also have social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter which are worth following.
Exploring the Coastline
On Saturday, I did my first day trip in six months. It was great to get out for the day. I joined up with my friends Chin from Chili Paste Tour and David Luekens who does the popular newsletter Thai Island Times. We decided to explore the coastline between my home province of Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon. But what many people don’t know is that between these two provinces is Bangkok. Yes, Bangkok goes all the way down to the coast. As usual I live tweeted the trip posting many photos and map links for each location. For those people not on Twitter, I have already archived the tweets from the trip on my blog: A trip along the coast from Samut Prakan to Samut Sakhon. In this newsletter, I want to give you the background story to the fortress that we visited in Samut Prakan. 
Phi Sua Samut Fort
Phi Sua Samut Fort
Phi Sua Samut Fort
Not many people know that there is an island on the Chao Phraya River in Samut Prakan. Fewer people know that there is a fortress on this island which is still in good condition. It is called Phi Sua Samut Fort, which in Thai means “Butterfly Fortress”. It was originally built in 1819 but was later modernized by King Rama V in 1892. This was at a time when the French were attempting to carve up parts of Siam. The king ordered ten Armstrong guns from England. Seven of these guns were installed at Phra Chulachomklao Fort and three here at Phi Sua Samut Fort. They arrived and were installed just in time as on 13th July 1893, two French gunboats entered the estuary with the intention to blockade Bangkok. 
Armstrong Disappearing Guns
Armstrong gun
Armstrong gun
King Rama V ordered at great expense the latest guns from W G Armstrong & Co in England. These were ten 6-inch Armstrong Guns which weighed five tons each. They were the first rear-loaded guns in the Thai Navy, and they had an interesting characteristic. They were called the “disappearing” guns because they only came out of the pit to fire and then the recoil forced the gun back where it came from. This protected the guns from enemy fire. That was the theory. All the aiming had to be done while the gun was in the pit. Each shell weighed 45 kilos. The gun was then hauled up be a hydraulic mechanism and the shot fired. The range was about 8 kilometers. 
The fort is open for free. There is a pedestrian bridge near Phra Samut Chedi (see map) which you use to cross to the island. It is then a short five-minute walk to the fort. One more thing, the local nickname for this island is Bat Island due to the thousands of fruit bats that live here.
Win an Air Purifier!
Richard Barrow
After my tweet about my DIY air purifier, someone suggested I should check out one by AirDeveloppa, a Chiang Mai company. It’s listed on Lazada for ฿1,495 Baht. It just arrived and so I will be testing it out tomorrow. I will let you know how it goes #Thailand #BangkokSmog https://t.co/YIRHoyx5eh
It is coming up to smog season again, and if you haven’t already, I strongly advise you to look into buying an air purifier. And if you do have one, buy a spare filter now before the prices go up again! During the last smog season, I was experimenting with making my own air purifiers. I bought the filter from Xiaomi and then a no-brand exhaust fan. And that was it! In my experiments with a PM2.5 meter, it worked quite well. After I posted on Twitter, someone suggested I look into a company called AirDeveloppa based in Chiang Mai. They were doing much the same thing but their fan looked a lot safer. As it wasn’t much more expensive, I decided to order one. Click here for more information about it.
WIN AN AIR PURIFIER. I have teamed up with AirDeveloppa to give away three AirCleaner Personal purifiers to THREE of my subscribers. It is very easy to enter. However you need to be living inside Thailand or the delivery address is here. Just copy and paste the following and send back to me by clicking reply before Friday 8th October: “I would like to win an AirCleaner Personal air purifier. I live in Thailand”. Good luck!
Cinemas Re-Open in the Dark Red Zone
Thai Movie News
Cinemas in #Thailand reopen on Friday 1st October 2021. What do you want to watch first? https://t.co/WJdZsNNWqA
I have been a movie buff all my life. When I was at school, my choice of career was to be either a movie director or a photojournalist. My first job was as a runner in a post-production film company in Soho, London. I later worked at the famous Ealing Film Studios in the film editing department. I loved the job but I then got the travel bug and ended up in Thailand. Now I guess I am sort of doing my second career choice as I take photos and write stories about my travels. Anyway, I missed watching movies on the big screen and so it was exciting for me that cinemas were allowed to re-open on Friday. But how safe would they be in the Covid-19 era?
CO2 Meter Reading of 626 ppm at the cinema
CO2 Meter Reading of 626 ppm at the cinema
If you have been following me on Twitter, you will know that I’ve been using a CO2 meter to raise awareness that Covid-19 is airborne. CO2 is a good proxy to judge the risks from viruses. If an indoor area has a low CO2 reading (below 800ppm) then it is well ventilated. Of course, it is not perfect. The CO2 reading doesn’t tell you if the air in the room is being filtered. And of course, if someone is cooking, the CO2 reading will be high. But it can be used for guidance.
A CO2 monitor in the lobby of a cinema in Japan (Photo @NOGjp)
A CO2 monitor in the lobby of a cinema in Japan (Photo @NOGjp)
In cinemas in Japan, they have CO2 meters for each screen and they put the live readings on a big monitor in the lobby. That way people can see how well ventilated each screen is. The lower the number the better. But to be safe, it should be below 800ppm. At SF Cinema in CentralWorld where I went on Friday night, the reading was 534ppm at the start of the movie and 626ppm at the end of the two hour movie. This tells me that the cinema was well ventilated. However, mask wearing is still important. Particularly if you are sitting near an infected person. But with good ventilation and social distancing, the risks are lower.
But, is it worth the risk? That is really up to you. I am fully vaccinated and I do weekly rapid antigen tests at my workplace. Yes, it is possible I could still get Covid-19 even though I am careful. At the cinema I wore a tight-fitting N95 mask. But as I am not in a high risk group, I should only get mild symptoms at the most. Life needs to go on and we all need to help contribute to the local economy. As to whether going to the cinema was enjoyable, the jury is still out on that. There is a ban on consuming food and drinks, so no popcorn, and you have to wear a mask at all times. But one thing I really did like was the social distancing. No annoying people sitting in front of me or strangers sitting next to me!
The Royal Anthem
Patrons at Siam Paragon (Photo by Wanchai Kraisornkhajit/Nation Photo)
Patrons at Siam Paragon (Photo by Wanchai Kraisornkhajit/Nation Photo)
There is something that I want to note here but it is a very delicate matter. I was composing a tweet about it but then decided to delete. I haven’t been to the cinema for nearly two years. As you may know, before the movie begins, there is the royal anthem. I didn’t really think about it and I just automatically stood up. But then I noticed out of about 40 people in the cinema, there were only half a dozen of us standing. I’ve never personally experienced that before. I remember in the past, when someone refused to stand up, there was an ugly incident. But not now. What is interesting here is that it is not illegal to remain seated during the royal anthem. The wording is as follows:
“Whoever defames, insults, or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent, or the Regent, shall be punished with imprisonment of three to fifteen years.”
As long as you remain respectful while seated, I don’t think you can be prosecuted. But, I personally don’t what to be the only person still sitting. Plus, it is not really my fight and I don’t want to comment further than this. I just wanted to make it known, from a historical point of view, that 2020-2021 was a transition period in Thailand in regard to the royal institution.
Benjakitti Forest Park
Benjakitti Forest Park
Benjakitti Forest Park
In my second newsletter, I gave you some background information about Benjakitti Forest Park which is under construction. Well, the good news is that they are now allowing people to go in. You no longer have to sneak in. I went there this morning, and I must say I was really impressed with what they have done so far. It is not actually finished yet, but I like what they have done. It is not your regular park with neatly mowed lawns and running tracks. It is an eco-system with swamps, mangrove forest trees, lily ponds, evergreen forest, and the highlight for me, the sky walk. 
On my richardbarrow.com website, in the Live Photo Blogs section, you will find a photo album of pictures that I uploaded while I was still at the park: Photo Album of Benjakitti Forest Park.
You can gain access to the new forest park via the alley between the new area and the park with the lake. From the top end, walk down about half way and you will see the skywalk and a bit further the lily ponds. I have marked it on the map here. If you keep walking south you will pass the old Tobacco Monopoly building and then eventually come out on Rama IV Road.
That’s all for this week. I have run out of time. There was still a lot more that I wanted to share with you. But I will keep it for next week. I still have some more Bangkok Walking Maps to share with you. I also want to tell you some more stories about our trip along the coast. Anyway, thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you next week.
Did you enjoy this issue? Yes No
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

A weekly round-up of my social media posts, with extra details and exclusive content, comes out every Sunday evening.

In order to unsubscribe, click here.
If you were forwarded this newsletter and you like it, you can subscribe here.
Created with Revue by Twitter.
Samut Prakan, Thailand