Letters from Thailand - #6

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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Welcome back! Topics for this issue include:
  • The Re-opening of Thailand to Foreign Tourists
  • The Longest Railway Viaduct
  • Russell Crowe in Thailand 
  • Bangkok Walking Maps
  • Applying for the Yellow Vaccine Passport 
  • Tops selling ATKs for 99 baht 
  • Street art by Headache Stencil 
  • Road Accident Statistics for Foreigners
  • Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street 

Khlong Ong Ang, Bangkok
Khlong Ong Ang, Bangkok
The Re-opening of Thailand to Foreign Tourists
As you probably know already, the prime minister addressed the nation last Monday about the re-opening of the country to fully vaccinated tourists on 1st November. (You can read the official translation on my website.) He basically said he wanted to “entice some of the year-end and new year holiday season travellers during the next few months to support the many millions of people who earn a living from our tourism, travel and entertainment sectors”. The headlines in Thailand and across the world the next day declared that the country was re-opening for sure. But what all of them missed were two particularly important words “consider re-opening”.  
As usual, there is only two weeks to go and there is a lot of uncertainty and confusion. We do not even know the list of countries from where vaccinated people can come from without having to do quarantine. Then to add to the confusion, they started talking about 15 provinces where tourists can go. So, do you have the freedom of the country or not? Do you have to stay within these 15 provinces for the first seven days? If that is so, they will then surely make you pre-book SHA hotels in advance just to make sure you do not leave these provinces. So many questions and so many contradictory statements coming from various government departments. Hopefully, we will get clearer guidelines later this week. My advice to you is, do not book anything yet.
Khlong Ong Ang Walking Street
Kayaks on Khlong Ong Ang
Kayaks on Khlong Ong Ang
One of my favourite walking streets in Bangkok has just re-opened to the public. It is Khlong Ong Ang which is the outer moat for the Grand Palace. To the west is Rattanakosin island and to the east it is Chinatown. Earlier this year, the BMA won an UN-Habitat award for their renovation work on this canal. The Walking Street is open every week from Friday to Sunday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (see Google Map). One of the activities that you can do on this now clean canal is kayaking. It is free to join this activity and you can play for about 30 minutes at a time. 
Before and After shots of Khlong Ong Ang
Before and After shots of Khlong Ong Ang
Here are some amazing “before and after” pictures of Khlong Ong Ang. The canal used to be covered by Saphan Lek Market. It has now been transformed into a pleasant environment. I know some people miss this market, but really it was not good for flood control to have these shops encroaching over the canal. Bangkok used to be called Venice of the East which helped with the drainage during the rainy season. Now many of these have been paved over to make roads. In one of my future newsletters, I will be sharing with you my explorations of the canals in Bangkok. 
Headache Stencil, Thailand's Banksy
Street Art by Headache Stencil on Soi Sukhumvit 56, Bangkok
Street Art by Headache Stencil on Soi Sukhumvit 56, Bangkok
One of the most well-known political street artists in Thailand is Headache Stencil. Like Banksy, he likes to remain anonymous as much as he can. He once told Khaosod, “I started calling myself Headache Stencil because I knew what I did is going to cause people headaches. I’ve been a troublemaker since I was a kid.” His street art has been appearing on walls since the military coup in 2014, but he became famous in 2018 with his political commentary about the luxury watches belonging to the deputy prime minister and the poaching of a black panther by one of Thailand’s richest men. The artwork for the former case was the face of Prawit inside an alarm clock and the latter case showed a black panther crying tears of blood. 
In Support of Same Sex Marriage in Thailand by Headache Stencil
In Support of Same Sex Marriage in Thailand by Headache Stencil
Headache Stencil’s street art can be found all over the city, but there is a nice collection in the On Nut area that I visited last week. Though be aware that some come and go quite quickly due to the political content of the artwork. There are a few at the top of Soi Sukhumvit 58, but some have already been whitewashed out. His latest one can be found down Soi Sukhumvit 56 on the boundary walls of an empty lot (13°41’58.1″N 100°35’55.7″E). It took me a while to find this one. The new mural is in support of same sex marriage in Thailand. You can find more pictures of his recent street art on my blog. He is also curating an exhibition at the Jam Factory showcasing the work of 30 political artists.
Richard Barrow
At the Jam Factory, there’s an interesting exhibition by 30 political artists. It’s curated by famous dissident @headachestencil. The exhibition runs until 22 November.

📍MAP: https://t.co/QCvpJSTz8P #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/XFGfyiSn4j
How to Apply for the Yellow Vaccine Passport
COVID-19 Certificate of Vaccination
COVID-19 Certificate of Vaccination
I saw on Thai TV the other day the news that there are now long queues for passport renewals and applications. I guess this means Thais are preparing to head abroad for their next holiday following the news that the prime minister has vowed to re-open the country to fully vaccinated travellers. As this will probably lead to long queues for the so-called yellow vaccine passport, I decided I should go sooner rather than later to get one. The process wasn’t very difficult, and I was in an out within an hour. It also only cost me 50 baht.
Richard Barrow
Today I’m at the Department of Disease Control to apply for my yellow vaccine passport which I will use for international travel. I’m applying at the office in Nonthaburi, but you can also apply at your local health office or provincial hospital. This THREAD gives you the steps. https://t.co/mCsYMBHobv
I made an appointment to apply for the ‘COVID-19 Certificate of Vaccination’ from the website of the Division of Communicable Diseases. But please note, after 30 October, you can only use the Mor Prom app to make an appointment. My appointment was at the Department of Disease Control in Nonthaburi (Google Map). You need to go to Building 5. The security guards told me where to go before I asked. All you need to submit are signed photocopies of your vaccine certificate and your passport. They did not ask for a flight ticket though I hear some places will ask. If you want the full details, please check out my live blog which I posted while I was still there.
The yellow vaccine passport has enough room for eight more jabs
The yellow vaccine passport has enough room for eight more jabs
Several people told me later that it was a waste of time going to get the yellow vaccine passport as the green certificate issued by hospitals after your second jab would suffice. That may be true at the moment, but I think there are plans to make this the official document for Thailand. It is possible that the unique numbers found on the cover of the yellow booklet will be needed for the Thailand Pass which replaces COE. Some friends of my mine, who were recently in America, all independently said that the yellow passport was accepted there at venues that only allowed vaccinated people. To me it just makes sense to get it now. As it turns out, I will actually be testing this vaccine passport out very soon. More news about my upcoming international trip, and my preparation for it, in my next newsletter.
Richard Barrow
🇩🇰 🇹🇭 The Embassy of Denmark in Bangkok is celebrating 400 years of Thai-Danish relations and as a way to mark this friendship, they have painted a mural on their embassy wall.

📍MAP: https://t.co/zLdpSC0hQy #Bangkok #Thailand https://t.co/UgW13QNJ42
The Longest Railway Viaduct in Thailand
If you have been following me on social media, you know that I have a love of trains. In fact, I came to Thailand via the Trans-Siberian Railway. That was an amazing seven-day journey I did back in 1993. I also travelled extensively by train in China and India for several months. In 2020, I had set myself a year-long challenge to ride all 4,044 kilometres of the tracks in Thailand by 3rd Class carriage. I made a good start but unfortunately Covid-19 arrived, and I had to mothball the challenge. You can read about my Thailand by Train Challenge on my website. Hopefully, I can kick start it again soon.
The widened bypass and the elevated tracks crossing the Lopburi River
The widened bypass and the elevated tracks crossing the Lopburi River
Last week, I was browsing on YouTube, and I came across an interesting video in Thai (watch here) about the future of train travel in Thailand. What caught my attention was the news about the building of Thailand’s longest railway viaduct in Lopburi which will be 23 kilometres long once finished. It is part of the 148 kilometre long double-track project being built between Lopburi and Paknam Pho in Nakhon Sawan on the Northern Line. Strictly speaking, it is not the longest elevated railway track in Thailand. That honour goes to the BTS Sukhumvit Line which is 53.58 kilometres long.
The Lopburi Bypass for both cars and trains
The Lopburi Bypass for both cars and trains
The 23 kilometre long railway viaduct will bypass the city and they will build a new station out to the west. At the same time, they are widening the bypass from a two-lane road to a four-lane road. The elevated track starts just north of Ban Klab Station (see Google Map) and finishes just before the original railway line at Khoke Katiem Station (see Google Map). The height will be between 10 and 20 metres high. Although this is the longest viaduct in Thailand, it is not the highest. The one they are building now in Saraburi on the Northeastern Line is an incredible 50 meters high. I will talk about that in a future newsletter.
Russell Crowe Shooting a Movie in Thailand
Richard Barrow
Actor and director @russellcrowe is now in #Bangkok shooting a movie after doing his quarantine in Phuket #Thailand.

“Thai people are so friendly, so welcoming and of course the food is just amazing.” https://t.co/hlmlshLdrh
Sometimes the best publicity comes free. And that is exactly what happened last week when the actor Russell Crowe tweeted in support of the Phuket Sandbox to his 2.7 million followers. In one of a series of tweets, he tweeted, “if you’ve been locked down, if you’re feeling that wanderlust stirring in you now that we have a date for open borders, go and look at Phuket”. Russell Crowe is in Thailand filming “The Greatest Beer Run Ever”. This is a story about a man leaving New York in 1967 to bring beer to his childhood buddies in the army while they are fighting in Vietnam.
Road Safety in Thailand
Playing peek-a-boo on a motorcycle
Playing peek-a-boo on a motorcycle
One of the social issues that I post a lot about on Twitter is road safety. In particular the dangers of motorcycles. It is a fact that 80% of the deaths on roads are motorcyclists. I know many foreigners like to rent motorcycles when they come here. Unfortunately many have never driven a motorcycle before, let alone actually have a motorcycle license or even insurance. And, as we know, many of them copy the Thai bad habit of not wearing a helmet.
Richard Barrow
Out of the 281 Road deaths last week in #Thailand, 225 of them were motorcyclists. Five foreigners also died. If you rent a motorcycle while on holiday here, please wear a helmet, make sure you have appropriate insurance, and you have a driving license #ThaiRoadSafety #RoadSafety https://t.co/WTXqhSYz7e
I tweet the road accident statistics on my @ThaiNewsReports account every single day with the hashtag #ThaiRoadSafety. I translate it from the Facebook page of the Accident Prevention Network and the website www.thairsc.com. During the semi-lockdown that we had, the number of roads deaths rarely went above 20 per day. Now curfew and travel restrictions have been eased, the number of daily deaths are often more than forty. Can I just add one misconception here? Many people seem to think that deaths are only counted at the scene of the accident. This hasn’t been true for some years now. They add deaths that occurred later, even over the following days.
Road Accident Statistics for Foreigners
Last year, 670 foreigners were killed and 8,663 injured in road accidents in Thailand. The most dangerous provinces were Chiang Mai (72), followed by Samut Sakhon (46), Bangkok (44), Chonburi (36), and Phuket (33). You can see a breakdown of these statistics on the ThaiRSC.com website. Many of these deaths are migrants workers who are packed into the back of pick-up trucks and transported across provinces. But there are quite a few foreigners who die in motorcycle accidents. Please dont’ become a statistic.
This week, the British Ambassador was up in Chiang Mai to talk about road safety. One of the problems at the moment is that it is so easy to rent a motorcycle. You do not even need to show you can drive, have a license, or indeed have relevant insurance. As a result, when these people have an accident, they, or their loved ones in the case of a fatal accident, contact the embassy for help. Which is one of the reasons that the British Embassy has teamed up with authorities in Chiang Mai on a road safety campaign called ‘Rent Safe, Ride Safe’. Their collaboration has led to the implementation of five safety measures among rental shops, with the aim to increase road safety. 
Bangkok Walking Maps - 3
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Thonburi and includes Thai temples, a foreign church, Kudichin community and Khlong San. 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 discover. In all, there are fifteen of these maps to collect. There will be another download link next week.
FREE DOWNLOADS: 
  1. Yaowarat Walking Map
  2. Nang Loeng Walking Map
  3. Thonburi Walking Map
Cheap Antigen Self-Testing Kits (ATK)
Richard Barrow
Tops Market and Family Mart are now selling Getein Antigen Rapid Test Kits for 99 Baht each https://t.co/D0kRa4RpB1 #Thailand https://t.co/BLeNYGt36l
In last week’s newsletter, I told you about the government’s plan to sell Antigen Self-Test Kits (ATK) for only 40 baht at GPO pharmacies from Monday 18th October. Here is a map link of these stores in Bangkok. I have been since told that Tops Market and Family Mart are already selling Getein ATKs for 99 baht. You can buy online from them here. I am expecting other shops to bring down their prices too. I will let you know in a future newsletter if I get any good tips. 
As usual I have run out of time again. These newsletters take a long time to research and write. And I often get distracted. I am aiming to send them out at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evenings but again I missed the deadline. I hope you don’t mind. Thank you for reading this far. I hope to see you again next week.
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand