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Letters from Thailand - #7

Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Welcome back! Topics for this issue include:
  1. Welcome back to Thailand!
  2. ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022 - a New Chapter’
  3. The Royal Gala Dinner
  4. My First Day in Thailand
  5. Hidden Bangkok Tours
  6. Khlong San Market
  7. Pak Khlong San Railway Station
  8. Updates on Chong Nonsi Canal Park 
  9. Bangkok Walking Maps – 4

Welcome Back to Thailand!
Richard Barrow
Full information just released by the @MFAThai on the three schemes for entering #Thailand from 1st November 2021. https://t.co/LYFUf8tHcK
After the four-month long trial run with the Phuket Sandbox, the Thai government has now announced they are ready to ease restrictions on allowing international travellers to enter the kingdom. From the 1st of November 2021, people will be able to enter using one of three distinct schemes. The first one is called “Test & Go” and is for fully vaccinated travellers coming from any of the countries on the approved list. These people only have to book one night in a SHA+ hotel where they must wait for the test results. If this is negative, then the next day they have the freedom of the whole country.
The second scheme is an extended Sandbox. Before, it was just Phuket and Samui, but from the 1st of November, fully vaccinated travellers coming from countries NOT on the list, have the freedom of certain areas in seventeen tourist provinces. All they have to do is remain in their hotel until they get their first test result and then they can go out. After seven days of enjoying the freedom of the Sandbox provinces, they then have to do one final test. If this is then negative too, they can then go anywhere they like in the kingdom.
The third scheme is Alternative Quarantine. Unvaccinated travellers arriving by air must do 10 days quarantine in a hotel and by land they have to do 14 days. In all of the above schemes, the required medical insurance coverage has been reduced from $100,000 to $50,000. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also announced that the present COE scheme will soon be replaced by the Thailand Pass system which they say will be faster and more efficient. I really hope that is true because no real tourists will come to Thailand while there are still many hoops to jump through.
See the TAT Newsroom press release for full details about the re-opening.
'Visit Thailand Year 2022 - a New Chapter'
The World Travel Market (WTM) is one of the most important travel shows in the world. This year’s event is taking place from 1st-3rd November 2021 in London. The Ministry of Tourism and Sport, and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are hosting a special press conference at the event on Monday the 1st of November to announce, ‘Visit Thailand Year 2022 - a New Chapter’ and will provide details of Thailand’s reopening strategy as the Kingdom eases travel restrictions on the same day. The welcome speech will be by H.E. Mr. Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn, the Minister of Tourism and Sport. An update on the developments in Thailand will then be given by Mr. Siripakorn Cheawsamoot, TAT Deputy Governor for International Marketing Communications.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand has invited me to join them at this press conference in London. I will also be attending a smaller event where travel media in the UK can ask questions about the situation in Thailand. I am looking forward to giving them my opinion on this. It is only a short trip, but I am also hoping to be able to visit my elderly relatives who I haven’t seen since before Covid started. Obviously, I will be coming back during the first week of the re-opening of Thailand to international travellers. So, I will be in a very good position to give you firsthand knowledge of every single step that needs to be taken. And as you probably know already, I am not shy in pointing out anything I think doesn’t work.
Look out for special editions of my Letters from Thailand newsletter which I will be sending out over the next two weeks about this trip.
The Royal Gala Dinner
If you have been following me on Twitter, you have probably been wondering why I have been visiting a tailor and a shoemaker recently. The reason is that I have been invited to join a black-tie dinner in London attended by HRH Princess Ubolratana Mahidol. I am not the most fashion-conscious person and for many years I didn’t even own a suit. When I was first invited to embassy events that said business attire/national dress, I decided to go with a smart looking Thai silk jacket. Although I was always the odd one out at these events, it sort of became my trademark. Then I was invited to the gala dinner for the launch of Michelin Guide in Thailand. The invitation said “black-tie”. Me being the son of a poor tenant farmer, I thought that just meant a suit jacket and a tie. It wasn’t until I had bought my very first off-the-rack, suit jacket, that someone on Twitter pointed out that black tie meant a tuxedo and bow tie. Luckily for me, the general manager of the Siam Kempinski Hotel, where the event was being held, came to my rescue and lent me one.
Fast forward four years and I am in the same situation again. Though this time, as the event is in London, I cannot borrow one. And so I decided I should really do it properly this time. For the last week or so, I have been visiting Patrick & Co. in Thong Lo, to be measured and have my first fitting for a tuxedo. It should be ready for me by Wednesday. We fly on Friday. Then several people pointed out that my shoes weren’t appropriate for such an informal event. As I have very large feet (UK 14) it is impossible to buy off the shelf in Thailand. It is also not that easy in the UK. So, I decided to visit a shoemaker. The one I chose was Don’s Footwear as their factory is near my house. I went to be measured last week and I will go back again on Tuesday or Wednesday for the first fitting. I am excited to try on these clothes and shoes as I have never had anything made for me before. It is a shame my parents are not alive to see this.
My First Day in Thailand
Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan.
Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan.
This is an aerial view of Sriwittayapaknam School in Samut Prakan. My first day in Thailand was at this school. The owners picked me up at Don Mueang airport back when it was the international airport. I remember my first impression of Thailand, as we drove down the tollway. I was amazed by all the brand-new cars and the modern infrastructure. I guess at the time I was expecting elephants and dusty roads. The owners of the school looked after me so well that 27 years later I’m still working at the same place. I have no plans to work elsewhere. This is it. I also have no plans to return to the UK. I have spent most of my life here. In many ways, I know Thailand better than the UK. This is my home now. I’m not going anywhere.
Hidden Bangkok Tours
Richard Barrow
This is the team that run @HiddenBangkok tours both on foot and by boat. They only do private tours and they can tailor make something just for you. All of them were born in this community & so are very knowledgeable. Their English is also excellent. I can highly recommend them. https://t.co/UtF3AgJzaO
One of my passions is boats and canals. During my youth in the UK, my parents often took us on canal boat holidays during the summer. So, even today, even though I don’t yet own a boat (one day maybe), I love exploring the canals and doing boat tours whenever I can. So, I was really happy when the guys at Hidden Bangkok Tours invited me to do a boat tour on the Thonburi side of the river.
Passing the Giant Buddha at Wat Paknam
Passing the Giant Buddha at Wat Paknam
In the days before the long-tailed boats, these slower boats were the way you got around. From a tour point of view, I found it much better as they are slower, quieter and the tour guide doesn’t have to shout. Our tour started in the Wat Nak Klang Community on Khlong Mon. It is in Bangkok Noi district. This is actually a really nice community with some good street art. There’s no doubt that the highlight of the two-hour boat tour on the canal was passing the giant Buddha statue at Wat Paknam. But it was also great to observe canal life. Many of these houses have no road access. So, they come and go by boat. Including deliveries.
If you are interested in going on a boat tour, you can contact them through their Facebook or Instagram pages. You can also view more photos on my live photo blog.
Khlong San Market
Khlong San Market
Khlong San Market
Last weekend, I visited the Jam Factory in Khlong San district of Bangkok. To get there, I took the ferry from River City. When I reached the other side, it was sad to see what has happened to Khlong San Market. People have been trading here for more than 40 years. The lease for the shops expired in April and I am told that the lease for the pier will expire in December. The area will then be given back to the State Railway of Thailand for commercial development. This place has a lot of history. Over a hundred years ago, it was a bustling port and market.
Pak Khlong San Railway Station
Pak Khlong San Railway Station
Pak Khlong San Railway Station
After I had posted about the State Railway of Thailand taking back the lease for Khlong San Market, quite a few people asked me about the connection. After all, there is no railway track there. Well, there was! The Khlong San-Mahachai Railway was opened to the public in January 1905. The name of the terminal station was called Pak Khlong San Railway Station. It was situated at the mouth of the canal where it met with the Chao Phraya River.
Pak Khlong San Railway Station
Pak Khlong San Railway Station
The railway line didn’t just transport passengers between Bangkok and Samut Sakhon. It also brought fish which was taken to the pier to be transported by boat to various markets around Bangkok. In return, the orchards on the Thonburi side of the river, sent various fruits to Mahachai Station. As a result, Khlong San became a prosperous market. All this ended when the government decided in 1960 to move the terminal station of Mahachai Railway about two kilometres down the track in order to help solver the traffic problems.
Wongwian Yai Railway Station
Wongwian Yai Railway Station
The new terminal station was built on the site of the present Wongwian Yai Railway Station. Pak Khlong San station was dismantled, and asphalt was poured over the tracks to create Charoen Rat Road and another road that ran alongside the tracks from Wongian Wai station to Talat Phlu. From what I understand, Pak Khlong San became a bus station and then later Klongsan Plaza. Their lease ran out in April 2021 and the market was later demolished. The State Railway of Thailand, who still own the property will redevelop this area. I will let you know once there is an update on what will be built here. But, at least the name of the station lives on. There is now a Khlong San Station on the Gold Line that runs past ICON SIAM.
If you are interested in riding the Mae Klong Railway to the markets in Samut Sakhon, please visit my Thailand Photo Map blog for pictures, maps and timetables.
Updates on Chong Nonsi Canal Park Project
Chong Nonsi Canal Park Project
Chong Nonsi Canal Park Project
You may remember back in Issue #1 the pictures and story I posted about Chong Nonsi Canal Park. Once finished, this is going to be the longest public park in Bangkok at 4.5 kilometres long. Well, I have some updates for you today. The Bangkok Governor visited the site last week to see the progress. He told the media that the first 200 metre section will be ready to open to the public on 25th December this year. The BTS Chong Nonsi skytrain station is in the background of this photo and so it will have easy access. Once completed, you will be able to walk down the middle of Naradhiwas Rajanagarindra Road all the way to the Chao Phraya River. I am really looking forward to this. Visit my blog for the artist’s impressions of the park.
Artist's impression of Chong Nonsi Canal Park
Artist's impression of Chong Nonsi Canal Park
After I had posted the latest pictures of the construction of the park, quite a few people noted that all the trees had disappeared. Well, there is some good news about this. The BMA has replied to say that the trees have been carefully removed and sent to a nursery. They will later plant more than 5,000 trees in this new park. The BMA are not only aiming to give Bangkokians more green space, but they are also working on cleaning up the canals. So, they are also building a sewer that will run underneath this canal to make sure the water is separated. Things are slowly getting better in Bangkok.
Bangkok Walking Maps - 4
Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian
This week, the Bangkok Walking Map is for Bang Lamphu, Wang Na and Tha Tian which are in the old quarter of Bangkok around the Grand Palace. 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
That’s all for this week. I’ve run out of time again. I will have to save some of the topics for next time. Like I mentioned earlier, there will most likely be some special editions of my newsletter over the next few weeks as I will be going to the UK and then attempting to come back. Anyway, thanks for reading this far and I hope to see you again soon.
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Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand
Richard Barrow's Letters from Thailand @richardbarrow

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Samut Prakan, Thailand