On our first full day in Phuket I was sipping a mojito poolside (my life is terrible), admiring the view of the Phuket Big Buddha in the distance, when I decided to post a picture on social media wishing that the family would forget about me and leave me behind. 48 hours later, in an absolutely perfect example of “be careful what you wish for” they did.
I mentioned it before but a few weeks prior to our trip to Thailand both of the girls were sick with a very productive (i.e. gross) cough. For two weeks they took turns passing their germs around and staying home from school because they weren’t allowed back until they were symptom free. Neither of them had COVID but such are the rules during a pandemic.
Therefore, on our first day in Phuket, when I felt like a cough was building in my lungs I wasn’t too concerned. In order to fly home we needed to get a supervised ART (known as an “AKT” in Thailand so be aware if you do travel there and need to get one). This also coincided with needing an ART on our fifth day in Thailand (which I believe that rule is now obsolete so be sure to check https://tp.consular.go.th/ for the current rules). After our morning adventure with the elephants we made our way to a nearby clinic for the ART and a few hours later we got the results: Marcus and the girls were negative and I was positive.
The first thing we did was inform the hotel who pretty much panicked and immediately started figuring out where to send me. They told me to isolate (shout-out to “Wilson” the lizard who was hanging out on the ceiling of my room and kept me company during this time) and that I would need to move to an approved, quarantine hotel where I would have to stay for 10 days. They said Marcus and the girls would also have to isolate for no less than five days. However, because he and the girls tested negative thus fulfilling the requirement to fly back to Singapore, Marcus moved up their flight and he and the girls went home.
The next morning, as I watched my family walk down the path to their taxi, not even able to hug them “good bye,” I started feeling sorry for myself. Eventually, my taxi for the quarantine hotel showed up and I was quickly ushered out. As I walked through the resort (which was completely outdoors), I was told to wear two masks and my escort, who walked about 10 yards ahead of me, shooed everyone out of the way. Eyes grew large and the staff quickly jumped to the side and, I’m not trying to be dramatic, but I think this must be how lepers felt.
I was brought to the Crowne Plaza Phuket Panwa Beach as my quarantine hotel. The staff very kindly showed me to my room and told me how things would work for the next 10 days. I was listening but not really hearing what they were saying and I soon found myself making a tearful phone call to Marcus because it was all of a sudden hitting me that I was sick and alone in a foreign country.
After hanging up the phone with Marcus I started to take in my surroundings. Maybe things weren’t so bad. The room was huge with a king sized bed and a TV with at least one English speaking channel. Off the bedroom was an equally large bathroom with a modern shower and a separate soaking tub. A small balcony overlooked the pool and Makham Bay which was an even nicer view than what we had at the previous hotel. As it turned out, this hotel was perfectly situated to host both COVID quarantiners and tourists who were required to isolate before being allowed to move about the country and as a result, I was able to move freely from my room to one of their pools and the bay.
For the first few days I did feel a bit lethargic and had symptoms that made me think of allergy season. I sneezed a lot, had dry and itchy eyes, and a stuffy nose that never actually ran. I never had a fever nor any of the more common symptoms. Because of that I didn’t fully appreciate just how effected by COVID I was until I came back from the pool for the first time. My room was on the third floor so I had two flights of stairs to climb and by the time I made it, my heart was pumping and I was completely out of breath. Being a runner I know my level of cardio strength and two flights of stairs might have elevated my heart rate a bit but this was more than that and I am still struggling with this six weeks later.
Also, during my quarantine period, there were a myriad of things taking place or about to take place: My birthday, our new apartment was available for us to move into, we had to move out of our temporary apartment (it was amazing how much we accrued in just a short while), our home goods were being delivered, and Marcus had leave for a two week travel to the U.S. I vainly hoped to go home on day seven of my quarantine which is when Singapore would have allowed me to come back but after a PCR test it was clear I was still very COVID-y and Thailand was not going to let me leave until I had served the full 10 days.
Ultimately, I spent my birthday by myself on a tropical island. The hotel staff sang me “Happy Birthday” which was very sweet and brought me a cheesecake with a candle in it. Marcus was in charge of moving us out of the temporary apartment and into the new apartment all by himself and I might have felt bad except for all of the times I moved us out of and into new housing when the girls were babies. Of course, by the time I got back the new apartment looked like our shipping container vomited in it but whatever, the hardest part was done.
My daily schedule revolved exclusively around the three meals a day I was provided and my routine looked a bit like this: 7 am, wake-up and pound no fewer than two cups of coffee, 8 am, breakfast is delivered and watch movies because the English speaking channel played some legitimately good movies, 11 am, lunch is served and continue watching movies, maybe, maybe go to the pool or read a book for a bit, take a nap, shower if necessary (or not, who cares?), 5 pm, dinner, English speaking movies suddenly and sadly change to a Thai game show so TV gets turned off, maybe go for a walk along the water, read some more, make some U.S. phone calls and texts, 10 pm, go to sleep. I did have a goal of clearing the entire beach of any and all worthy sea glass, coral, and seashells and I think I did an adequate job.
I am of the opinion that Thailand’s 10 day quarantine is an economic boost along with the desire to keep their people safe and well. Tourism is a great contributing factor for Thailand’s economy and, due to the pandemic, they have suffered. During our tour of Bangkok it was clear the place was quieter than usual and we felt grateful for the chance to essentially have the various destinations to ourselves. Phuket especially relies on tourism and one of their largest tourist populations are the Chinese who have been banned from any “non-essential” international travel. It’s no wonder, then, that they mandate a 10 day extended stay to those who become infected with COVID. It brings money to the hospitality industry as well as medical who write-up the medical release form allowing you to leave or come to the hotel to administer PCR tests. There are also the cab drivers who “specialise” in COVID transportation and who are paid directly. It isn’t enough to completely bring the economy up but hopefully it helps.
To wrap this all up in a neat little bow, my 10 day extended stay in Thailand was quite delightful, COVID notwithstanding. I’ve been trying to give pro tips along our adventures and this is what I’ll say to you: get COVID in Phuket, Thailand. You won’t regret it.