Peter Kowalke

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How the Pandemic Looks from Bangkok

By on April 18, 2021

Sometimes I feel like I’m in a different world. While most of my friends and colleagues worldwide are dealing with the pandemic, I’m basically living life as normal here in Bangkok.

That’s because Thailand has been one of the best places to ride out the global Covid-19 pandemic. We were the first country to get Covid after China, but it didn’t spread that badly, and then we locked down our borders. We’ve basically been in a country-wide bubble ever since. Once you go out it is tough to get back in, but if you stay within the bubble you’re mostly living as normal.

Thailand was ranked #4 worldwide for best response to the pandemic, according to the Lowry Institute.

That’s not to say we’ve been immune to the crazy. Our hospitality industry fell apart, and that’s a major part of Thailand’s economy. We’ve had curfews and alcohol bans at various times throughout the pandemic, and everyone wears a mask and contact-traces through a government app. Many stores and businesses have gone out of business, including our only independent cinemas in Bangkok and my favorite department store. Unemployment and financial distress is high.

But almost none of us have Covid, and we go about our business as usual for the most part. We’re living a different script from most people, at least so far. Sixteen months into our pandemic, and we’re good. Health-wise, at least.

Will it Continue?

I feel blessed that I have freedom of movement, and that I chose Thailand as my home during the pandemic. I’ve been hit hard like many people, but not because the streets are unsafe or I’m scared for my health. The knock-on effects from everyone else’s pain is why I’ve had a hard year.

So far. The world is entering a new phase of the pandemic, a time when some are getting immunity and others are still locked in their home. Thailand’s doing pretty well, but things are shifting.

My parents in the US have been in total lockdown for more than a year, but now they have immunity from taking the vaccine. So do many of their friends, and an increasing number of people worldwide. But here in Thailand, vaccination is still a long way off. So we’re still (mostly) safe in our bubble, but we don’t have the true freedom that comes from mass vaccination.

Will those of us in Thailand end up battling the virus for a long time and succumb to a big outbreak in the end while other countries suffered but healed? Or will we remain an idyllic exception and just stay in our bubble until the day comes when the world is safe again?

Time will tell. But I still feel blessed.

Peter is a relationship coach, writer/producer, and R&D monastic. He splits his time between San Francisco and Asia. Read more about Peter.