torsdag 17. desember 2020

Isaan road trip: Searching for normalcy in Thailand's northeast

An overweight dog naps by an open-air som tam (papaya salad) shop. The scent of chicken grilling over charcoal fills the lane. A chorus of children's voices rings out from a schoolhouse. No one is wearing a mask, though an old man dons a straw hat on his bicycle. Here in the village of Ban Nong Doen Tha on the Mekong River in northeast Thailand, it's almost like the pandemic never happened.

A week earlier, as our first chance to travel beyond Bangkok in six months approached, my partner and I asked ourselves questions that never would have crossed our minds before the pandemic. Where can we go that will relax, excite and uplift us in ways that we used to take for granted when traveling? We wanted to help businesses that have struggled under Thailand's ban on foreign tourist entries, which began in late March and remains in place, save for those who are willing to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks before entering the country.

Thailand's Covid-19 control measures have worked so far, but the drastic reduction in tourists from abroad is sinking the economy in a country that drew 39.8 million of them last year.