Hey, what's up? How is summer going in your country (or winter if you live in the Southern hemisphere)? Are the Covid restrictions easing where you live?
In Thailand, restrictions are increasing, despite all the public talks about the Phuket Sandbox project (basically, Phuket island reopened to vaccinated international tourists since July 1st).
In reality, Bangkok is again under a semi-lockdown (an unusual form of lockdown in which restaurants and cafes are closed for dine in, parks are closed, but shopping malls are allowed to operate almost as normal), more provinces have become red, new infections are in the thousands every day ( +9000 and something as yesterday) and vaccination is going very slow.
Not a rosey picture for a country which did really well for a year, but it's now facing its worst crisis since the beginning of the Covid 19 virus.
Krabi Province has been relatively untouched until now, however the combination of what we call Green Season (aka rainy season/ low season) and the Covid emergency created a very unprecedented situation: it's like being alive and kicking after a nuclear war, safe but shocked, unable to understand what happened for real.
I mean, of course we read the news, and it's pretty clear, here more than anywhere else, that foreign tourists are not going to come anytime soon, and domestic tourism is also 90% uncounted, the pandemic is not fading, and the country is struggling, but all the same we walk to the beach, swim, eat outside, go for a weekend picnic and enjoy the free time that usually come with the low season.
Only this time it's all that we are doing, and it's been like this for almost a year.
I've never really experienced a normal "low season", since I started to work in Krabi around August 2019, but what I'm experiencing now is good and bad at the same time. I like my long naps in the afternoon, I like to wake up and take it easy before starting the day, I like those silly moments I spend playing with my cats, Skyping with far away friends or just enjoying the breeze on the balcony.
If I learned anything from this pandemic is how much I value -and need- the extra off work time. We shouldn't spend most of our life working, we should be able to have a good balance and time to pursue our hobbies, too.
But it's not all good. Seeing entire communities struggling to meet month ends, and being myself at risk of facing money problems if Tourism doesn't restart soon, is painful and extremely destabilising.
I have such an enormous respect for the Thais, who seem so resilient and proud and never prone to complain. Once it became clear that the crisis wouldn't pass soon, they fled the touristic destinations where they had moved for employment and to start a new life and in great number went back to their villages and rice fields in the Deep South or the North East, only to be told that no help would come from the Government, and nobody could predict when the country will be ready to reopen.
But not all of them have a rice field or a support system to rely on. In big cities you now see crowds of homeless people sleeping and begging outside the MRT and Sky Train stations: they don't make the morning news, but they are many, and in great need. So, I have an enormous respect for these resilient people but, nevertheless, I feel like they have been too patient, and this should be the time to protest and find a way to be heard and supported by their Government.
As you can guess, I'm sad and worried and confused, torn between the soothing calmness and beauty of nature, and the everyday struggles brought by Covid 19. Sometimes I don't think I'm lucid, sometimes I get angry with myself for this tendency to complain, and sometimes I feel optimistic and happy - yes, even happy - for having been given the unexpected gift of time off work for such a long period.
Going back to the main topic of this post, my life in low season at Covid time, since almost a year, looks like this:
The alarm (which I still keep out of habit) rings between 7:15 and 7:30, but I'm usually awake before it because I sleep with the shutters partially open, and dawn comes early here in Krabi.
By the time the alarm goes off, I'm ready to jump off the bed (well, maybe not exactly jump...) and drag myself to the living room. My cats sleep in the bathroom, so the first thing I do is to open their door, say Hi and cuddle for 10 minutes.
Then I eat breakfast, consisting in a bowl of overnight oat porridge in cold milk to which I add a spoon of Nutella cream and half a sliced banana.
I eat while looking at the news or checking social media, sipping my hot Espresso or Americano.
After breakfast I like to take some time to relax: sometimes I answer text messages from friends in Europe, sometimes I watch Youtube videos, most days I play with the cats who are very excited and active in the morning.
Before getting ready, I brush the cats' fur and quickly wash bowls and cups.
My morning care routine is really basic: a 2 minute shower, then brush teeth, apply sunscreen on the face, neck and arms, put lipstick, massage some coconut oil on my hair ends. That's it. Quick and easy.
Getting dressed takes even less time, since I live by the sea, don't have to meet people for work, and the office is closed now. The "fanciest", closest town, Ao Nang, is a 15minute ride. So, it's shorts and t-shirt almost everyday for me.
By 10 am I reach the gym, a 5-minute ride from the house, where I spend a few hours, sometimes a bit more if the day is sunny and I decide to enjoy the spectacular outdoor swimming pools facing Klong Muang Beach.
The gym is inside a 5 star hotel, and, thanks to a really good Covid-deal, I now take advantage of a super cheap rate including the use of the gym and all the hotel facilities (tennis courts, squash and badminton courts, table tennis, Muay Thai ring, sauna and Turkish bath, pools and some Yoga, Zumba and Aerobic classes).
Joining the gym has really changed my life, since I was starting to become impossibly lazy and bitter, and wasting time doing nothing but feeling sad and restless.
Exercising is good for the body, but especially for the mind. I've become happier, days fly by and I don't spend time thinking about everything that is going bad in my life, focusing on what it's going well, instead.
After the gym and before going back home, I usually do some grocery shopping at 7/11 or markets nearby, just to buy the basics to cover lunch and dinner.
I like to eat a big lunch since I'm starving after gym, while I prefer to have only a light dinner at evening.
My favorite is always carbo: rice like Khao Pad Krapao (spicy rice with chicken or pork and Thai basil), rice and curry (like Massaman), or Pasta with Tomato , Cheese or Pesto sauce.
A few days a week I experiment new recipes like legume meatballs, a new hummus-like sauce, baked avocados or a new soup. I like to cook but I get bored easily if I don't try something new.
By 1.30 pm I sit for lunch, watching videos or reading online. After lunch, I wash dishes and pans, then turn on the air con in the bedroom and spend a few hours napping, cuddling with the cats or watching Netflix series.
About 4 pm I get up and drink my afternoon coffee, sometimes at home, sometimes at my boss' house, a 50 meter walk from my place. His wife is a superb cook, and 90% of the time coffee break becomes a cake and coffee appointment.
She is Thai but she likes to bake Western desserts as well. We sit and talk over coffee, commenting the news, Thai politics, Covid updates but also discussing work, when there's something important.
In a normal low season, we would still have customers coming to Krabi, and we would be visiting them at their hotels in the afternoon and evening to check about their stay, arrange their tours and help them having a great holiday. I would also have lots of emails to answer, and local suppliers to contact.
All this is not happening now, and that's why we have the luxury (but also the misery) to spend a whole hour over coffee and chit chats every day.
At around 5 pm I get back home and work at my laptop station (which is a pillow on the floor, in front of the fan, by the living room's coffee table ...).
These days it's mostly about posting content on social media or answering customers' messages from abroad. They ask questions about Thailand, about a future reopening, about the Phuket Sandbox plan, but they also ask about new routes and itineraries to book in the (hopefully near) future.
Some days I write this blog, some others I edit new videos (haven't done much in the last month, I confess).
Usually I'm done with work by 6 pm, and I spend the rest of the afternoon messaging friends, reading, watching the sunset on the beach behind my house, going for a walk or preparing dinner. I'm always behind on laundry or special cleanings, however I do try to do it, I swear!
At evening I Whatsapp or Skype with family and friends in Europe for about half an hour, then it's my cats' favourite part of the day, dinner time: I feed them first (cat wet food plus melon, they are both crazy for melon), then it's my turn.
Dinner is an easy business since I moved to Thailand: 5 days out of 7 I eat fruit (blended in a smoothie or full: mango, apples, papaya, melons, mangosteen or passion fruits, the choices are endless in this country!) or some veggies like cucumbers and tomatoes; leftovers are another option, and a couple of times per week I end up having dinner outside with friends.
My go-to places are Italian restaurants where I can have my weekly dose of Pizza, but I also have a few Thai favorite restaurants or the Irish Embassy for burgers and beers. I desperately miss Mexican food, but there is none available at the moment in Krabi. After dinner, I watch movies and play with the cats until it's time to go to bed.
I know it might sound weird, but they have been sleeping in the bathroom since they were kittens because they are serial killers who would destroy the house trying to catch geckos and other insects at night if I didn't keep them in a confined space.
They are used to that room, where they have all their stuff, and love to go in there after their evening cat-snack.
I go to bed myself around 10.30 pm, since I love to read for an hour in bed. By 11.30 pm my lights are off.
Quite a boring routine, you are probably thinking by now. And I agree.
But the truth is: I got used to it, and after struggling with the downsides of Covid for several months, I've come to accept this unexpected extra time for introspection and quietness, and the little gifts that come with it: sipping coffee without having to look at the clock, loosing myself in contemplation of the clouds and the birds outside, sleeping without worrying not to hear the alarm, not having to make plans, but going with the flow.
This is a typical, average day in my life now, but the truth is no day is exactly like the other. Sometimes I go for a swim in the ocean instead of going to the gym, some mornings I cook ragù for hours, listening to my favourite music from the Nineties, other mornings I bring my laptop to a panoramic or beach café where I spend a long time writing or reading.
National parks are closed at the moment, and travelling to other provinces is restricted, and that's why I'm not taking advantage of Phi Phi or Hong Islands or I'm not going to travel domestic, but even if they were open, money is becoming an issue and I try to stick to activities which don't cost much.
My budget per day, and I'm sure some of you will be shocked but I assure you it's manageable, even with two hungry cats in the house, is 400 THB, all included.
If there's anything that I learnt in the past year is that I can be happy being minimalistic -not the You Tube fancy minimalist who lives in an empty white flat in central Manhattan- but as a normal person who is learning that less is often better than more.
Checking my bank account balance often, sticking to a daily budget that I can control through an APP, buying food everyday instead of wasting it or throwing it away, taking advantage of the subscriptions I've already got and the wireless package I already pay are my ways of fighting the crisis, and they are working.
What is your daily life like during the Covid pandemic? Has it changed? Is there anything that you have started appreciating or that you value more than before?