Seven weeks after completing my two-week hotel quarantine, imposed after returning from the United States, I find myself staying again in a hotel. This time, however, the stay is voluntary.
In March, when cases in Bangkok were still low but the tourism industry was suffering from borders being shut, hotels promoted special offers to spur domestic tourism. At one travel fair, I purchased vouchers for four different hotels, with expiration dates through the end of September. Tawn and I figured if we couldn’t travel abroad, at least we could get away at home.
In the months that followed, the delta variant arrived and COVID-19 cases in Thailand spiked to their highest levels since the start of the pandemic. Restaurants, gyms, and swimming pools closed and getting away to a hotel seemed pointless. Expiration dates for some of the vouchers were extended but it started to look like we might not get an opportunity to use them.
Thankfully, cases have subsided a bit although are still much higher than they should be. Bowing to pressure from the business lobby, the Thai government has eased restrictions on restaurant dining. So, we decided this weekend would be a good time to use a voucher for a two-night stay at the Hyatt Regency on Sukhumvit Road.
Gyms and pools are still closed, so the hotel requires you to reserve a one-hour slot when these facilities are available for your exclusive use. We checked in Friday afternoon and used the gym for an hour before dinner. It is all very quiet and, to save costs, the air conditioning in the gym is off.
For dinner, we visited the Thai restaurant on property. The staff provided excellent service and great hospitality – and the tables were far apart, making the experience feel quite safe for diners. Plus the ambient music was kept at a reasonable volume, making it much more to my liking as I have reached a point where too much “atmosphere” makes it too difficult to hear the dinner conversation!
The menu is crafted by chef Vichit Mukkura whose one-star Michelin restaurant Khao is located on nearby Ekkamai Road. The presentation was pretty although several of the dishes tasted under-seasoned. The massaman curry was fantastic, though, and full of flavor. With the curfew still in place, staff took last orders at 7:30 and by 8:00 our dinner was winding down.
We will stay for two nights, a bit of a break from our routine. And in doing so, are helping to stimulate the economy a bit, which is sorely needed. The government was indicating that by October 1, more parts of Thailand (including Bangkok) would open to fully-vaccinated tourists without requiring 14-day quarantines. And then last week, they pushed the date back to November 1. Vaccination rates are increasing steadily but are still not at the levels needed to safely open.
At the same time, the business lobby – especially the hospitality sector – is understandably furious at the government for continuing to move the goal posts. Foreign tourists plan in advance – no spontaneous overseas travel – and will by shy to plan travel to Thailand if they feel that there is too much uncertainty. I can’t blame them! I wouldn’t recommend planning a trip to Thailand anytime before the end of the year as there is no telling how things will change.
That said, we are planning a trip overseas for the holidays, gambling that by the time we return, restrictions will have been lifted. We shall see how our gamble plays out.