We're chatting to expats who live and work in Thailand about the pandemic situation here. After working as an executive chef at a top Thailand resort, Mo now owns his own restaurant in Khao Lak.
Could you introduce yourself (where are you from? how long have you lived in Thailand? and what do you do for a living?)
My name is Mo and I have been in Thailand for 16 years. I taught for three years in Chiang Mai and Udon Thani. I also worked as an executive chef at a major beach resort in Khao Lak and now own a restaurant.
In general, how do you think Thailand has handled the pandemic up to now?
They erred on the side of caution at first but the vaccine roll out has been a disaster. My province has only had a handful of cases since this all started. The expat community here feels like we are being punished for something we didn't do. (School days!)
If you were put in charge of things right now, what would be the first rules or things you would change?
At this point it's all about getting vaccines to the people that need them and getting this country open again.
Let’s talk about you personally. What is the most regrettable thing that the pandemic has robbed you of or changed about your life?
Here in Phang Nga, we are 95% reliant on tourists. Out of over 350 restaurants and tour companies, maybe 25 are still open. Most look like they are permanently closed.
From a work point of view, how has your situation changed (if indeed it has) and has there been any significant financial impact?
The monetary impact has been devastating but thankfully I was prepared and will survive another year if necessary. The upside is that the snorkel/dive sites and beaches have had time to refresh and rejuvenate. The government stimulus helped a little but we rely on foreign cash to make our living.
Has the pandemic had any positive impacts on your life?
As I said before, the beaches and dive sites have thrived during this pandemic. Even the local reefs are teeming with sea life. We are lucky to live in a place where there is a lot of natural, unspoiled beauty. There is also a major road building project taking place and it's better that it takes place while there is less traffic. It should be finished by the year's end so we will be ready for whatever happens next..
When do you predict the world will return to some sort of normality and we will be able to travel abroad and maybe get to remove these damn face-masks, etc?
Let's see what happens in Phuket. Phang Nga is also included in the "sandbox" and I know that resorts are getting October bookings. Again it all depends on the bloody vaccine.
Things started to go pear-shaped in March 2020. Over the past year or so, has your enthusiasm for living in Thailand increased or decreased?
I live in paradise here in Phang Nga Province. We've got pristine beaches, waterfalls, rain forests and world class diving/snorkeling. There are no jet skis or motorboats allowed and there is no crime and minimal corruption. Very little infrastructure means clean air and little to no pollution.
When we get to the light at the end of this long tunnel, have you promised yourself to make lifestyle changes or do some things differently?
We live simply over here so things will remain the same once the tourist machine gets fired back up.
For someone who doesn’t know how to get through the days and is perhaps suffering mentally, what would be your advice?
Do your best to remain positive. There are places where things are far worse. I watch as little news as possible and have hobbies to keep myself occupied. I always tell people who are interested in moving here that they better have something to keep them motivated. Too much free time without doing something meaningful is what kills many expats here in my opinion.
Meet Mo himself at the world famous Rusty Pelican Restaurant in Khao Lak.