Below is a slideshow of the trip photographic journey from my recent Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Doha, Stockholm, Jönköping. Me travelling during the pandemic. This trip was my first international journey in one year and five months. As I can remember, I haven’t had any period as long as this since I was about two years old without international travel.
My parents would go annually to Spain or Greece during my early childhood years. So this is a new experience in my life.
I want to share some of my experiences from this trip. My feeling and the atmosphere changed a lot along the way, depending on the geographical location. Starting in a Thailand close to lockdown and arriving in Europe is opening up.
Looking back at this post in a few years will probably feel a bit strange. One will maybe wonder that it was so tricky travelling during the pandemic? Or maybe not? Anyhow, I am looking forward to reading this post in a couple of years.
Travelling from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
At Chiang Mai airport, everything was seamless. The airport wasn’t busy, and Thai Airways operated a newly renovated lounge. I could access this lounge thanks to my Gold Card with Thai Airways. The lounge had just been refurbished, but it still had the same old coffee machine as before. There weren’t any modifications of the interior from the Thai Airways side. The furnishings were also classic old TG style.
Anyhow, I had the whole lounge to myself almost 90% of the time.
My flight from Chiang Mai was with Thai Smile Airways. And it departed Chiang Mai on time at 3 p:m. My connection with Qatar to Doha would leave at three a:m.
But I didn’t dare to book the last Vietjet flight in the evening. There have been so many cancelled flights these days. And if Vietjet decided to cancel that flight, there was no chance for me to get to Bangkok.
At this stage, there was also talk of a lockdown in Bangkok due to the high daily numbers of Covid cases. Almost 10 000 per day. I felt some fear to get stuck in Bangkok.
Rules at Airports in Thailand are to wear a mask at all times.
A quiz and a tropical shower
The flight went great; beautifully, lush, green mountains could be spotted, and dramatic clouds looked like already chewed on marshmallows in the sky. Heavy rainfall on the inflight to Bangkok reminded me of being humble and Daoist versus the forces of nature. Curiosity on the flight was that Thai Smile had its 9th anniversary, so they even held a quiz onboard.
It was pretty depressing to taxi to the gate and see so many grounded Thai Airways planes at Suvarnabhumiaircraft, even without engines. And for sure some aircraft already in need of repainting.
Waiting in Bangkok and the flight to Doha
At Suvarnabhumi Airport, I had noticed a relatively new short-time hotel. You can book by two hours, four hours and so on.
Currently, Boxtel@Suvarnabhumi has a whole night promotion. An 18-hour stay for 1250 baht.
To get to Boxtel you have to exit through the same area as the Airport link and walk towards Novotel hotel and on the way, you will see an interesting capsule hotel as well. Seemed not to be open.
Then to your left, you can see a small reception for Boxtel.
The staff who worked rapidly will check you in and show you your small “box”.
It is freezing on this floor with very strong air-conditioning open. At Boxtel, you get a small room with a bed and free wifi. There is also the possibility to charge your phone.
Just a few minutes walk from Boxtel; there is a 7/11. Food and snacks can be bought there, and next door to 7/11 is a Royal Project shop selling some salads and dry fruits. There were not many choices at any of these convenience stores, though. Much of it was sold out.
Moreover, some tea and coffee places were open as well. But most of them closed early in the evening
My body temperature was scanned every time I walked through the checkpoint into the airport. When cleared, the staff would add a green sticker on the shirt. The Boxtel included a small area with two tables where you could sit down and eat. But for the toilet, I had to use the public one. The bathroom was located a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Time – consuming check-in
I slept a little bit, and around 11 p:m I walked up to the check-in area for Qatar. There was quite a long queue. Directly on arrival, some trainees handed out a kind of covid free guarantee form.
I didn’t have to fill in any form since Swedish citizens can enter Sweden without any PCR test. Well, at least we could do so at the time being. Things can change again, so stay updated. We have to live with these terms when travelling during the pandemic.
The actual check-in took a long time. I reminded myself again that this was because I was travelling during the pandemic. Social distancing wasn’t significant.
I waited about 1 hour and 45 minutes before I could check-in. At this time, no covid testing was required for transit in Doha when you came from Thailand. It wasn’t complicated in this sense.
But again, things can change promptly. Walking from the check-in counters through security and the passport control to the departure hall took less than 9 minutes.
I was alone going past security, and I was the first in the queue in the passport area.
Qatar Airways would leave from gate D2, and this section of the airport was dark and completely shut down. Walking through it, I had some flashbacks remembering when this part of the airport was busy with passengers eating and buying duty-free. Now, it was all dark, and shops were closed.
On the right side of the departure hall, some duty-free shops were open but empty. No restaurants were open apart from the Miracle Lounge, but here, the charge for using it was 1300 baht for entry. So, I skipped that one. In June, they had a promotion of 700 baht.
However, it was hard finding water inside the departure hall. Water could barely be found at vending machines by the gates. Just some of them were stocked with products. I could never imagine that finding water to drink would be an issue at a top-class airport as Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Then the departure boards revealed all the flights as they were before the pandemic, with a difference. All but a very few flights like Emirates and Qatar were cancelled. An eerie place indeed.
The aircraft boarded at 2.10 a:m, and everything went smoothly. The airline crew offered plastic gloves and a mask in a particular ” travel safety kit”.
I was impressed because included was also lip balm and a toothbrush. Excellent service for economy class indeed. I slept and woke up two hours before landing in Doha. We arrived around 5.40 a:m local time. The duration of this flight was a bit less than six hours.
Travelling from Doha to Stockholm
At Doha’s Hamad Airport, I had a bit of a culture shock. Another view of travelling during the pandemic. The airport was so active and alive. All the tax-free shops and big TV – screens displayed ads from luxury brands. No one could miss that the football World Cup in Qatar 2022 was just around the corner.
Wearing a facemask at the airport was obligatory, but apart from this, the airport was bustling with life and energy, completely antipodal of Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The flight to Stockholm was a bit delayed. And this flight was decent but not as good as the one from Bangkok to Doha. The seats were not as comfortable, and some passengers onboard neglected the mask requirement. I heard them coughing and sneezing.
I asked to change the seat, and I was moved to the emergency exit. It was better, but here you got some parents not caring what their kids were doing. Their kids were kicking the seats, screaming, moving and not wearing a seatbelt when landing. But I could tolerate it. It was less annoying than people coughing and neglecting wearing masks anyway. The complete durability of this flight was six hours.
Landing at Stockholm was problem-free, and going through immigration was quick. In Sweden, at this stage, there are no quarantine requirements. There is a recommendation to self-isolate if you arrive from certain countries. Not required for Thailand, though.
At Arlanda, the staff also offered a free covid test on arrival for anyone that wanted.
Travelling from Stockholm to Jönköping
I missed my train by ten minutes. And it turned out that all trains and buses, even rental cars, were packed and rented out.
There seemed to be no chance to get to my hometown Jönköping. It made me frustrated since I had booked my first Covid vaccination on the 9th of July.
On the Arlanda Express into Stockholm city, I managed to find one seat on Snälltåget. A really old but classic private train that would depart to Berlin 30 minutes later.
I managed to book what seemed to be the last option to get to my hometown. And I did get on board this train. However, I was a little frightened that I was on the wrong train because there was not any mention of my station on the platform. But the train number seemed correct, so I got on board.
Life as normal, travelling during the pandemic in Sweden.
Life seemed normal in Sweden, even though the pandemic was still ever-present. Ok, many people have been vaccinated or had Covid already. But now, I looked like the odd one with my mask. Almost no one wore a mask. The people that did were primarily foreign travellers. So again, a culture shock and a new face when travelling during the pandemic.
The conductor explained that it was the right train; they didn’t have the SPACE to write down all the stations where the train would stop.
I politely informed her that this was unacceptable and that you could understand this if you were not Swedish. In Japan and China, a rolling digital display always mentions all the stations a train would stop.
I enjoyed Snälltågets vintage restaurant car, Krogen. And got off at my station in Nässjö on time for my change to the bus for the last 30 minutes of travel to Jönköping. The kind bus driver didn’t even want to see any ticket.
This felt like the longest journey from Chiang Mai to Jönköping that I had ever done. But considering the pandemic, it could have been even more complex. Especially since I didn’t have to quarantine or take any tests, there was no need to complain about any hustle.
And not to forget, I made it for my first Pfizer jab.
I wish I can be back in a more normalized Thailand soon. We all want the best for the land of smiles and hoping for a quick comeback for tourism and the economy.
While in Sweden I hope I will get the time to see The Thai Pavilion in Ragunda.