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I Flew from Bangkok to Chiang Mai during Covid-19

After a month of accommodation problems in Hua Hin and Cha Am due to provincial governors trying their best to make it really hard for covid wildcards (foreigners and to some extent non-residents) to stay in their respective provinces,  I finally gave up on the beach for a bit and decided I’d fly back to Chiang Mai this past Saturday (May 10th) to see what’s happening.  

While I certainly spent a lot of time trying to dig through Thai provincial announcements, it can be difficult to find accurate, up-to-date information.  This post that went up a few days before I flew at least gave me the feeling that I could fly in without TOO much hassle.

At Don Muang Airport

I wasn’t sure what to expect so I arrived at Don Muang Airport maybe 3.5 hours before my flight.  There was a bunch of people, but much quieter than usual.  There was no check in line so once I got to the airline counter I was able to check in immediately.  There wasn’t anything different than usual other than we were both wearing masks and there was hand sanitizer on the counter.  

Airport Security

no lines at airport security

สะดวก ง่าย เร็ว

Security was also quick and easy.  There weren’t any lines to get through.  There was only one security line open and there were a couple people going in before me, but it only took a moment to get through.  Once past security, it was a lot more striking how quiet everything was.  To the left, the hallway was dark.  To the right, there were a handful of things open including Starbucks, but not much.  I walked to the lounge area and the Miracle lounge was open while the Coral lounge was closed.  I didn’t go inside.    

Just past security, it was super quiet.

เงียบเลย

Starbucks for the Win

Starbucks was open, but not much else so I sat there and worked for a while.  Actually, if everything was open, I’d still probably would have sat there a bit and then gone to the lounge.

starbucks don muang during covid

Boarding the Plane

ใส่หน้ากาก

At the gate people were sitting spaced apart.  When they announced boarding they told everyone to keep their distance, but it didn’t work very well. 

On the plane, middle seats were blocked off as expected.   My flight still had a fair number of people on it.  As far as I could tell, almost everyone was Thai.  I only noticed a handful of foreigners besides myself.   

There was some seat drama where an old person just sat in the row behind me, but it was someone else’s seat.  So the flight attendant just put them in my row.  There was a guy with a very unpleasant sounding cough in the row behind me which made me wince a few times.  

Not long after take off, a flight attendant came by to talk to the other guy in my row and said that as he was a ข้าราชการ [khaa-ratcha-gaan] (government employee), and normally entitled to a free meal, they couldn’t serve food on the flight so they gave him a voucher so he could get some food at the airport after landing.  I assume the government has deals with all the airlines so ข้าราชการ can get free food.  

On the plane, they passed out a form to fill out.  It asked where for the following information:

  • Flight + Seat Number
  • Flying to/from
  • Name / Date / Age 
  • Accommodation with a note in Thai with a pretty amusing mistake.
    • What they meant to write was; (โปรดระบุให้ชัดเจน) please specify (the address) clearly
      • โปรด [pprod] please (formal/written only You never need to say this ever)
      • ระบุ [ra-bu] indicate; specify 
      • ชัดเจน [chat-jen] clearly
    • What they wrote was โปรดระบุให้ จัดเจน 
      • จัดเจน [jat-jen] to be experienced or skilled at something (I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Thai person say this so don’t worry much about this word.)

Upon landing, they asked everyone to stay seated so they could control the exit flow rate and add in some social distancing.  They let everyone in the C seats exit first which kind of defeats the purpose of paying more to sit up front so you can deplane faster.  If you do book a seat on Nok, just make sure to choose a C seat in case they do that every time.  Most people adhered to it at least for a minute or so and then most people just stood up.  I don’t think there really was any more distance than usual. 

After exiting the plane, there were 2 people at the top of the escalator to slow down the line and keep people a metre apart.  

Arriving at Chiang Mai International Airport

Once you get to the bottom, there’s a sign which just says “foreigner” pointing off to the side.  I think if you looked Thai enough, you might be able to slip by this, but I’m not sure.   They didn’t ask me any questions, my appearance was enough to get me sent off to the side.  In the farang corner, there was a gaggle of immigration officers buzzing around. 

They wanted to confirm that the address I wrote was correct, they asked for my phone number and that of a Thai person and also asked where I was coming from.  She also looked at my entry stamp which expired a few weeks ago.  

It was all pretty friendly and there were the usual questions like “How is it that you can speak Thai like this?”  in addition to covid related questions like “What country were you in before coming here?’  I told her all the details and I also told my story of getting essentially pushed from province to province due to accommodation problems.   It took less than 10 minutes.  

After she walked me over to the door where i had to go through the entire spiel with a doctor who had a table setup at the exit doors from the baggage claim.  That took a little longer as I had to convince the doctor that I had a place to hide out in for a while (at least 2 weeks) and that I wasn’t going to run around spreading the disease.  She said that I should self-quarantine.  I should point out that of all the people on the plane (maybe 50 or so?), it seems a little silly to only ask me to self quarantine.   Anyways, I’m hiding in my room as I write this so don’t worry, internet shamers.

If you are thinking of flying to Chiang Mai, I would make sure you have all of your bases covered.  I don’t know how this would have gone for someone who doesn’t speak Thai.  

  • Have accommodation booked and paid for (at least 2 weeks!).  If you keep an apartment here or are staying with a Thai person, that will likely win you some points as it will make them more comfortable.  
  • They asked me to give them contact info for a Thai person and I did, but another East Asian foreigner who was standing next to me did not have to do this.  It’s entirely possible that if you don’t have a Thai person’s contact that they would still let you through eventually.  

Here’s the handout they gave everyone:

What happens when Thai people fly to CM?  

I was pulled aside immediately, but from what I could see, Thai people were able to collect their luggage and then had to line up on their way out.  I assume that their information was collected, but the line seemed more like a lecture gauntlet where a few people were telling them all the things they needed to do to stay extra safe.  They also passed out a form with all the measures that they should follow.   I was given this form as well.  It’s all in Thai and doesn’t mention self-quarantining.  

 

Thai Language Notes:

The word ข้าราชการ [khaa-ratcha-gaan] mentioned above is pretty useful.  It’s used to refer to any government full-time employee/official.   The kind of job where a person works for the government and has all the accompanying benefits like pensions and health insurance.