Dr. Graham Pluck
Minds, Brains, & Internationalism

Travel, Internationalism, and Academia Blog

16.03.2021

In, and out of, quarantine

I’m in Thailand to take up my new academic position at Chulalongkorn University. As this is all happening during the COVID pandemic, the experience has been reversed: what should be exiting is now dull. My move to Bangkok, one of the most vibrant cities in the world, starts with a fortnight in the 3-star Hotel Quarantine.

Check in involved somebody in full PPE taking my temperature and handing me a key card, with an instruction of which room to go to. Once the room is stepped into, there is no going back, leaving the room could get you arrested. Not that there is much choice, at this stage in the game not entering the room would also get you arrested. The basic situation is that you have to spend 15 nights of isolation in the hotel room, and pass two COVID tests, one on the 5th and the other on the 13th day of the stay. If both are negative you can check out on day 16. If either test comes back positive, you’ll be transferred to a Thai state hospital. You take your own temperature twice a day, reporting it to the hotel nurses, and if it’s too high, that will also get you transferred to a state hospital.

You have to pay your own hotel quarantine costs, which does at least let you choose a room or hotel that that suits you. I went for a hotel out in the sticks, rather than in the city, because for the price paid, you get bigger rooms. That’s an important consideration as you’ll be spending a lot of time there. This is a photo of me spending a lot of time in my room at the Chor Cher hotel.
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The hotel was very well organized. Punctually, three meals a day are delivered, and you can choose each from an online menu. Breakfast at 7, lunch at 12, dinner at 6. In fact, as you are so isolated, these three events start to define the day. Come 5pm and much boredom, the next highlight is going to be the knock on the door at 6. When that comes, by the time you open the door the PPE-clad porter has gone, but your meal is there, waiting. It’s like being in the solitary confinement wing of a luxury prison. This is a photo of a typical lunch or dinner.
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In the first week, the only way you can leave the room is when you go for the first COVID test on day 5. It’s a few minutes out of the room, while somebody delves into your nose and throat with a plastic stick. That may not sound so great, but after 5 days in the same room, it feels like a big day out. And, even better, if that test comes back negative, from day 7, you can leave the room for 30 minutes every day. It’s a very controlled 30 minutes, in a set location, and of course, nobody else can be there at the same time. The choices are ‘Garden 1’, ‘Garden 2’, ‘Poolside’, or, and I’m not making this up, ‘Walking in corridor’. And that’s actually less impressive than it sounds, as you can see in this photo, Garden 1 and Garden 2 are basically the same courtyard, divided into two by some nylon string. That should keep the virus at bay.
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Eventually, with my 15th night completed, I could check out. Now I’m free to move around Bangkok, and I have the quarantine-completed certificate to prove it. I now have a rented apartment, and I’m reunited with Little Albert, my dog. He didn’t need to quarantine at all. Like I said, COVID reversed everything- it used to be the pets that quarantined, not the owners.
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