Moving a family of four to another country is never easy. But despite numerous delays, a long flight, and a lengthy layover, a Canadian family survives quarantine thanks to determination, flexibility, and a can-do attitude. And don’t forget to advocate for yourself!
The Back Story
Peter Davison is Chief Coffee Drinker at Canada-based PJD Agency, a boutique social media and content marketing agency.
Ever since he and his partner Veronica returned from a five-year stint in Shanghai, they had been hoping to return to the region.
After Veronica finished her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education Leadership at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, Canada, she started exploring opportunities at international schools in Asia.
And she was able to secure a position as Early Childhood Education Coordinator at Rasami British International School (RBIS) in Bangkok, Thailand.
“As you know, every country has its own process,” Peter says.
“So we reached out to the Thai consulate offices in Toronto, where we were able to meet with the honourary consul, who provided us with the visa.”
And that, apparently, was the easy part.
“Once we had the visa, we needed to speak with both the Thai consulate in Vancouver and the embassy in Ottawa to secure our Certificate of Entry (COE),” Peter says.
At that point, things started to get tricky because the embassy wasn’t officially accepting mail or new applications.
“Finally, it took dialing in to random numbers to get a Thai embassy staff member, who was really helpful in answering all of our questions,” Peter says.
Flight from Toronto to Hong Kong
In order to demonstrate their seriousness in wanting to move to Thailand, they “optimistically” bought tickets on Turkish Airlines in July.
Unfortunately, they then found out the airline wasn’t able to fly into Thailand.
“We had to book our tickets with Cathay Pacific. And we were on the first repatriation flight on July 31st,” Peter says.
Hong Kong Layover
Following a roughly 16-hour non-stop flight across the globe, the family arrived at Hong Kong International Airport, where they faced a 12-hour layover.
“We flew Toronto to Hong Kong and then stayed in the airport overnight and caught the second flight [from] Hong Kong to Bangkok in the morning.”
In fact, they flew into Hong Kong not really knowing what to expect.
“We had to get off the plane, walk through to the through security to the area where we were basically in transit only,” Peter says.
“There were no public showers or any public facilities really to use. After the flight, there had been public showers right when you got off the plane and before you crossed over into the transit zone.”
Unfortunately, there were no showers in the transit zone. And you couldn’t go back out after you entered it. So they continued into the transit area, which was practically empty.
“This was a repatriation flight,” Peter says. “So it was mainly Thai families and a few other Canadians that were on the flight.”
The usually bustling airport was practically devoid of people.
“It was was very empty,” Peter says. “Having traveled through Hong Kong when I lived in Shanghai from 2007 to 2012, I had never seen it so quiet in my life.”
The challenge was keeping the kids busy.
“They didn’t have iPads, and they didn’t have electronics.’
Making matters worse, there wasn’t much in the way of food and beverage. In fact, only about three places were open. And only one of them – a Thai eatery – was open 24 hours.
“But really, it was a matter of balancing between Veronica and l the responsibility for the kids,” Peter says.
“We would take shifts sleeping, and the kids eventually fell asleep, too, but we would take turns walking them around.”
In the morning, they were able to grab a bite at Starbuck’s.
Arrival in Bangkok
Following a three and one-half hour flight, they arrived at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which Peter describes as a kind of “post-apocalyptic zone”.
“It was a page out of a science fiction novel when we arrived in BKK,” Peter says.
“Everyone was wearing protective gear. And they were supposed to remain seated on chairs that were all set in rows. We weren’t allowed (or supposed) to get up from them. The kids were jumpy, but they did a great job.”
As soon as they got past the screening area, they went through immigration. And then they walked to a hotel van, which took them to their hotel.
And talk about it’s a “small world”!
“The funniest part of the flight was we ended up meeting a couple that took their Canadian COVID-19 tests on the same day as us at the same centre,” Peter says.
“They also were moving for international school purposes.”
There is an official list of several dozen hotels in the Alternate State Quarantine (ASQ) in Thailand. So what did Peter and his family consider when choosing one?
“Originally, we considered at a two-bedroom [suite] with a living room in the middle so that parents had a room and the kids had a room with a common meeting area,” Peter says.
“We didn’t know if we would be allowed to go into the pool or what the situation was on the ground.”
Unfortunately, because of delays, their arrival took place nearly a month later than planned. And the hotel they ended up with wasn’t what they were hoping for.
Instead of a two-bedroom suite in a five-star hotel, they ended up booking two separate rooms at a three-star hotel.
“And instead of having adjoining room, we had two rooms beside each other, but they made a compromise that we could go in between the rooms to hang out,” Peter says.
“So we divided and conquered. Veronica and Freya went to one room, and Spencer and I went to the other.”
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream. Both Peter and Veronica had work to do, and the Wi-Fi in their part of the hotel was atrocious.
Eventually, the hotel drilled in a Wi-Fi router right outside their door, which improved the coverage in one of the rooms.
After testing negative, they were allowed to leave their rooms for an hour each day. But they weren’t given free rein. They were accompanied to the swimming pool area, but they could not use the pool
Food and Beverage
Three meals a day were included in the package. And the menu was on a two-week cycle.
“So there wasn’t any choice for us, plus it was often substituted,” Peter says.
“Some days were better than others. We were able to take room service, and we managed to survive the 14 days without any alcohol as it was not permitted.”
However, the hotel did provide some nice Thai snacks throughout their time there.
“The nice thing was that they had Western coffee like lattes and mochas and things like that, and snacks for the kids,” Peter says.
Not all of the hotels on the ASQ list allowed food deliveries. And unfortunately, their hotel was one of them. However, they found to find a way around it.
In fact, they had a pizza delivered to a friend, who was waiting at the hotel gate. And he brought it to the front desk.
In addition, the principal of Veronica’s school also brought some yummy snacks.
Peter’s Words to the Wise
So what advice would Peter offer someone in terms of choosing a hotel?
“As we were hitting the ground running, we needed really strong Wi-Fi,” Peter says, adding that he would “definitely encourage people to enquire about it.”
Unlike Hong Kong and Singapore, which require people undergoing quarantine to remain in their hotel rooms throughout their stay, Thailand allows them to go leave their rooms for short periods after they have tested negative. So he says you should ask about what would be allowed.
“Each hotel seemed to have different guidelines, but I would ask about the free time or the time that you are allowed outside each day,” Peter says.
He also advises travelers to ask if they can open their windows and what the arrangements are for having their rooms cleaned.
“Remember to advocate for yourself or your family around the things you will need to make your stay comfortable,” Peter says.
Is there anything you should bring that you might not think of?
“It may sound obvious, but you will want to bring a few things that will make you feel comfortable,” Peter says.
“Bring that hoodie, sweater, or blanket! If you have a travel pillow, this might also be something to bring.”
On a more practical level, Peter advises travelers to remember those technical details.
“Don’t forget things like your international travel plugs, check your international phone plan if you haven’t already bought a SIM card, and [bring] a good headset.”
For More in This Series …
This post on Canadian quarantine survivors is part six of a series on how to survive hotel quarantine. Click on the following links for more:
- How to Survive Hotel Quarantine (in a Pandemic)>>
- 28-Day Quarantine Survivor: Donna Campbell>>
- Hong Kong Quarantine Survivor: Karen Lawler>>
- Singapore Quarantine Survivor: Louise J. Tagliante>>
- Adding Structure Makes Quarantine Bearable>>
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