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Back In Thailand

Patong Beach

Hello Blog Followers!

I’ve been back in Thailand for a month now. I was going to go to the Caribbean for a change of pace, but I found myself really wanting to be back in the Land of Smiles.

I entered Thailand via the Phuket Sandbox program so I didn’t have to quarantine. I just had to stay on the island of Phuket for a week, which was certainly not a hardship. Now it’s even easier to enter Thailand under the Test and Go program, and that program has been simplified so that it’s no longer necessary to get a second PCR test on the fifth day after arrival. This is a great time to come to Thailand (if you’re vaccinated) as hotel prices are very low and your visit will help the devastated Thai tourist industry. I made a very detailed video on the visa process:

If you need dental work, you have an even greater incentive to come to Thailand. The quality of dentistry is quite high in Thailand, and the prices are excellent. Learn more at: I’m in Bangkok now getting an implant.

In fact, you might want to check out my YouTube channel at

In an effort to get my novels a wider readership, my friend, and top-notch web designer, Renee Kraft, created a website for me: Please visit!

One reason that I haven’t been blogging is that I’ve been busy writing. I’ve started a new novel, The 28th Amendment. Unlike my previous books which were historical novels, this one is set slightly in the future. Also, the Taiwanese-American actress Amelia Fei is recording the audio book of Slaughtering Girl. Here’s a preview:

So, I hope that, wherever you are, you’re doing well. And I will try to post a bit more often.

Back in the USA and Very Jet-lagged

Few Flights From Bangkok

I had to leave Phuket a bit earlier than I planned. They hotel let me know that the government was closing the Phuket Airport for a couple of weeks as a measure to prevent covid from spreading to the island. If I didn’t catch a flight the next day, back to Bangkok, I would miss my flight back to the US. That might not be so bad except that my tourist visa had already been extended, so I would run into problems with immigration if I stayed.

Empty Skytrain Station

My flight back to Bangkok was nearly empty. I booked at the Bangkok Doubletree, but got an email from them that they’d upgraded me to the Hilton. The Doubletree is a Hilton property, and I suspect that they’ve consolidate bookings at the two hotels as they have so few guests. I definitely can’t complain about staying at the Hilton for about $35 a night. The rooftop infinity pool was great for swimming laps. The hotel is located in the heart of Bangkok, near Benjasiri Park, a wonderful place to hang out.

Benjasiri Park Open for People and Pigeons

I got a haircut, and the barber told me that the salon was closing the next day due to covid restrictions. Then, the day before I checked out, the manager of the hotel pool told me that the pool would be closing the next day due to covid. The covid numbers in Bangkok continue to get worse. The hospitals are over capacity and there is a shortage of oxygen. Having lost their livelihoods, there are people who can’t afford food. Fortunately, the Thais are generous people and have given food to those in need. Also, ex-pats have stepped in to help those in need. If you would like to contribute, I recommend

View Across the Lake at Benjasiri Park

Going to the airport was eerie as the place was empty. Of course, that does make checkin and immigration easy. While the flight from Bangkok to Doha was quite empty, the flight from Doha to New York was full. And, now I’m recovering from monster jet-lag. It never gets easier.

View From the Air Leaving Phuket

On the flight home, I edited my third video promoting Thai tourism and posted it when I landed. It’s at: If you missed the other two, they are at and

My message in the videos is that, if you’ve been vaccinated, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most beautiful countries in the world while it is unspoiled by tourists and, at the same time, help the Thai people struggling the impact of covid on tourism.

I probably won’t be blogging from New York unless I find something interesting to blog about. I’ll be visiting Florida in late August and will probably blog about the snorkeling there. I’m thinking about Costa Rica after that. We’ll see.

If you’re looking for some reading/listening material, you can checkout my novel The Vientiane Affair. If you’re on a budget and don’t want to pay, no problem, just let me know and I’ll send you an electronic copy.

So, thank you for joining me on my trip to Thailand. It was nice to have the company.

Playing in the Sandbox

View of Beach from Pool Deck

Starting July 1, the island of Phuket opened to tourism without quarantine for those who’ve been vaccinated. The program is called The Phuket Sandbox. And, beginning today there is a Samui Sandbox allowing visits without quarantine to the group of islands including Koh Samui, Koh Tao, and Koh Phangan. The only requirement is that you must stay at an approved hotel and you can’t leave the Sandbox for fourteen days. After that, you can go anywhere in Thailand.

So, many folks might be wondering what it’s like in the Sandbox. I’m staying at The Boathouse Hotel. In normal times, I might not go this upscale, but hotels are deeply discounted due to covid. The place is absolutely beautiful. It has a nautical theme that’s maintained very tastefully throughout the hotel. This is one of two hotels at Kata Beach that are directly on the water. This is a great feature as I can roll out of bed in the morning and go snorkeling off the beach. There’s a beautiful pool overlooking the ocean, and, of course, the restaurant overlooks the ocean also.

The hotel reception told me that they have about ten people staying now. This might seem like a low number, but it’s more people than I’ve encountered at any hotel I’ve stayed at since I came to Thailand. Certainly, the Sandbox has improved the situation. Often, I’m the only guest. As you can imagine, the hotel staff is very happy to have guests.

This was NOT my ferry, just a fishing boat I encountered while snorkeling

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my ferry from Koh Phi Phi to Phuket was delayed by a storm for two days. The ferry is actually a small speedboat. In normal times they’d run a much larger boat, but there were only six passengers on the trip. In spite of the rough sea, the captain ran it flat out. It was a pretty bumpy trip. And when I arrived at the very small ferry port, I encountered the notorious Phuket Taxi Cartel. Taxi fares here are kept artificially high in Phuket by agreement among the taxi companies. They do have the ride share service Grab, but there’s a surcharge that raises the price considerably. So, when the woman at the taxi counter said 900 Baht, I just kept walking. Fifteen seconds later, one of the drivers caught up with me and offered to take me for 400, which was a fair price, as it was a good distance. I’ve only run into this problem in Phuket. Drivers in Thailand often refuse to use their meters, but outside of Phuket, the prices charged are generally reasonable.

As I said, the hotel and the beach are wonderful. I was surprised by the number of surfers. Some are ex-pats, but most are Thais, many local to Phuket. I was told that surfing has really been growing in popularity. The waves were quite high (maybe 3 meters) during the first couple of days I was here, and the beach was just full of surfers. I’ve surfed before, but given all my joint replacements, it doesn’t seem like a good idea. I just swim and snorkel.

The contrast comes when you leave the hotel. Kata Beach is a nice town, but with covid, almost everything is closed as nearly all businesses catered to tourists. There are a few restaurants and massage parlors open, but not much else. People looking for the wild Phuket night life aren’t going to find it now at Kata Beach, and they’re probably not going to find it anywhere on Phuket.

So, after about ten weeks in Thailand, I feel like this is the opportunity of a lifetime for a certain kind of tourist. If what you like is the beach, surf, reefs, and hiking in nature, this is a chance to visit one of the most beautiful countries in the world at a time when you won’t be competing for space with a lot of other tourists, and hotel prices are really cheap. If you want parties and nightlife, better wait until Thailand has recovered from covid. For me, it’s been an amazing ten weeks.

Having visited eight of Thailand’s islands now, my favorite is clear. You just can’t beat Koh Tao, especially if you like snorkeling or diving.

Marooned on Phi Phi Island

I woke up this morning to find that the ferry fro Koh Phi Phi to Phuket isn’t running due to a storm. Because of covid, the ferry has been running only once every two days, so, who knows when I’ll get off the island. No complaints, there are worse things than being stranded on Koh Phi Phi.

Yesterday I posted a new YouTube video: Check it out.

I saw a rather large lizard along the road yesterday:


Plenty of crabs on the rocks along the water’s edge:

And some photos from around the hotel:

Krabi and Koh Phi Phi

My Trip So Far

Above is a map (pretty rough) of my trip so far. Yesterday I took a van from Surat Thani, on the west side of the Gulf of Thailand, to Krabi Town on the Andaman Sea. Today I took a ferry (speedboat) from Krabi Town to the island of Koh Phi Phi. That’s pronounced “pee pee”. “Ph” is pronounced as a hard “p” in Thai.

Krabi is a nice little city. I stayed at The Brown Hotel, just steps from the night market. It’s a newly renovated ’boutique’ hotel and I was impressed. Whoever designed my room really knew what they were doing. Very nicely done.

Rock Formations

As you approach the area of Krabi, you see the rock formations for which this area is known. The rocks rise like columns from the land, and from the sea.

Normally there would be a number of ferries per day from Krabi to Phi Phi, but now there’s just one, a speed boat that holds forty or so people. It moves fast, and in the choppy water, it was a rough ride. When I arrived, Thi Ha from the Phi Phi Beach Hotel was there to greet me. He told me how happy the hotel was to have me as a guest, apparently their first in a while. He took me, and my bag, through a nice town by the pier, to a waiting truck. There were many small businesses, and nearly all were closed. Normally, the pier area would be crowded with tourists. This is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist islands. There were, maybe, five or six tourists on the boat.

The resort is absolutely beautiful. Cottages are built all along the hillside. The room is very comfortable. There was still some daylight when I arrived so I changed into my swimsuit, grabbed my snorkel, and headed for the beach. The water was a bit cloudy from rain earlier in the day, but the were plenty of fish and coral. I didn’t see as many large fish as in Koh Tao, but I’ll do more exploring. I swam out to “Shark Island”, a short distance offshore, but didn’t spot any sharks (they’re supposed to be harmless).

Phi Phi Beach Resort

Surat Thani

After visiting the trio of islands, Koh Tao, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui, I’m now back on the Thai mainland in the city of Surat Thani. The Seatran ferry pier is about an hour from the city so you take a bus from the pier to the central bus station in town. I was immediately struck that Surat Thani has been a lot less affected economically by covid than just about any place I’ve been. That’s probably because it’s not a tourist destination, although it is a transit point to reach the islands. Some stores are closed, but most are open and doing business as usual. The hotels have been affected, but my hotel did have a reasonable number of guests.

The night market was open and was crowded with locals, everyone wearing masks, of course.

This is a pretty standard sight in night markets in Thailand and China. You’ll see blind people walking around singing to a background of recorded music.

Blind Singers

Getting around here is a lot easier than on my last visit, years ago. They now have Grab, the ride share service, so I can avoid the negotiation with taxi drivers, and I end up where I want to go.

This is just a one night stop for me on the way to Krabi Town, and then on to the island of Phi Phi. Which, like Koh Tao, is known for great snorkeling.

Koh Samui and a YouTube Video

Chaweng Beach at Koh Samui

I haven’t blogged since I left Koh Tao. Instead, I’ve been making a YouTube video of the snorkeling I did on the island. The video also suggests that, if you’re free to travel right now, this would be a great time to come to Thailand. Beginning July 1, there’s no longer a requirement to quarantine for those who’ve been vaccinated. Instead, you can come to the beautiful island of Phuket for fourteen days. After that time, you can roam freely around Thailand. Phuket is a large island, so being restricted to the island for two weeks is not a hardship. You do need to stay at an approved hotel. Certainly, Phuket will not be in full party mode, as it usually is, but Phuket has many beautiful beaches and some good snorkeling. The plan is called the “Phuket Sandbox”. There is also a plan for a Samui/Phangan/KohTao sandbox, beginning July 15, but, plans for that are not yet final. This would be even better. You can spend your fourteen days on these three islands. This would be a great opportunity to snorkel in Koh Tao.

Hard Times for Performers

Anyway, enjoy the YouTube video: My friends Bobby and Annie gave me permission to use their song Flying Fish Rock, and it definitely rocks!

I’m now on the island of Koh Samui, the third island in the group of Koh Tao / Koh Phangan / Koh Samui. Samui has nice beaches and has a reputation as a party island for tourists. Of course, at the moment, there are few tourists. On the weekend Thais take the ferry here, but during the week you just don’t see many tourists. So, there’s an interesting contrast. You have beautiful beach resorts like the Chaweng Garden Beach Resort where I’m staying ($50/night including breakfast), but as soon as you leave the resort, the town has the abandoned look of Coney Island during the winter.

Nearly all the bars, discos, shows, nightspots, restaurants, etc. are closed, many are boarded up, and most are for sale or rent. It’s going to be a long road to recovery. Strangely, many of the massage parlors are open, and Samui has a LOT of massage parlors. Normally these places are packed with tourists. Most of the women who do this work come from the northern province of Isan. This is a poor farming region. Young women from this region often go to tourist spots in the south to work and the money they make is sent home to their families. It looks like these women are staying on the island through covid to make whatever money they can for their families who depend on this income.

It seems that in the US, people are feeling like covid is over. That’s certainly not the case here in Thailand.

I hope all you folks in the US enjoyed your Independence Day.

And, give the video a try:

Name That Critter

Whales and sharks get a lot of attention, but some of the most interesting creatures in the sea are small. I have no idea what these things (above) are, but they are fascinating. It’s one animal with two symmetrical halves, with each half looking as if it has an eye (I have no idea if it is). They come in many colors and varieties. They don’t move around, but, if you get close, say within an inch, the two halves collapse into each other and the whole thing disappears into a small opening that seems to be attached to the rock (like a barnacle). So, get close, and the thing vanishes in an instant.

Sea Turtle

I probably would have been disappointed if I hadn’t seen a sea turtle.

The coral here around Koh Tao seems alive and healthy.

As you may have guessed, I’m still on Koh Tao, and still at the Sai Daeng Resort. I’ve already extended my stay once, and I’ll probably do it again. I just don’t see any good reason to leave. The room is comfortable, the food is great, the wifi works fine, and I just have to walk down to one of the beaches to snorkel.

Snorkeling on Koh Tao at Sai Daeng

Koh Tao is the smallest of a group of three islands on the west side of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s known for diving and snorkeling. Now that I’m here, I can see why. This is, by far, the best snorkeling I’ve ever done. And it’s all just off the beach at the resort. No boats. I’m staying at the Sai Daeng Resort which occupies the peninsula identified as Hin Ngam on the map. Just offshore is the scarily named Shark Island. Due to covid, the resort is almost deserted. Only other people I’ve seen are a nice group of three from Bangkok.

There is good snorkeling around the entire peninsula. Day before yesterday I explored the northeast side, and yesterday the southwest side. Both were great, but the fish I saw today were larger and there was more variety, particularly at the left side of Sai Daeng Beach. I knew this was going to be good because every snorkeling tour boat on the island was just offshore, a good sign. Today I will snorkel on the right side of Sai Daeing beach where there are supposed to be sea turtles.

The resort is a bit isolated from the towns on the island. The roads to get in are steep and narrow. Not something that I would want to attempt on a motorbike. They picked me up at the pier when I arrived, and the ride in was an adventure. I have a concrete bungalow at the top of a hill, great balcony, air conditioned, good internet. The concrete is nicer than it sounds. Big comfy bed with mosquito netting that I didn’t need. No bugs. $42/day with excellent breakfast included.

No point in telling you about the snorkeling when you can see for yourself:

Prachuap Khiri Khan

This is my fourth day in the quiet fishing and tourist town of Prachuap Khiri Khan on the west side of the Gulf of Thailand.In addition to fishing and tourism, this is a low-key retirement spot for foreigners. I’m visiting a friend here who rents a nice house for under $250/month. Food is inexpensive, so it’s easy for Americans to come here and live on their social security. There are a few large hotels here, but no brand names. I like this one as it has a pool and a great view.

Just down the street is a popular breakfast/lunch spot. They give you a plate of rice noodles. You choose from six sauces. The peanut sauce is vegetarian. Then you add some hard boiled eggs, various kinds of leaves, bean sprouts, and cucumber. Cost $1.

Next to the train station is a very long open sided building that serves as a food and clothing market. A wonderful place to wander.

The monkey temple is a tourist attraction. The hike up the hill is good exercise, a bit over 300 steps. At the bottom you can get a stick to fend off the monkeys who can get pretty aggressive, but they are simply mesmerizing to watch. I was impressed with the monk who walked ahead of me with a 50 lb sack on his head. I think it was monkey feed.

The beach in Prachuap isn’t really for swimming. For that, you go to the next cove over which is Ao Minao beach. I went there by bike this morning. It’s an easy ride as there are no hills. To get there, you must cross the Thai Air Force Base. You have to stop and sign-in. You actually ride across the main runway. There are guards to stop you when planes are coming and going. The beach is beautiful, but quiet now because of covid.

My trip from Hua Hin to Prachuap took well over 4 hours by train. By car it would have been 1 hour 20 minutes. The train makes many local stops, and waits a while at each station.

The amount of construction along the way is amazing. The entire route is being modernized. Next to each old station, a modern new station is being built. All grade crossings are being eliminated and replaced by overpasses. New track is being laid. It’s not clear to me whether this is modernization, or the path of the new high-speed train that is being built from China to Singapore.

Domestic Tourists at Monkey Temple (monk provides hand sanitizer)

Tomorrow I will take the train from Prachuap to Chumphon, further south on the west side of the Gulf of Thailand. From there, I’ll take a ferry to the island of Koh Tao.