English Cyberletter 16
Fotoboek Up


Sawadikaa and a Happy New Year!!


The past year has turned out differently from the previous years, as for many of us. In Thailand there was also Corona-panic and already in spring there was an obligation to wear a mask, temperature checks at even the smallest shops or markets, all restaurants and bars closed, curfews, and no traffic between the provinces. Whether that worked is uncertain, but Thailand has been spared a major wave and remained virtually corona-free for the rest of 2020 (less than 4,000 cases in total, of which a quarter people in quarantine, and fewer than 100 deaths). This did result in our return to Thailand being delayed in the autumn because our category visa was not allowed back into the country until November, and then only after two weeks in a quarantine hotel, at our own expense. This was perfectly organized and under such strict anti-septic conditions at the airport and quarantine hotel that Dutch hospitals and retirement homes should take note.

In May we came to the Netherlands on a fully loaded KLM plane, and first imposed self-quarantine for two weeks in the "Bolletjescafe" hostel opposite Paula's house. Our entire stay in the Netherlands was dominated by an attempt to have as little contact with the outside world as possible, in order to minimize the risk of bringing Corona into the house of 93-year-old Paula who lives independently. So if you missed us: Corona!! Unfortunately at the end of December Thailand was hit by a Corona outbreak from a fish market with many hundreds of cases, almost all symptom-free. Contact tracing has uncovered many hundreds more cases. All new year festivities, parties, restaurants etc. were cancelled in the affected provinces, hopefully not too late to keep Corona in check so that all the efforts of the past year and economic damage have not been in vain. The whole country was already full of roadblocks (but that could also have been pre-emptive intimidation for drunken New Years Eve celebrants), and all travellers were questioned on the ferry to Ko Chang. Everyone again masks, wash their hands, temparature checks, and use Covid app or write down name and telephone number when entering a shop or restaurant.

Laura, and as a result we as well, has had stressful months due to persistent visa problems. She was almost required to leave Australia. A permanent skilled visa was granted in the nick of time, and now she's not allowed to leave the country! And we are not allowed to enter Australia. Aside from that, Laura is doing very well, plenty of friends, a nice new apartment, busy social life and a new, now permanent job with the Australian health ministry. In the photo we are in Spain toasting to Laura's permanent residency status with a glass of cava, with Laura in Australia.

The grande randonnee through Europe in annual stages was roughly disrupted last year by serious breakdown with the Mk2. Now that the engine should be in good condition again after major surgery, the first careful round with the aerodynamic duo was to the exclusive BIOD weekend in the North-East of the Netherlands. It was an outdoor event in an area that had remained fairly clear of Corona. The Extases with classic towing car were put together. Look out for our original awning, geranium, and retro parasol (thanks to Ling!).

In Thailand we live in Baan Balina, a gated community of 45 houses. We pay an annual contribution for maintenance, the guards at the gate and the gardeners. It had been troubling us for a number of years that the manager we paid did little, and that we did not receive annual financial statements. We forced a residents' meeting this year and Minke joined the board. Kees, handy with spreadsheets, has taken a close look at the finances of the past years. Of course, there were many errors and fraud. The manager was fired, and an active board has now been installed who, together with a new company, tackle the overdue maintenance and try to comply with the rules set by the government. We put our hand in a hornet's nest, but we are legal again, the communal pool looks great, and the board can still sit around the same table.

Life in Thailand remains very pleasant, but the unrest, especially in Bangkok, is increasing. The Prime Minister, while democratically elected, remains a general with undemocratic traits, opposition parties are banned and martial law has been instituted in connection with demonstrations. Where the previous king undertook corrective action during military excesses, the current king is not inclined to do so. In fact, his eccentric behaviour, frequent stays in Germany and the way he deals with his many wives and concubines, are lessening popular support. While it was unthinkable under the previous king, now demonstrations in Bangkok and elsewhere are against not only the government, but also the king is the target of anger among the younger generations. Recently, a PR campaign appears to have been set up and the royal couple has been appearing on front pages as "ordinary people" in the province, in an apparent attempt to boost the waning popularity of Rama 10. We foreigners are no party in this fight - identity politics hardly play a role (Thailand is homogeneous Asian, asylum seekers do not come here, and obtaining Thai nationality is possible in theory, but does not happen often in practice). "Farang" living in Thailand do not interfere with Thai culture nor do they loudly call the Thai racists. After months of recent exposure to the Dutch media, with the nitrogen madness, the climate hysteria, the outrageous Corona management, the breakdown of the welfare state and the incompetent, undemocratic attitude and lack of vision of the Dutch government, it is a relief to return to friendly Thailand. The corona measures (curfew and limited freedom of movement) have somewhat dampened the Islamic struggle in the south of Thailand, but it is not over yet and unnecessary and innocent victims keep falling.

With increasing age, health and illness also become a more important theme for our family and friends, as well as ourselves. Unfortunately, a good friend of ours in Thailand recently passed away from acute septicemia. Of all the bad diagnoses that urology has, Kees got off relatively easy when he had to undergo surgery on a bladder stone this summer. Minke also had a narrow escape with a lump in her breast.

We therefore want to toast to a sunny and healthy 2021.