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I’ve had a relaxed day here in Bangkok after a busy day yesterday when I caught up with an old Thai friend I hadn’t seen for several years as Covid got in the way of my travels out to Asia. My chats with Chrissorn were wide-ranging but a lot focussed on Thailand and how a country so reliant on tourism is recovering from the world shutting up shop for so long. I’d realised what I’ve seen of Bangkok is far quieter of old but Chris filled out some of the details. Bangkok is normally crowded and not the place to be in a pandemic so many people returned to their home towns. Some of them set up businesses there, made them a success and realised there was no need to return to the capital with its high rents and cost of living. So Bangkok’s population has dropped (for now).

Another thing I learned was that many of the people who work in the tourist industry aren’t Thai. They’re from Myanmar, or Laos, or even Nepal and India. Indians have always been present here – providing most of the tailors you see around areas like Banglumphu, but the Nepalese were a surprise. When you get your street massage for 150 baht it’s unlikely to be from a Thai. The locals don’t want to do such arduous, low paid jobs. It’ll be an ‘economic migrant’ who fills that role. The same people the English despise and was one of the causes of Brexit. It’s one of life’s ironies. Go to most countries with a large tourist or hospitality industry (Greece is another example) and it won’t be the locals doing most of the work. Yet the UK, in its arrogance and dislike of foreigners has thought it can buck this trend and Brexit will mean more jobs for local people. The result? We now have a huge labour shortage in the UK and suffer the economic damage that flows from that – as newly released statistics show. The UK’s the only developed nation where the economy’s predicted to shrink next year. Even Russia, despite its international pariah status and awful war with Ukraine will grow faster than the UK. Of course, the hardcore Brexiters still claim any amount of economic damage is worth it to regain ‘sovereignty’ – something we never lost except in their overactive imaginations. I wish I could pay my bills with their fictional ‘sovereignty’…

Massage beds line Rambutri. A 30 minute session will cost you 150 baht, but the chances are the person massaging you won’t be from Thailand but Myanmar or Laos.

Another thing I learned from Chris was that the Banglumphu area, being crowded and full of foreigners pre Covid, suffered more Covid-related deaths than other parts of Bangkok, which could help explain some of empty shops I’ve seen and the lack of some old faces.

My time in Bangkok’s been rather sociable, partly because I’ve been going out more and also because there’s far more travellers and tourists here than in KL. Yesterday I ended up in conversation with a retired nurse from Darwen in Lancashire, a retired engineer from Heidelberg in Germany and a retired photographer from the UK who’s moved out to Asia and has a house in Pokhara, Nepal. You can spot the theme, can’t you? There’s a lot of retired people here! To leaven the mix, today I ended up sharing a table at my favourite food stall with a young lad from the Netherlands who’s been travelling around Thailand for a month.

Tomorrow life will return more to normal as I’ll be resuming my travels and exploring more of Bangkok – and making sure both camera batteries are with me! For now, here’s a few more images of life in Bangkok…

Today’s 50 baht dinner. On the right is a superb deep-fried and crispy fish with Thai basil that’s mixed with palm sugar. The dish on the left is vegetable with egg.

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