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Back in April 2020, which seems so long ago in fact, when the pandemic started to hit Thailand, many foreign visitors left the Country. At the same time, albeit a little last minute, Thailand granted a visa amnesty for those who wished to stay. When we say last minute, this is because there were probably many more travellers who would have liked to have stayed in the country longer, but at the time there was a lot of pressure and panic, and so they left. Only after the majority of short-term visitors had left, did the country bring in some visa relief meaning that foreigners who didn't live here permanently could stay longer. This in turn, we hope, has helped the economy of the island a little and kept some local businesses ticking over.
Many of the people who have stayed would only usually have been here for 3 or maybe 6 months of the year, quite possibly, a percentage of foreigners might have been on Koh Phangan for the very first time but decided to stick it out here rather than return home.
Let’s make an assumption from the ‘feel’ of the island and its energy from the point of view of us ‘boring old all-year-rounders’ that yes, you are glad you stayed.
Until this week, and even now, Koh Phangan has remained a corona free haven, away from the rest of the panic, lockdown, health risks and global change that the virus has brought elsewhere.
Many, many, people have lost their income and support. Mostly the Burmese and Thais have been strongly hit, without having any financial back-up, living season to season to support themselves and usually family back home. Foreign business owners have also suffered, as most of us rely on tourism in some form or another if not directly, with children’s schooling to pay for, house rent, electricity bills and life, in general, many people are now living off savings which were not meant to be used for this, and even asking for help from family members in other parts of the world.
If you chose to stay here as a visitor, already with a means of supporting yourself financially then you are truly lucky. Phangan is a paradise right now. Most people seem to be digital nomads or have some income they make online and this is something we think everyone has learned from this situation, it is wise to find another stream of income, wiser if it comes from the internet. Many people have taken their skills online, yoga teachers giving zoom classes, strippers making Only Fans sites, teachers giving online English classes, Fitness trainers, Gurus, Healers and all the rest, are taking advantage of our world which now exists on the web.
This income goes a long way to support the local community that are still up and running on the island. We’ve seen many businesses close and every day there are fewer, but for those still standing, when you buy something from them, that might be feeding an entire family.
Even if you are living off savings or being supported by family because they know you are safer here than there, you should have a sense of heartfelt warmth when you buy your food from a stall or small restaurant, we are all one big support network at the moment.
We try to imagine why the reason would be. The most common assumption would probably be that you are missing the love, support and comfort of your own family or friends from the place you usually live or reside in. These relationships are gold-dust and it can be hard to make the same kind of connections in a new place, no matter how friendly this island is. Koh Phangan is also a strange kind of place sometimes and people have their guard up at the moment, wary of outsiders. Maybe it’s been too long and you never thought that an extended stay of 3 months would end up being almost one year. You may not be able to go to where you really want to be and it’s safe here so you stay. Some countries are not even allowing their citizens back so we cannot assume that everyone’s first choice to be during this pandemic is Koh Phangan.
If you are struggling then please feel free to email us and we will do our best to help you.
The island has returned to a peaceful place, even with parties still happening it has not been overcrowded and some of the most natural spots have returned even more glorious, having a rest from the thousands of tourists that usually visit each month. Those of you that have stayed have brought fresh energy, that because of you staying longer, has left an imprint wherever you have gone. You’ve helped families survive and kept the community going and we’re sure they are glad you stayed too.
So, even with this week’s news of tighter measures, we are all still extremely lucky to have somewhat ‘normal freedom’ compared to the rest of the world. We can walk for miles on a beach, hike through the jungle and sleep under the stars, and for that, we are still grateful.
There are still many people suffering on Koh Phangan, if you would like to help or find out more information then please contact Island Aid.