Off The Road Asia: The Year That Never Was

The year 2021 has been a total write-off in terms of traveling. It has been more than a decade since there hasn’t been at least one OTRA entry in a given year for a road trip somewhere.

The Covid-19 pandemic that began in early 2020 is still ravaging most of the planet the following year, especially Southeast Asia. In Thailand, government incompetence and galloping corruption have led to wave after wave of Covid outbreaks and subsequent lockdowns, closures, prohibition, and travel bans over the past 18 months.

At the time of writing this in late July, there were more than 15,000 cases per day and no sign of any major vaccination rollout, especially for foreigners and those under 50. Thailand was the second country in the world to see a Covid case after China, and at this rate, it will be one of the last countries to vaccinate its population.

Leaving and entering the country is a costly process that requires a lot of paperwork, Covid tests or proof of vaccination, health insurances, state surveillance and tracking apps, and lengthy enforced quarantine in over-priced hotels. Needless to say, I haven’t been anywhere since returning from Nepal in March last year.

It has been two years since I have been back to the U.K. and that is certainly not an option at the moment. I’m hoping for spring 2022, but that all depends on a major acceleration in Thailand’s languid inoculation rollout.

Interprovincial travel has been curtailed at the time of writing, which means no more local motorcycle trips either but managed to get a couple in earlier in the year and in late 2020. There was a trip up to Kanchanaburi in December and early March to see Mike and Tony, when we rode up to Pilok. Have also managed the odd weekend in Hua Hin to see Pogo, Greg, and JJ but that has been pretty much it for this year so far. The new year camping trip to our regular spot turned into a bit of a disaster but we’ve found a couple of alternatives.

The good news is that no international traveling and a crypto market boom has meant steady inflows during these tough times. The sale of some crypto from 2017 funded the expansion of the fleet which now includes a Royal Enfield and a KTM Duke.

We have made a couple of camping trips to remote spots within the province to unplug and escape from the constant torrent of bad news and depressing stats in the media. These little trips have been a lifeline so far this year, though the wet season has put the brakes on them for now.

We also found a little reggae beach bar a few clicks south run by a Thai rasta called Jammin who is fixing the place up. That has been our weekend escape from the monotony of life in Suan Luang where pretty much everything has been closed for months, paranoia rules, and people generally appear to be avoiding each other. Therefore, Saturdays are often spent at this little oasis enjoying the spectacular late afternoon rainy season sky-scapes with a cold one.

The Euro 2020 tournament, brought forward to June 2021, also provided some relief from the long weeks in lockdown though England needs to spend more time practicing penalties!

These photos were mostly taken on a mobile phone in late 2020 and over the first half of 2021, most locally where we have been stuck. There are far worse places to be locked down!