Happy Lunar New Year from Koh Lanta! May your year of the tiger be a good one 🐯.
Where I’m At is my monthly travel and site update. More regular updates can be found at my travel newsletter, which includes the most interesting travel reads from around the web.
Where I’ve been
I saw in 2022 in Phnom Penh, mainly because Cambodia is currently the easiest country to travel to in Southeast Asia. Cambodia is one of the most vaccinated countries in the region, and as such, they are open for fully vaccinated travellers.
I keep track of how each country I am travelling to is faring, as I don’t want to end up in a place that is still struggling. This is what the daily case rate looked like up until I left.
And crucially, the death rate flatlined to zero during my stay in Cambodia.
Flights are starting to trickle back to the country, and being in Cambodia made me feel a bit hopeful for travel in 2022. This announcement by AirAsia resuming flights to Phnom Penh gave a hint of the joy of what it is going to feel like when more flights resume.
We are not out of the woods yet though. There were so many closed travel-related businesses, and those who work in the industry are still struggling. The government here is predicting a travel rebound by 2025.
While it was relatively easy to enter, you still have to get an RT-PCR Test when flying out. I found that there were very few places offering them in the city. I ended up going to a public hospital where it cost $130USD (my most expensive test to date). I thought they would take credit cards at that rate, but they only accepted cash payments. I had to run out to the street and find a bank. At the hospital cashier desk, they had a big box where they were putting the money (they use US Dollars for big money in Cambodia), so there must have been thousands of dollars just sitting loosely in that box.
Another risk of travel is testing positive when you arrive, as happened to an Irish visitor while I was there. He was taken to a quarantine camp after testing positive on arrival, and his updates of the camp conditions went viral.
Some people were commenting that he shouldn’t have gone there, but Cambodia is highly vaccinated now, and if you are fully vaccinated then the probability of you getting sick enough to need an ICU bed is slim. It felt good to be back here staying at family-run guesthouses and doing my tiny part in restarting the tourism economy.
With travel still ages away from getting back to normal, I haven’t been updating any travel content. I treated this month in Cambodia as a work trip for Future Southeast Asia. I did a construction report for Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, surveyed the situation in Koh Rong, and stayed in Kampot to assess proposed developments in Kampot and Kep provinces. I will have trip reports for all those places at Nomadic Notes at a later date.
When I returned to Thailand in December last year I did so with the 1-day quarantine program (Test & Go). That program was then put on hold (and restarts today), so I had to come back to Thailand via the Phuket Sandbox program. For this quarantine system, you have to stay on the island of Phuket for a week before you can travel anywhere else in Thailand.
I have been to Phuket a few times before but I have only been on brief visits. This enforced stay (yes a hardship, I know) was a good chance to explore some other parts of the island I haven’t seen before. In fact, being in Phuket has given me some new inspiration for some travel and digital nomad articles.
After my seven days in Phuket, I got a boat to Phi Phi. This island group was made famous for being the filming location for The Beach, and then it became an example of over-tourism. That reason alone had put me off revisiting for years. The boat from Phuket to Lanta stops at Phi Phi anyway, so I figured I may as well have a look around again while it is in this tourism lull. I’m glad I went because it really a beautiful, even with the remnants of over torism.
Koh Lanta feels nothing like Phuket or Phi Phi. Even before covid it was an island known for its laidback charm. I will have trip reports for all three islands.
As for the rest of this month, I’m still making it up as I go. I might end up staying on in Thailand for another month. I feel like I’m circling around in a holding pattern, waiting for the best time for me to return to Australia, and for Vietnam to reopen.
Ultimately I would like to get back to Vietnam and stay there for a while (and write all these new articles I’ve been thinking about). That might be by April. While I am in nomad mode I am making the most of being able to visit some places to feature on Future Southeast Asia. I’ve just had my best month again for website traffic, helped by the fact that I am cranking out new content every week. I also have a big life milestone coming up, which has me thinking about where to be. I will expand on that next month.
Blog posts and other site news
One new post last month: Notes on Tirana.