Anniina is a Phuket long-term resident giving us a weekly dose of Thai life. Read from her weekly blog what's going on in the land of smiles.
I don’t like the word busy, hearing and thinking the whole word is distressing. I've often used the word to reason why I can’t see some people, you know, I can’t now, because I’ve been so busy lately. I forgot to answer your text because I was too busy. Too busy, what a wonderful excuse. But now; busy, what a wonderful word to describe life. Everyone has now seen what happens when “busy” ends and how it makes us feel. I have come to miss being busy. It’s not that I’m so busy all the time but I do always have many things going on at the same time.
I dare to interpret “busy” a little from a Thai perspective as well; there’s no such thing. There is no talk of rush; you just wake up in the morning to do what needs to be done and it is done as long as everything is finished and the days earning goals reached. While the local way of life sometimes seems very dormant, literally, work is often done around the clock. Isn’t a small moment of rest then just a well-deserved break. Work is an important part of Thai identity and every member of the family has a duty to take part. Freeloaders are rare. So, it's just a matter of life, a way of life. Thailand is bustling with life, it’s on the streets, it’s riding on different kinds of wheels, it smells, it’s noisy, chaotic, exotic and enchanting.
Who can now answer how serious the consequences of the covid-19 crisis will actually be so that this unique Thai way of life will continue? Based on everything I read, no one. But I believe it is certain that recovery will be very difficult. In tourist-favoured places like Phuket, 85% of GDP comes from tourism and related industries. No such income is instantly re-created from new industries. At least not so that everyone would soon get back on their feet because most consumers are gone. Indeed, the only hope in areas like Phuket is strong government support and encouragement to stimulate domestic tourism. It is clear that the country as a whole has never faced such a great challenge. At the same time, there is news of how Thailand has been able to keep the rates of virus infections so low. True, locals are also very proud of how the state has handled things and understand what an explosive number of viral infections could have meant. Many still trusts that everything will recover with the vaccine. And then on the other hand, no one is worried about the virus anymore, but about what to eat when tomorrow comes or how to pay the rent. Not to mention that another wave of virus is supposed to be coming. At the moment there are only bad outcomes or even worse, worst. Any way you look at it, there are many reasons to be very pessimistic. Which I’m not.
And since I’m not, it’s probably best to prove it by ending with a slightly more positive note. As many as 40% of Thais are entrepreneurs of some degree. It tells that entrepreneurship as a business is familiar and if entrepreneurship already comes naturally, adapting to market change is a related fine-tuning. These entrepreneurs will eventually find a way to adapt to the demands of the new normal and ultimately create new opportunities and thus benefit the well-being of the entire nation in addition to their own. This was the case even after the 1997 economic crisis and the tsunami. According to the most positive estimates, the recovery would have already begun. I have myself seen this already happen right in my own neighbourhood and I cannot help but wonder how it is from scratch, in a day, a person can create new livelihood for themselves. A fluent German-speaking travel guide next door started a gardening business at his yard. Another person who has worked in tourism for a long time trained as a barber and also makes home visits.
Fortunately, there are creative and imaginative people who are always trying to create something new; new top chef restaurants are opening against all expectations, salsa dance classes must be pre-registered because there are so many willing participants and covid restrictions are still in place and new, fresh marketplaces are being created. It is also great to see how many companies have smoothly adapted to changed, more cautious, consumption habits and offer their services accordingly. It certainly doesn’t bring the same cash flow that the tourists taken for granted did, but it could carry many businesses over these grey days.
To summarize; all we want to do is to move forward and I am hopeful about what direction. Everything feels so fresh, new and at the same time more down-to-earth and supportive of sustainable development and local entrepreneurship. I’m more than happy to go to support a friend who hosts Taco Tuesday with a live band and so by the way are many others. We want to see life go on and be part of accelerating recovery. I, too, am again "busy". And let me tell you it doesn't feel nothing but awesome and tastes like life.