Life in Quarantine

In mid-January, I was grateful to have a chance to go home after almost a year. While it was a brief full-of-errands kind of trip, it was a fresh break. With strict health protocols and quarantine measure in place, I knew from the start that this would be one of the experiences that would be hard to forget. So I guess it might be of relevance sharing it here too.


My scheduled flight was in the second week of January. The flight ticket was twice the usual price in the pre-COVID era. That’s quite understandable though since the airlines were operating at around half (or even less) their normal capacities. Before departure, Garuda Indonesia required passengers to take a COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours before the flight. This could be done at one of the hospitals/clinics recommended by the Indonesian COVID-19 Task Force accessible through the airlines’ website.

To go to Thailand at the time, we would need a Fit-to-Fly Certificate. This was basically a result of a health check-up which was done on the same day I went for COVID-19 PCR test at one of the designated hospitals.

I would recommend everyone who needs to travel during COVID-19 pandemic to take extra care in checking all documents two or three times. Not only will you find regulations of each country different, but each airlines also have their own small prints.

With documents and negative COVID-19 result in order, I tried to minimise my contact especially going into crowded places.

Surreal Atmosphere at the Airport

While the International Terminal at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport was not considered one of the busiest terminals, but during the time of COVID-19, empty would be an understatement. That said, please leave ample time for check-in. I guess the clerk at check-in counters had to check and re-check the documents and COVID-19 results to make sure of their validity. It took around 1 hour to check myself in and get a boarding pass.

After security, things looked normal enough. Seeing planes parked at gates was quite a reassuring sight. It was a signal that people could still travel from place to place. The number of people was probably fewer than 25 percent compared to a normal day before COVID-19 hit.

Bangkok bound

On the plane, only the window seats were occupied to allow distancing among passengers. I could hear a lot of disinfectant being sprayed (which was also reassuring for me). Food was served after about an hour. The only difference was that there were more packaging materials. And melamine cups were replaced with those made from paper instead. Otherwise, the food was as tasty as it could be in the air.

Three hours later, the plane landed at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. This was another surreal experience. Last year, when I was last home, people would flock out of the airplane quickly, to be blended in with passengers coming from other countries. This time round, people waited patiently to be guided out of the airplane in order. The gates were deserted. People in half and full PPEs greeted us.

At the time, Thailand imposed 14-day quarantine to all incoming travellers. There were two types of quarantine. State quarantine was a form of hotel quarantine free of charge for Thai nationals. This would be allocated to you upon arrival so you would not be able to choose which hotel you were going to. Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) was also a form of hotel quarantine but with greater perks. Foreigners had to book Alternative State Quarantine and pay for themselves. Thai nationals may also choose ASQ and they also had to pay for themselves too.

I preferred to know where I would stay in advance. The availability of food choice was also something that I took into consideration. So I booked the Hyatt Place Hotel on Sukhumvit Road as my ASQ.

Those who booked ASQ were separated from the queue and there were people who came to check our documents. This was efficiently done within 2-3 minutes. We then proceeded to the health screening counter where the officials would ask whether we had any COVID-19 symptoms. They would check our health documents and COVID-19 test results. Following that, we would proceed to the immigration then to luggage claim.

After getting my luggage, those who booked ASQ would leave the airport at a certain gate. The representatives from the hotel would pick us up. As for me, there was only me from my flight who would go to the hotel. So I got the van for myself. I was told that normally, there would be 2-3 people sharing the same van to the hotel.

Accommodation for the next 15 nights

In 20 minutes, I arrived at the hotel. The check-in counter was located outside the building in open air. The check-in lady was wearing plastic cap and half PPE suit. I was asked to wear shoe coverings which were made of blue plastic material at all times outside of my own room. The total stay would be 15 nights and I would only leave the hotel on the 16th day.

Following check-in, I was asked to download a few applications to track my temperature everyday. I had to add an official nurse account on LINE messaging app as a way to report my temperature. After meeting with the nurse, I was escorted by a hotel staff to my room on the 17th floor. No key card was given. I would have COVID-19 PCR test on day 5 and 12. If my first result came out negative on day 6, I would be allowed to leave the room for 40 minutes a day starting from day 7. Cleaning of the room could be done starting from day 7 too. Food would be delivered on the table in front of my room 3 times a day. I could choose and order food from a Google form. The fanciness of food depended on the hotel and the price you paid. I would consider mine a mid range.

My room at the Hyatt Place Bangkok during quarantine. The carpeted floor was covered for hygiene reason.
A view overlooking the heart of Sukhumvit district in Bangkok.

The overall experience was very good. The room was spotlessly clean. Mineral water was constantly refilled. There were plenty of soap and toiletries. As an introvert, I felt perfectly fine in quarantine with books to read and work to do. I really appreciate all the staff who accommodated my requests efficiently and on time.

On day 5, a nurse would contact me beforehand to let me know roughly of the time they would escort me out for the COVID-19 PCR test. When the time comes, there would be a knock at the door. Then they would take me to a separate lift up to the floor with swimming pool. The nurse at the counter would then check my name and led me to the testing site next to the pool. A screen separated me from the nurse who took my sample. Each time slot would be for one person so there was almost no chance of getting into contact with another guest who would come up for the test. I would then be led back into my room, all escorted.

On day 6, a nurse phoned me to tell the good news of the negative result. I could now book a slot to go to the rooftop for 40 minutes a day from day 7. I could also ask the housekeeping to clean my room on day 7, 10 and 13 (if I’m not mistaken). Basically I asked the housekeeping to clean when I went out to the rooftop.

The rooftop which was normally a bar is now a designated relaxing area.

Each 40-minute slot can only accommodate 8 persons who would be asked to stay in the rectangular area marked on the floor. Mask was to be worn at all times in public area.

After 15 nights, I was released from quarantine. No doubt it was a long time but for good measure. Given the hotel’s good internet connection, I was not bored during quarantine. I also requested a yoga mat to keep up with my work out routine. Meals were provided three times a day with great punctuality. Staff were professional and they would run away when I opened the door quickly after they knocked. It gave me a lot of reassurance that they were under good management.

Before I left the hotel on the 16th day, I spoked to one of the hotel staff that I hope to see the hotel operating normally when I come back next time.

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