One of the COVID measures Thailand has implemented since it opened its doors to general tourists is that all incoming visitors have to stay at a state approved "Alternative State Quarantine"(ASQ) facility for 15 days. During the 15 day quarantine, the "detainees" get two COVID tests and if the results are negative, they are free to go and enjoy Thailand after their time is up.
We were well aware of this deal when we decided to head to Thailand. In fact this quarantine requirement had been a significant factor stopping us from making the move to Thailand since its borders were re-opened. The thought of a long 15 day quarantine (prison time) had been too daunting to outweigh the freedom and joy one gets afterwards.
However, as our time in Albania drew close to its 90 day limit, we couldn't find a more attractive destination to visit afterwards than Thailand, even after factoring in the quarantine requirement. Staying safe from COVID was our No. 1 priority and as there was no safe place in Europe, the only two options left for us were Thailand and Australia. Thailand was an easy decision because you get to choose your "prison" rather than being taken to an unknown quarantine location if we went back to Australia.
Having the freedom to pick our preferred ASQ so that we could have a little bit of control was comforting - at least we would know what to expect. We set out some key criteria such as ample space and exercise opportunities. Since everyone has their own priorities when it comes to comfort, this step was really important to ensure the "prison time" was to be as comfortable and bearable as it can be.
After filtering through the long ASQ list, we picked a few properties with either a large balcony, an outdoor space or a lot of indoor space. Then we checked their availability according to our dates. It turned out only one property ticked our priority boxes - a two bedroom apartment with exercise equipment and a bonus washing machine! The downside from very limited reviews was ordinary food. We chose space over food for sure - not a hard decision.
When we eventually arrived at our ASQ, we were not disappointed and knew that we were going to survive this long confinement just fine. Prior to our arrival, we had asked the management to remove all the furniture in the spare bedroom and set up an exercise bike there. The room also has a TV so that we can do Zumba classes. Our "home gym" has enough space for both of us to work out there at the same time. Perfect!
From Day 1 we started a good workout routine - one hour in the morning on the bike and then do weights and mat work; 45 minutes in the afternoon for Zumba or full body walk classes. We even made our own water bottle weights for different training purposes.
We have to admit that keeping our body moving every day was the single biggest factor that kept us fit and happy during the 15 day confinement. We felt that we got fitter and stronger. The ordinary quarantine food actually worked to our favour as all the meals had calorie count and we were not taking many calories! The quarantine might as well be called "fitness bootcamp" or "weight loss bootcamp". Regardless, it suited us!
Music was also a good company in "prison". Either relaxing or pumping, music is an absolute mood booster! We have our travel BOSE speaker and also had a sound bar in the apartment. They worked wonders!
We each had our personal projects and also collaborated on a number of projects to keep mentally stimulated. It turned out to be a valuable length of time to organise, research and sort out things that were on our mind but we previously had been too busy to concentrate on. We very much enjoyed the quiet dedicated times when we sat in front of the computer with a cup of tea/coffee, without having to be pressured or distracted by other itineraries in the calendar.
After our first negative COVID test on Day 7, we were allowed to hang out at the hotel pool area for one hour each day. It was a welcoming additional daily event! We got to breathe the outdoor air and stroll along the infinity pool - a slight taste of freedom!
We booked the hourly "relaxation time" in advance at the same time each day so that it fit into our other daily routines. We found maintaining these daily routines helpful as we just naturally moved on to the next "thing" when it was time throughout the day without having to think too much.
Of course having Facetime and speaking with our family and friends provided a nice distraction and made us feel still connected with the real world. We didn't wake up one day and start to suspect we lived in "The Truman Show"!
In addition to everything above, we also had a giant TV with a lot of channels, some TV shows and movies on our laptops and books on the Kindle. One could hardly get bored when equipped like that!
So that's how we survived the 15 day quarantine in Bangkok. "Survive" is probably not accurate as we actually enjoyed the time and didn't once feel bored or restless. Considering we both normally prefer outdoors to indoors, we can proudly pat each other on the back and say that we managed remarkably well!
We hope that we don't have to do this again, but if we have to, at least we know what to do after this positive experience.