Survival instinct is in full swing nowadays
For several months, we have faced restrictions to contain Covid-19, which has led to social media becoming an important tool to reduce stress and stay in touch with friends.
Sharing previous photos of white sand beaches or tourist spots from a mobile phone album or Facebook memories is the easiest way for me to satisfy my wanderlust. When a few of my friends saw the photos, they joked that their legs had atrophied or that they felt bedridden since they couldn't plan a holiday trip. Their quips made me laugh.
This month, the government eased restrictions in dark red zone provinces, allowing 10 types of businesses to resume operations and reduced the curfew to 10pm until 4am. Restaurants are also allowed to remain open until 9pm, which means I have more time for supper if I'm away from home.
Earlier, I would finish work late and rush to a nearby shopping mall to find something to eat but all restaurants were closed by 7.30pm. I had no choice but to return home and make instant noodles. That was the first time I realised how inconvenient it is to not have a convenience store open 24 hours.
We've been working from home for several months and this has been a good opportunity to switch things up and renew our spirits. Last week, I persuaded my friends to arrange a walking trip to the Charoen Krung neighbourhood and go cafe hopping.
Upon arrival, I witnessed that many street food shops near the BTS station were packed with local residents and riders from delivery applications while other cafe hoppers searched for new spots to hang out and take selfies, leaving me with the impression that everything is getting back to normal.
However, just 400m away from the street food area, the mood was far different. More than 50 shophouses, which normally function as silver jewellery stores, sat vacant and both sides of the street appeared lonely.
As I continued strolling, I came upon a new cafe and struck a conversation with its welcoming owner. She worked for one of Thailand's leading men's magazines before teaming up with her close friend to open this cafe three months ago. Bangkok had been designated as a high-risk area at that time and the government had enforced dine-in restrictions.
"We like coffee and this is the place of our dreams. Many people warned us that starting a business at this time was a bad idea but we saw it as an opportunity to learn how to solve a problem. Everything has been planned for a year and no matter what happens, we must continue on with our lives. However, our employees, like us, must make a living. We can't give up. Of course, we might make less money, but it's better than not having any," she said.
She's really lucky. Despite only takeaway being allowed, her cafe became popular. When dine-in restrictions were lifted, it became a hip spot for local residents, office workers and friends to unwind and gather during the day.
She was correct in thinking outside the box. I admire her courage because she's a good example of adjusting to a difficult situation. It's not easy to get out of one's comfort zone during a crisis.
I continued my sightseeing tour to a popular warehouse art space, which was previously bustling with art galleries, coffee shops and a vintage boutique. It now seems forlorn, with only a few shops still in operation.
Along the narrow alleyways of Talat Noi, walls of street art serve as a popular picturesque backdrop for pedestrians and they led me to another new Thai-style teahouse run by a product designer and a local restaurateur, who wants to reintroduce the teahouse tradition to young generations.
Just opened last month, this cafe and showroom serves high-quality Thai teas while showcasing the intricate craftsmanship of skilled artisans from around the country. From behind the counter, the two owners shared their perspectives on sustainability.
"Our cafe is decorated to be linked to a Chinese shrine and boasts some eco-friendly home decor items as well as fashion apparel. We thought the Covid-19 crisis would create a new commercial environment for us. It's not a competition, but rather a collective effort to encourage each other inside our communities. New luxury will be what we value," they said.
Available are four options of tea from the North and South, infused with local herbs and fruits to reflect the charm of Thai-Chinese culture. For example, Bua Loi is a mixture of black tea, mango and dried ginger.
Besides sipping good tea, this is a place to learn about sustainable living as the world deals with a virus outbreak. As the descending sun changed the sky's colour from blue to saffron over the Chao Phraya River, it reminded us that our half-day trip was coming to a close and that we had to be home by 10pm.
Although nobody knows when the virus crisis will end, life must go on. This is what I've learned on my journey. For me, it's the charm of travelling to be able to observe local life and interact with folk. Different stories might sometimes motivate us to overcome challenges.
Pattarawadee Saengmanee is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.