Happy pre-Covid times
A remote workforce drone and a bit of a traveller here.
Start of 2020: Successfully completed some nice IT project and went on some leisure travel in Asia.
Mid-Jan 2020: Rented a motorcycle in Hanoi and went to the North of Vietnam to personally witness the breathtaking natural landscapes and suicidal Hmong drivers. Then 2 weeks in the mountains on a Honda, insanely beautiful mountain backroads like ĐT217, ĐT176, ĐT177, bamboo cable ferries, otherwordly Avatarish landscapes, rice terraces the size of Bali, tribal people living in huts, drunken locals do all sorts of crazy death driving on unfenced mountain roads, sickening scary ĐT197C road, tens of miles of thick unbroken fog everywhere. Calm. Joy. Solitude. Riding some roads alone in the North is stupid bordering a suicide, better befriend a fellow biker. Wow, I am officially a goy shel shabat now, how did this happen? Some news about the "new virus" in China but no one is worried. The sick bats' caves are right across the border, over the mountain. Maybe some on this side of the border too, there is no such thing as border control if you are a bat.
Start of Feb 2020: Rode down south to Phong Nha. Wow. Stunning caves, several from top-10 world largest all in one place. Lots of fellow travellers, great vibe. Crossed from North Vietnam to South Vietnam. Feels like a different country, different everything, road quality, people attitude, English ability, beer brands, public transport. All magically changes right after the bridge which is the old border. Same bad driving though. Huế, Da Nang, Hội An are really nice despite very touristy but cannot compete with the natural grandeur of the mountains. First concerns about the "new virus" spreading outside China and some venues are closed but just because of the Tết holidays. Old ladies on scooters keep ramming my bike from behind, which is a local custom. Former US airbase fields in Da Nang and Pleiku are nothing to see despite high expectations. Ok, just need to ride and I've got some Wagner for myself. Road to Pleiku has hordes of green mosquitoes the size of a bee, have to wipe the visor every few seconds and worse, these beasts are sticky and explode! Why don't they make visor wipers? Oh they do? I need one now!
Mid-Feb 2020: Lots of cool places while riding along the coast, Qui Nhơn is super cool with zero tourists, Mekong delta is so bloody long. Got stuck at the Côn Sơn prison island for a week because of the damn high waves. No regrets getting stuck at a tropical paradise and a premium place despite its dark past. And the seafood... The French prisons are as monumental as the Ancient Roman architecture and look ready-to-use. The US concentration camps on the contrary are falling apart cheap concrete structures. There used to be a LORAN navigation station at Con Son, destroyed by the US when leaving, just some concrete foundations and bridges left but it was cool to compare with the old photos. Found the massive concrete base for the colossal LORAN antenna though! Suddenly a lot of fear about the Covid around, locals think that all the Chinese are contagious and refuse to host them or come close to them. But hey, this is Asia, people are very different here.
End of Feb 2020: Some serious panic starts about the virus, most islands are closed to all foreigners because "the foreigners carry the virus" but Phú Quốc is still business as usual. Sun, sea and beach: finally, properly hot weather and a warm sea! And more seafood! Fantastic time at the island, and getting back to Sài Gòn to return the bike there. 4'000 miles on a bike in Vietnam and not becoming a roadkill - not too bad! I will miss you too Honda!
Start of Mar 2020: Moving to Thailand, Phuket is full of tourists as usual, no one cares about the virus when there is money to be made. More sun, more sea and more beach in Phuket but Ko Lanta is just 4 hours ride and no crowds there! Malaysia is not too far as well but returning the bike is problematic. Booked flights for Malaysia.
Mid-Mar 2020: Phuket authorities insist there is no Covid on the island which is apparently an understatement. Entertainment venues are ordered to close. My flights to Malaysia are cancelled. There are fewer tourists but the remaining ones are super happy and many aim to pleasantly spend a month or 2 while things are settling down. No one really expects the virus to last long.
End of Mar 2020: Restaurants and food courts are ordered to close or work as takeaways. Beaches are closed but it is only enforced after a few days. The locals panic and blame "Europeans"/"Americans" for bringing in the virus. Some people start to throw stones at foreigners not wearing face masks. Phuket authorities are going to severe all air and land connections and become a "fortress island". Things are getting worse by the hour. It will not end quick. Better be getting out of here. I am able to book the flight from Phuket back home. It is cancelled. I am able to book another one. It is the very last one to depart and there are no international flights after that. The beaches are empty, an impossible sight for Phuket, and so beautiful. The weather is fantastic.
I'll get myself a beer.