Daily Phuket #83: 20 November 2021 – Mail…Finally!!

Back in late April or early May, the main Thailand Post international mail processing center at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport (pronounced /Su-wana-poom/) was shut down when several workers were diagnosed with COVID-19. As the Third Wave of the pandemic took hold, most overseas mail stopped. I am not sure when it resumed in Bangkok but here in Phuket, the local post offices were shuttered once the province was sealed to all non-essential traffic. Over the past six months, most trucks bearing mail were prevented from reaching the island although there were sporadic domestic deliveries. At various times, these restrictions were relaxed only to be tightened up when new outbreaks of the virus appeared.

This afternoon, I was shocked to find a stack of mail addressed to me sitting on the front counter of my guesthouse. This was the first mail from overseas that I have received in many, many months although one or two domestic items had arrived a earlier this month (coupons from my grocery store’s loyalty card and a reminder that my bank card was due to expire at the end of May — long since taken care of, I might add). The mail today was mostly philatelic in nature plus there were a couple of surprises. It really felt like an early Christmas unwrapping!

There were four packets from a couple of stamp dealers in the United States and one from Canada. They all contained stamps, postal covers or postcards and were items I’d purchased on eBay a very long time ago. In fact, I’d completely forgotten about them! At some time, I will scan and share some of the more interesting items (there are a few postcards that I scratched my head over, wondering “Why?”). There were also a couple of catalogues from a Danish stamp dealer as well as bulletins from the postal service of Liechtenstein. I never order anything from the latter but the country’s stamps are beautiful and they publish one of the most informative bulletins in the hobby.

Probably the longest-awaited piece of mail was one sent by a trading partner of mine who is based in Penang, Malaysia. I sent him a postcard bearing Thailand’s first COVID-19 stamps when they were issued more than one year ago. In exchange, he would send me a card bearing Malaysia’s COVID-19 stamps upon their release. At the time, POS Malaysia had them scheduled for early October 2020. That date was pushed back numerous times (I think almost every month, they announced a new first day of issue). They finally came out on 9 September (2021)! At that time, Malaysia could not sent any mail to Thailand but Singapore was open so my partner put two postcards inside of an envelope sending those to another friend in the Lion City who then forwarded them to me. It only took 70 days to arrive which is actually fairly normal for mail from Malaysia, Singapore and China to Phuket (I have long thought that they are held up at the Laksi Processing Center in Bangkok before being sent south to the island; this is based on some items receiving a postmark from there). At any rate, I am thrilled to add these to my collection.

I do not know who sent me the cover bearing this pictorial postmark but I suspect it was a member of my Pandemic Philately Facebook group. I couldn’t remember what the significance of this event was but quickly found the information in a post by one of the moderators, Janet Wang (who, amongst her many credentials is on Canada’s version of the USPS Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee):

The small town of Rhododendron, Ore., celebrated 100 years in 2020, but it had to cancel its events because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But this proud community wasn’t going to let that setback derail its plans altogether, so the Community Planning Organization regrouped and held a new celebration, called Centennial+1, on Aug. 14.
The community was named Rhododendron on Jan. 26, 1920, but the land’s story goes way back. According to the Community Planning Organization, “Indigenous people have inhabited this area for thousands of years … The area around what is now Rhododendron was a traditional gathering place for various tribes who hunted and gathered food and traded with each other … [It] was, and still is, an important spiritual, cultural and economic location where many of the tribes meet.”

Janet Wang, Pandemic Philately post, 18 August 2021

The surprises came in the form of two t-shirts. My younger sister visited Mexico with her husband and son quite some time ago (July, maybe?) and asked if I wanted a souvenir. I suggested a t-shirt with an Aztec design. She certainly came through on that one! I absolutely love it and will probably wear it sometime next week if I can coax myself outside (it has been pouring rain for days and days with the upcoming week’s forecast looking like more of the same).

The second t-shirt was sent by a former student of mine who attended the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. She is a gymnastics coach on the South Korean team and says in her note that this is the first of several things she picked up for me (including some stamps and postcards). The shirt is reminiscent of Japanese artwork I found representing tsunami waves (and something I used when designing my local post stamps for the 10th anniversary of the tsunami that hit Phuket). It’s a thin material which should be comfortable when our sun decides to reappear (January and February are usually our hottest months so I might not wear it until then).

The back of the shirt repeats the design….

Now that mail seems to be moving to and from Thailand, I am partially inspired to send out a few Christmas cards this year but in postcard form to cut down on postage costs. Earlier this year, the cost to send a postcard overseas increased from 15 baht to 30 baht (just under one U.S. dollar). But a bigger problem than the postage cost itself is trying to find the stamps. The vast majority of stamps issued by Thailand are in 3-baht or 5-baht denominations meaning you would cover the entire postcard with stamps. Some of the Royal birthday issues are 9- or 10-baht but difficult to find. In fact, the only place on Phuket where one can purchase any of the special (commemorative) stamps are from the Philatelic Museum next to the main Phuket Town post office. It has not reopened yet. It is very difficult to buy regular (definitive) stamps at the main post office and when you can find somebody to help you, they never have the correct denominations or they do not understand exactly what you are asking for. If the Thailand Post website were in English, I would just order from Bangkok and I may try that yet. eBay is another — albeit expensive — option.

I do know the postcards that I would like to send, however, and they have inspired me further. Well-known Thailand-based blogger Richard Barrow tweeted today about a calendar he’d received from a company called Bangkok Snow Removal. The images he showed were intriguing fantasy scenes of a Bangkok crippled by heavy snowfall (there are records of only one snowfall occurring in the Land of Smiles, near Chiang Mai back in the 1950s). I checked out the website to determine the cost of the calendar (400 baht for either a wall version or a desktop calendar). They also have several themed packets of six greeting cards each (250 baht) and the same for postcards (150 baht). That postcard price works out to 25 baht per card which is exactly the same as for standard-sized postcards in any local shop. Free shipping sealed the deal and I duly placed an order (my first “non-essential item” purchase since the schools closed again in mid-October).

Here are a couple of samples of the postcards:

Curb-side lottery ticket sellers in China Town
The red vehicle is a small songteaw (“three benches”) which it the style most of the so-called tuk-tuk’s in Phuket use. A couple of soi dogs look on and you can see Chinese-style lanterns in a shop. There’s even a True-TV satellite dish…

My favorite image is one of the front entrance to a 7-Eleven convenience store with a kid making a snow angel in front of it. I will post an image of it when the cards arrive. I have already received an email from the company’s owner (a Canadian expat which explains all the snow) saying he will send my order by EMS on Monday. I’m really looking forward to receiving these. Now, to find stamps to mail them…

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