Flights canceled, Phuket Sandboxers? How about an expensive, 16-hour ride to Bangkok?

With domestic flights grounded and Phuket island sealed off until at least mid-August, the authorities have come up with a marvelous idea: packing travelers aboard a bus to breathe the same air all 16 hours to Bangkok.

After Phuket authorities announced Monday that they’d dreamed up a “Sandbox Express Bus” to Suvarnabhumi Airport, it was quickly taken apart for being expensive, slow and impractical.

For over twice what such a trip would normally cost, passengers can pay THB1,500 (US$45) for a journey that sets out before dawn and arrives when curfew begins, effectively stranding those who aren’t flying out of the country at the airport. 

Starting tomorrow, the “sandbox express bus” leaves at 5am from the Central Phuket Festival shopping mall or 5:30am from the PTT gas station in Thalang. Passengers are promised a 9pm arrival at Suvarnabhumi International Airport. Seats are reserved for international travelers who arrived via the Phuket Sandbox scheme and their families. It will run through Aug. 16. More details are available online.

The offer raised eyebrows, especially given that most sandboxers are residents looking for a way home.

“Why don’t you offer flights instead? When the buses arrive in Bangkok, curfew will have already started,” Facebooker Hashimoto Riko wrote in reference to the current 9pm to 4am curfew. “This is even worse. Why don’t you limit flights on each day? I’m so confused. If you’re not ready to open [Phuket Sandbox], shut it already.”

“The fee is 1,500THB? Meanwhile a flight costs 600-1,000THB and you can get to BKK in 1 hour…” Pannalak Siripong wrote. “Plus, Bangkok starts curfew at 21.00, please reconsider about arrival time.”

Last month’s freeze on domestic travel followed by the island’s traffic closure have left many returning travelers in the lurch, unable to complete their journey home after completing their mandated 14 days of resort island quarantine. The only remaining option? A road trip of nearly 900 kilometers through a dozen provinces.

Thailand this morning reported 18,901 infections and 147 deaths.

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