In collaboration with Aman Resorts, we’re giving away one complimentary night for two in the idyllic Amanpuri, Thailand (valued at over US$1,000) to a lucky someone.

Giveaway ends on 18 September 2020 and the winner will be announced on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. 

Simply read Nicolas’ journal and answer a few simple questions to participate in this giveaway. Hit the button below to enter. Good luck!

“I had three COVID-19 tests done during the quarantine in total… the mouth and throat test, and the nose test, but I wouldn’t say they were as uncomfortable as I imagined they would be. If I were to compare these tests to a blood test for example, I’d say blood tests are worse. But I guess this is relative.”

by Nicolas Ilickovic, Amanpuri’s new General Manager

What would you do if your dream job required you to travel across the world from the northern tip of Africa all the way to Southeast Asia during a pandemic?  

For Nicolas Ilickovic, this meant undertaking an adventurous multi-city crossing over three continents and four countries – travelling more than 9,000 miles, and about 17 days to reach his destination.  

As the general manager for Amanjena in Marrakech, Morocco for the last four and half years under Aman, a luxury hotel and resort group in 20 countries, he was offered an opportunity to move to Amanpuri in Phuket, Thailand. An exciting new chapter lay ahead. 

Nicolas shares with us the first-hand experience of this journey from start to end: From flight bookings, paperwork and swab tests, to two weeks’ worth of quarantine – and finally, to settling back into normalcy after arriving in paradise.  

 

The night before Nicolas’ journey

“For me, the most tedious part about travelling has always been the paperwork, and it’s no different during this pandemic. In fact, I feared there would be even more paperwork than usual, and expected it to be extremely challenging. Thankfully, with the help of the Thailand Embassy, it went a lot smoother than anticipated.  

Booking the flight from Morocco to Istanbul was still a very tedious process. The website wasn’t working and travel regulations were unclear. I called the airline, but they weren’t accepting bookings, and stating that only Turkish people could travel. From what I’ve gathered from my research, I didn’t believe this to be true. I had to attempt to book the flight several times online before finally purchasing a ticket. I’m lucky to have dual-nationality – and managed to confirm a booking with my Australian passport.  

Before setting off on my travels, there were some extra steps involved that weren’t there pre-pandemic. I had to do a COVID-19 swab test at Amanjena, which was covered by health insurance. I tested negative for this and was required to produce a certificate for it.  

I remember the particularly hectic night drive I made from Marrakech to Casablanca to catch my flight. It was right before the government made an announcement to suspend cross-city travel. The borders were closing at midnight, and traffic was crazy. Usually, it would take me two hours, but I took more than double the time that evening.” 

Arriving at the Istanbul airport

The first flight: Morocco to Istanbul

“I finally arrived at the Mohammad V Airport in Casablanca, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it looked clean, meaning the COVID-19 precautions must be in place.  

I boarded a brand-new Air Arabia aircraft, where I joined about 20 passengers travelling this route. The cabin crew were wearing masks and goggles, and the plane has been wiped down and sanitised. I experienced a much more hygienic and socially-distanced flight than usual.  Passengers could pre-order snacks and water to consume on the plane, and also had the option to bring their own food and beverages onboard.  

We also had to fill in a form to state where we have been and where we were heading before landing.  

After about six-and-a-half hours, I landed in Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. The airport was quite crowded and the rules seemed more relaxed – there were no temperature checks. I passed through immigration, grabbed my luggage, and was free to move as usual. There were no social distancing procedures in place and the measures were not as strict as I had expected them to be, which was rather worrying. I felt more relieved when I observed that the taxi drivers took precautions themselves, such as wearing masks and having sanitisers at hand. 

Later that day, I checked into my hotel. The hotel staff were sanitising suitcases, wiping down handles and wheels and I felt assured. I stayed there for one night – there was no need for me to serve quarantine. 

I was pleased to see the hotel taking more precautions than the airport. Stickers were placed on sanitised areas. I enjoyed food that was safe for consumption. Meals and drinks were protected with a plastic cover, and the tables where people ate were cleaned frequently.   

However, I noticed that there were no contact tracing measures.” 

The second flight: Istanbul to Singapore

“My next flight was from Istanbul’s new airport to Singapore. Check-in at the airport went smoothly. The airport was huge but empty, and I heard constant reminders for everyone to wear masks and sanitise their hands.  

Representatives of the Thailand Embassy greeted me at the counter. This was pre-arranged by the consulate and the Aman HR Team, so I felt at ease.  

The airport lounge had a hot buffet with someone serving the food, possibly for hygiene reasons. The Istanbul airport provided sanitisers and mask packs for the passengers.   

A few hours later, I boarded the Singapore Airlines A350 aircraft on Business Class. Passengers were given masks, goggles and gloves. However, I found a few things missing from a typical Singapore Airlines Business Class flight. There were no duty-free magazines and booklets in their usual places, and secondly, they were not serving any alcohol. I suppose this was the airline’s effort to increase protection from COVID-19. Dining on board remained pretty much the same as before. 

Passengers that were transiting in Singapore were not allowed to leave the aircraft, so we had to wait onboard. No new passengers joined us on the plane, aside from some cabin crew that embarked.” 

Onboard the Singapore Airlines A350 flight bound for Singapore

The third flight: Singapore to Bangkok 

“On the third leg of my trip, the plane flew from Singapore to Bangkok and landed in Suvarnabhumi Airport. 

Staff clad in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) conducted temperature checks at the airport. I recall taking the escalator and being asked to sit down to complete the paperwork. Passengers were called one-by-one to pass through immigration and another temperature screening was taken.  

There was a dedicated shuttle bus waiting to bring me to my pre-booked hotel to serve the 14-day quarantine. My luggage was also disinfected before I could take it with me. 

Upon arrival, I had to swap my shoes for slippers that were provided by the hotel. Then, I was escorted to my room, where a COVID test was conducted. It’s been a week or so, but no results have been shared with me yet. 

There is an AOT Airports application that all inbound passengers and tourists are required to download for contact tracing purposes.”

Landing in the Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Two weeks of quarantine 

“So far, I’m about a week into the 14-day quarantine. Two temperature checks are conducted daily.  

I’ve done a bit of online shopping and bought myself a yoga mat and some dumbbells to keep myself occupied. It’s nice that we can get almost anything delivered to the hotel. However, food delivery is not allowed, unless it is for bottled water, an option for people who want to drink water of a higher quality.” 

Exercising in the hotel room

Post-quarantine 

“After eight days of quarantine, I was allowed to go outside for an hour. I say outside, but I was really still bound within hotel grounds. There were activities such as mini-golf and tennis lessons for booking. I could also go to the gym at a specific timeslot. I believe this was one of the few hotels that allowed people to go outdoors, so I felt lucky. I took my time to walk around in the park and the weather was lovely.  

Personally, I found weekends particularly challenging, because I didn’t have work to keep me busy. The last four days were the most difficult. Plus, the food was getting a bit monotonous.  

I had three COVID-19 tests done during the quarantine in total. There were the mouth and throat test, and the nose test, but I wouldn’t say they were as uncomfortable as I imagined they would be.   If I were to compare these tests to a blood test for example, I’d say blood tests are worse. But I guess this is relative. 

Soon, it was time for me to check out of the hotel – I felt very emotional, but it also felt great to be free. I went straight to Suvarnabhumi Airport to catch a domestic flight to Phuket. The airport was busier than expected, but I was delighted that everything went smoothly with the precautions in place.” 

Waiting area at the Suvarnabhumi Airport

The fourth flight: Bangkok to Phuket  

“For the final leg of my trip, I flew with Bangkok Airways. The plane was about 75% full, with passengers who were mostly locals and a few expats. I assumed most of them lived in Bangkok and were heading to Phuket for a weekend getaway. It was quite a short flight, and there were no meals or drinks served. I didn’t notice any special safety measures. Everyone was wearing their masks, but that was all. 

I landed in Phuket International Airport. Temperature checks were carried out. There was a QR code to ensure that you check in and out for contact tracing purposes. Everything went smoothly after that. A private vehicle from Amanpuri picked me up, and I soon found myself receiving a big and warm welcome from the team.  

I was happy to go back to normalcy, welcoming guests in Phuket and creating memorable stays for them.” 

Warm welcome at Amanpuri, Phuket

Advice for people planning to travel 

“As many countries are doing their best in dealing with the pandemic right now, there’s still so much uncertainty around travel and immigration. Things might change at the drop of a hat. So, my advice to you is to stay flexible. Remember to pack light and avoid large carry-on bags as most airlines limit these onboard the aircraft. Be prepared to cooperate with the rules and regulations of the different countries, even if you must go through tedious situations that were never there before, be it quarantine, temperature checks or tests. Facing change is always challenging, and it helps to remind ourselves that everyone is in this together. 

I’d also advise you to do your own research with due diligence. It never hurts to be more informed. For Thailand, they’ve managed to keep the case numbers low, but that may not be the same for another country. Keep up on news updates and exercise awareness and wisdom in making decisions, not just for yourself, but also consider how it will ripple out in effect for others as well.  

I believe that everything will work out in its own time. Till then, I’ll look forward to the day where I’ll be able to welcome you to Amanpuri in Phuket.” 

In collaboration with Aman Resorts, we’re giving away one complimentary night for two in the idyllic Amanpuri, Thailand (valued at over US$1,000) to a lucky someone.

Giveaway ends on 18 September 2020 and the winner will be announced on our Instagram and Facebook accounts.

Simply read Nicolas’ journal and answer a few simple questions to participate in this giveaway. Hit the button below to enter. Good luck!

More ways to escape

Here at Blue Sky Escapes, we want you to be confident when you travel. Click here for our COVID-19 Travel Advisory & FAQs. For any questions, get in touch with a travel consultant or contact us at [email protected].