Notwithstanding the pandemic, the past year gave us some things to be excited about. In case you forgot about them, here are a dozen reasons why 2020 was sometimes okay, and why we should be bullish about the future, too.
We made gains in equality, LGBTI rights, and body positivity
In July, Thailand moved to back same-sex unions, passing a draft bill that would grant these partnerships most, if not all, the same rights as marriages. Some provincial offices also started to allow workers to dress according to their gender identity. Meanwhile, drag star Angele Anang took to her platform to stump for body positivity, launching a #prouddarker campaign that sought to destigmatize dark skin.
Nature started to recover
Without 40 million tourists thundering around Thailand, the natural ecosystem began to heal this year. Turtles returned to Koh Samui, dugongs came back to Trang, blacktip reef sharks were found in Phi Phi’s beleaguered Maya Bay. Just ignore the annual burning in the North and the recurring PM2.5 problems in Bangkok, and you’ve got a natural paradise in the works.
Milli blew up the Internet
Arguably the year’s biggest hit—in Thailand, we mean; no one is topping The Weeknd or Dua Lipa—came from this under-18 upstart. Fresh, clever, and featuring a chorus that’s tailor-made to shout along with, Milli’s “Pakkorn” blew up the Internet at the start of the year (78 million views and counting on Youtube). Since then, the Gen Z rap star has released other bangers that prove the future of music in Thailand is looking up.
Hygiene is now a thing
Few things strike terror in your heart quite like walking into a restroom in Lumphini, Benjakitti, or any of Bangkok’s parks, for that matter. Okay, sure, maybe that experience hasn’t improved at all, but on the bright side, we’ve all become more aware of the value of practicing good hygiene since the whole pandemic thing kicked off.
Entrepreneurs made a difference in our lives
2020 was the year we saw bright-minded businessfolk fight food waste, transform street food to better fit our increasingly advanced lives, make us really care about sustainable fashion, and put better coffee in your morning cup via special delivery services, among many other cool ideas turned into business models.
The democracy movement took off
It’s real, it’s vibrant, and the desire for freedom of speech has never been made more apparent. Words have been spoken and lines have been crossed that seemed unthinkable a couple of years ago. If you believe in democracy, 2020 should have given you some hope.
Image: Park Hyatt Bangkok
Five-star hotels became accessible
Too broke to afford to stay in a luxury hotel that normally caters to European or Chinese tourists? Not in 2020. This year, many top hotels that seemed inaccessible suddenly had space for you, and at prices you could afford. Without international travelers, you were almost always assured a room, so you could finally find out what all the fuss was about over a weekend-long staycation. Odds are good you’ll enjoy the same opportunities for much of next year, too.
We had time to explore new hobbies or rediscover old ones
When we were all told to #stayhome, many of us discovered hidden talents in cooking, dancing, TikToking, fermenting, or more. Lockdown was often terrible, but having time to try new things without FOMO or commutes getting in the way was awesome.
Working from home was normalized
Speaking of commutes, who needs ’em? Nearly everyone had to adjust to working from home in April and May. Many discovered that, hey, despite what your boss always argued, you could do it successfully, and it might have improved your quality of life, too.
A lot of BTS and MRT extensions were added
Moving around in a city that boasts some of the world’s worst traffic got a lot easier this year. BTS extensions added 19km of tracks stretching from Mo Chit to Khu Khot in northern Bangkok. In December, Thonburi welcomed its new Gold Line, featuring a non-train that shuttles people to the gilded behemoth that is IconSiam. The MRT, meanwhile, now links up at Tha Phra. In 2021, BTS Suksa Witthaya will finally open by Sathorn Soi 12, while intersecting lines of various shades—pink, orange, brown, light red—are slated to be completed within the next four years.
More bars opened with signs and real doors
2020 was the year Bangkok bars finally ditched bookcases, phone booths, and secret buttons cloaking their entryways. We’re still not over calling legally operating bars speakeasies, but at least we lost a lot of the gimmicks.
Weed is now kind of, sort of, basically legal
Since legalizing marijuana in 2018, Thailand has continued to take steps toward full, actual legalization. In January, a medical marijuana clinic attached to the Health Ministry opened, offering free cannabis to patients. Currently, almost 150 clinics are allowed to prescribe cannabis, too. Now, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul hopes to grant private operators the freedom to grow and trade marijuana for export and import, part of a greater strategy to turn Thailand into a medical marijuana tourism destination.