The melodious lilt of a sawasdee kaa has never sounded sweeter than when I stepped off the plane in Bangkok, Thailand, a couple of weeks ago. After two years of struggling to stay sane and keep my career as a travel journalist afloat, I finally buckled under the weight of Hong Kong’s dynamic zero-Covid-19 policy and set off for the Land of Smiles, unsure of when I might be able to return home without enduring lengthy quarantine. Following the limited success of last autumn’s Phuket Sandbox scheme (which allowed travellers to move around the country following a loose seven-day confinement on the island), Thailand became one of the first countries in Asia (along with Sri Lanka and Cambodia) to scrap quarantine on arrival for visitors. Now Thailand has Test & Go , which involves pre-booking a single night in a hotel certified by the Safety and Health Administration (rated SHA+), a private transfer and a PCR test. The official list of hotels (web.thailandsha.com/shaextraplus) has hundreds of options, with prices varying from about US$64 to US$128 per person. Depending on which package you opt for, the test is administered either at the airport or when you arrive at your hotel. At the Capella Bangkok, my result – negative – came back in six hours, after which time I was free to leave my room. Booking your Test & Go package is Part One. For Part Two, you’ll then have to apply for a Thailand Pass. It’s free but a bit fussy; I had to upload copies of my passport, vaccination certificate, booking confirmation and a medical insurance policy with a minimum US$20,000 of coverage (for ease, I bought the one advertised on the Thailand Pass website, costing around US$32 for two weeks of cover). Inexplicably, every document has to be filed in either a JPEG or PNG format , which slowed things down. You don’t need to have booked your flight at this point but you will need to input the flight number you are going to book. Once everything is submitted, there’s a wait of up to seven working days for the pass to be approved. Like most of the travellers I spoke to, my pass was approved within 72 hours (I received an email confirmation with a QR code), although I did receive Twitter DMs from a handful of Hong Kong travellers who had to make panicked visits to the Thai consulate to ask for help expediting their applications when time ran short. Try to leave as much time as you can to submit your application. (At the time of my departure, Thailand also required a negative PCR test taken no earlier than 72 hours before departure but this requirement is being dropped on April 1, along with the need for a rapid antigen test on day five of your stay.) If you’ve been through Hong Kong’s lengthy, nerve-jangling airport arrival process and are expecting something similar in Thailand, fear not. There was no goon squad clad head to toe in personal protective equipment waiting when I disembarked. I was politely directed by uniformed, masked staff towards a socially distanced waiting area, where my paperwork was checked, and then on to the Thailand Pass desk, where my paperwork was processed. The whole endeavour took less than 10 minutes (my advice is to print everything to help smooth the way). Just over an hour after landing, I had passed through immigration, picked up my luggage and was in a Mercedes-Benz on my way to the new Capella Bangkok. Thailand is a country that has decided to treat Covid-19 as endemic, rather than pandemic. That doesn’t mean the authorities are just letting the virus rip; there are still mitigations in place, including social distancing and mask-wearing, but otherwise life is returning to something resembling normality. The Omicron variant has reached Thailand and case numbers are rising, with the country reporting more than 24,300 daily. But 91.3 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated and Omicron-related hospital admissions and death rates remain relatively low. As I waited for my test result on the balcony of my room, watching rice barges and long-tail boats glide up and down the Chao Phraya River, two years of tension began to dissipate from my body. My shoulders slumped and I felt almost tearful as I reflected on just how alien and unhealthy the environment had been in Hong Kong . There was still a chance that I would have to spend 10 days in Thai hotel quarantine (courtesy of my insurance policy) had I tested positive but, thankfully, that didn’t happen, leaving me free to explore the delights of Thailand at my leisure. Since arriving two weeks ago, my spirits have lifted immeasurably. I’ve been massaged more often than a Wagyu cow, hung out with friends drinking mojitos at busy rooftop bars, encountered wild elephants and Asian porcupine in the wilds of Khao Yai National Park and eaten river prawns as big as my fist on a rice barge in Ayutthaya. The benefits of travel have long been extolled, but few trips have healed me quite like this one.