Following a positive test on his flight into Cambodia, Globe reporter Alexi Demetriadi is currently being held in quarantine at a Phnom Penh hotel. He has been writing about his experiences in a series of blog posts over the past two weeks. He is also posting on a daily basis on his Twitter account. An account of Alexi’s journey to Phnom Penh from Sydney via Seoul can be read here.
Conversation, chit-chat, talking. An interview ideally should be a hearty mix of penetration and froth, with just a shaving of light, quippy banter. Think Frost and Nixon, Emily Maitlis and Prince Andrew or Graham Norton and guests. Like the window of a train, it’s a chance to glance out and maybe, just maybe, glance in.
Welcome to Quarantine Matters – with me, Alexi Demetriadi – where I bring you a series of hard-hitting – and hard-thinking – interviews with guests from around the world during these crazy times.
Today, I’m talking to a man who perhaps I know better than anyone else. My guest is … Alexi Demetriadi. My guest is myself. It’s me, talking to myself – Alexi/Alexi, Demetriadi-on-Demetriadi.
Alexi has been stuck in a hotel quarantine in Siem Reap, Cambodia for 12 days and as he prepares to check-out, I’m preparing to ‘check-in’. Namely, to check-in with Alexi and see how he is, how he has fared and whether he has any tips for those travelling to Cambodia in the near future.
Peeping behind the curtain, I’ll attempt to enquire, analyse, and like a butcher in a chop-shop, dissect. And I must warn readers, the following transcript is un-redacted, compelling and raw – genuine, quality journalism.
Alexi: Hi, Alexi! Great to see you and thanks for taking the time to talk to us today!
Alexi: No problem.
Alexi: So, first things first – how are you holding up in quarantine in Siem Reap?
Alexi: Phnom Penh … Okay, all things considered! We’re over halfway through the two-week quarantine. It seems to have flown by; time has actually gone really fast – if I had to compare it to an animal, I would say … Sonic the Hedgehog? So hopefully no unforeseen roadblocks and we’ll all be out on Sunday!
Alexi: And how are you being looked after? Nothing like Josh Brolin in that hotel room in Oldboy?
Alexi: (laughing) No, nothing like that at all … we’re being looked after really well. I mean, we’re not allowed out of the room, so as well as you can be looked after with social distancing! We have a temperature test each morning, our meals are brought up each day and you can even get certain deliveries in.
Alexi: Signed, sealed, delivered … gotcha. And how do you keep yourself busy?
Alexi: I’m just ticking along. I’ve tried to focus on work and get as much stuff done as possible, I haven’t got an excuse to be slacking anymore! But it doesn’t always work out like that … but don’t tell my boss! But no, I’ve tried to get a lot of work done – the room has quick wifi and a sturdy table, so it’s pretty easy to get things done.
Alexi: Wonderful. And how do you like to unwind at the end of the day?
Alexi: I’m a sucker for old Saturday Night Live or World Cup clips! Other than that, trying to plough through a couple books – might as well make the most of the free time here. I tend to crack open a cold-one just as the sun sets on the balcony.
Alexi: Sounds wonderful! At the end of a long day I normally like to run a hot, soapy bath, throw on The Very Best of Fleetwood Mac by soft-rock band, Fleetwood Mac, and slowly drift-off to the warm, dulcet tones of Stevie and Lindsay – aaaahhh, bliss.
Is there anything in particular that you’ve learnt from your time in lockdown?
Alexi: I’ve certainly learnt the importance of company! I do miss the chit-chat and being with friends. Sadly, that wasn’t provided with the hotel room – although a waterfall shower was! But I guess any period of isolation or loneliness is an experience, and it’s up to you to keep yourself busy, talk with friends or focus on other activities.
Alexi: I was locked in a supermarket once – couldn’t hear the tannoy from aisle 19 and got distracted looking for some beads. A hell of an experience. But I get what you mean – a period of distance and solitude makes the brain tick, and the heart wander? I was only in there for half-an-hour before the alarm went off, but I think the sentiment remains.
So, Alexi, what are you most looking forward to when you get out?
Alexi: Looking forward to my own bed, some home cooked food and spending some time with friends and family!
Alexi: You’re a breath of fresh air! You really are. Final question – what tips would you give to those thinking of travelling over to Cambodia soon, who may have to go through the same experience?
Alexi: All the information is online, but I guess with most countries being in a state of flux changing day to day, it isn’t necessarily concrete guidance.
It should be all on the Cambodian embassy website of your country, but maybe the vaguest thing is how far in advance your Covid-19 test can be. I think it’s best to get it as close to your arrival time as possible, but mine was 72 hours before the date of departure and that was fine.
Our small group of foreigners all had to put down the $3,000 deposit immediately when we landed – so make sure you have that ready in your account. We were told you can go and claim it back, minus whatever expenses are incurred, 14 days after arrival.
The price for both awaiting results, and the full fortnight quarantine, are laid out on the Ministry of Health website. But I’ve found that the actual price on the ground has differed a bit, and I’m sure others landing on different days, or in another hotel, probably have seen the same.
The hotel staff early-on brought us a breakdown of the costs while staying at the hotel as well the menu and general guidelines, which was appreciated.
For our two-weeks, we’re looking at around $75 for each night with three meals a day provided. The cost of the Covid swab is $100, while there are smaller costs that we’ve incurred, such as the security at the hotel and transport from the airport. So if you get out after just one night, you’ll see the majority of your $3,000 back. But even if, like me, you multiply it by 14 because you’re in lockdown – you still should get a decent chunk of that deposit back.
Alexi: Back of the net! But like the fish and fisherman, I must reel myself in. We talked, we nattered, and we asked – why? And whom and what. And where. Alexi Demetriadi, thank you for joining me on Quarantine Matters. Where quarantine, mattered.
The Alexi Demetriadi(s) portrayed in this interview is highly fictitious and doesn’t represent his real-life self, interests or views. Maybe.