This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.
Some people simply can’t stand eating alone but the coronavirus is now forcing many of us to conquer this fear. In Thailand, a restaurant found a way to follow social distancing measures, while providing their customers with company.
Lone diners at Maison Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant in Bangkok, can now enjoy their meals with stuffed pandas, turning the pandemic into an, er, panda-mic.
Ba dum tss.
As of writing, there are 3,031 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Thailand. The number of daily new cases reported have dropped significantly in recent weeks, with less than 10 cases reported every day since early May. With the slowing of virus transmission, Thailand started easing its nationwide lockdown restrictions on May 3. Restaurants can now welcome diners with social distancing measures in place, such as using plastic partitions to separate customers and seating diners at least 1.5 metres apart from one another.
While some establishments went the obvious route and just marked their seats with tape to say “keep off,” Maison Saigon went for a friendlier approach.
Restaurant owner Natthwut Rodchanapanthkul told VICE that marking empty seats with an ‘X’ can be quite stressful, so they went for the pandas instead.
“I wish the customers will be [relaxed] and feel comfortable when they sit in the restaurant,” he said.
So, the restaurant ordered some stuffed pandas off the internet to keep diners company while reminding them to observe social distancing rules. The pandas have been a welcome addition, adding a touch of homeyness to the restaurant.
“The customers [smile] when they see the stuffed pandas [sitting] around the restaurant,” said Natthwut.
According to Natthwut, when their stuffed pandas started gaining online attention, some people even reserved tables just to sit with the stuffed animals.
Whatever makes this global nightmare more bearable, I guess.
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