General, Travel

The Terror of the Visa Run: The Visa Run Strikes Back

I love Thailand, I really do. The weather is great, the people are lovely, the country is beautiful. There is a way of life here that I haven’t ever experienced before and that I will miss hugely when I leave.

That said, I won’t miss the bureaucracy, and the instability with my visa situation one bit.

This week, we finally got the email confirmation that let us know we needed to make our way to Bangkok, as soon as possible, to process our non-immigrant B visa.They let us know that all the paperwork was now ready and complete, and we should receive the guarantee letter that would be the last piece of the puzzle we required. They arrived on Friday, and after the initial mistake listing Jade as a Chinese Teacher rather than English and the resulting drive to Amnat Chareon for he co-teacher, we were ready to rock and roll. And because Thailand doesn’t really do plans, we set off on an overnight bus to Bangkok that evening.

The advantage of going on a random Monday evening and returning on a bus as soon as we’re done is that we don’t have to shell out for accommodation. The downside is back to back long buses, and then teaching the day after you do all that journeying. Oh, and of course the cost of the buses and varying taxi services to get to and from the bus stations at heavens knows what time.

When we wanted the bus to get in early in Chiang Mai, it was of course late. When we wanted it to get in late this time, it of course arrived early. There is never going to be a good side to being in a dingy bus station at 4am, never. That said, we did meet two lovely Dutch girls there, and ended up sharing a taxi with them to Khao San road to save money and scout of a 24hr coffee place, which of course happened to be McDonalds. After so marking (which jade brought with her), device charging, and wifi abusing, we hatched a plan to get ourselves to the AYC building. A Tuk Tuk, underground ride the entire length of the line, and a motorcycle taxi ride later and we were there, about on time, and ready to get our non-b visas. (well we were, they were surprised to see us, go figure)

I should have felt more nervous on the way to the visa building, but after the smooth ride that was our last extension, any worries I had were put aside. I thought it would be a simple exercise in getting the correct stamps. This remained the same when i saw the size of the building. I think Anfield could have fit in it 4 times over. And there was 3 of them that size. I have a theory that the more important the building, the bigger the picture of the King, and this tribute span the length of one side of this mammoth ‘office’. All our belongings were searched going in, which I suppose makes sense, and we were given tickets and told to wait in a big room full of other white people clutching their passports.

It took a while for either of us to be called, Jade first as she had the lower ticket number. Having waited round before our names were called, I knew it could take time, but it made me edgy how long it was taking. And then she appeared asking the Thai officer who was with us to come and speak to the immigration official. Never what you want to see happen before you go in for an identical interview.

My number was called before I had time to dwell too much. I sat down and handed all of my documents over, which were thoroughly poured over and systematically ticked. After a while, I was asked for the relevant payment and to look into a small camera. I signed the piece of paper and was told to wait outside while my passport was processed. That was when I breathed a sigh of relief (a premature one); if mine had been sorted, surely Jade’s had been.

In a word: no. Jade’s was turned down because of a missing stamp and a copying issue because of her Chinese/English letter. It was so frustrating for me, and it wasn’t mine, as she would have to come back another day to get it done, all the way to Bangkok, on her own. After a while, they called my own, and it turned out there was a problem with my paperwork too, but as they had processed my visa and stamped my passport, could Jade bring it with her when she returned to get the all-important signature inside.

I am really pleased that I have the stamp in my passport now, considering how little time I have left, and the fact that they paid upfront for the visa means that the stamp was the main reason I went to get the visa in the first place. Well, that and what it means for future employment in the UK, butt a lot was because it is a cool stamp to have. AYC left us to get a cab to the bus station, and we booked onto the first bus to Roi-Et, annoyed that we would have to get the poorer day bus, but playing head’s up in Dunkin’ donuts. Got to make the best of situation, or apps/coffee/donuts when they are presented to you.

Th bus journey was long, and too hot, and uncomfy. It was all around rubbish. The toilet was like a rattling box with a tiny hole in the bottom, and the driver kept pulling over to make deals with people of the side of the highway. The highlight of the trip had to be meeting a local Roi-Et guy nicknamed ‘Babe’ (not a joke, it was in the university file he showed us) who was doing his best to use his English to talk to us, and kept flashing us his megawatt smile. I am going to miss how friendly people are, or try to be, even when their English is limited.

We finally got home, and pretty much crashed immediately. The whole situation is an absolute joke, and I’m so glad to be almost done with it. But even with it, the end feels so much closer now, and I’m not as happy about that as I expected to be. I’ll miss this place.

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