Yes, I’m prone to hyperbole. No, this Old Dog won’t learn new tricks.
OK, it’s hardly a Biblical epic, I admit, but the last 24 hours have been among the most exhausting of my entire life.
I’m writing from Savannakhet, Laos ( see below ) where I’ve gone to get my ‘Non-B’ Thai immigrant Visa.
I got here after an epic sleepless 15-hour bus trip from Rayong, leaving at 4.15 pm Monday, and arriving at Mukdahan, Thailand, at around 7.15 a.m. The long journey into the Night involved a very slow steady climb in altitude, surprisingly cold temperatures in the bus ( compulsory air-conditioning partly to blame ), and a bad-tempered bus conductor. Meanwhile, the road just kept splitting the seams of the night…
But that was only the start of the fun. Then we had to get a bus from Mukdahan to Savannakhet, jumping through all the temporary Laos Visa hoops, and arriving at the Thai Consulate in Savannakhet before it closed at 11 a.m.
During the bus journey, I met a Ukranian bloke ( I’ll call him ‘Vladimir’ ), and Alessandro ( ‘Alex’ ), an Italian, who both claimed to have done this multiple times. We pooled resources at the Mukdahan border to get a taxi to the Embassy. We arrived on good enough time at 10.30 am to find Bad News – a huge snake of a queue several hundred metres long, and apparently very ill. You could tell, because it was moving so slowly.
The Embassy officially closes at 11 a.m., but such were the throngs that at closing time, they just herded everyone inside, and had them wait there.
There were about 300 people queued to apply for their Visa. There was ONE counter operating. We were there through the middle of the day, around 10.30 a.m. to 2 p.m., just queuing. The heat is just brutal. Luckily I had water and nuts on hand, but my ankles swelled in protest anyway.
It’s hard to escape the notion that convenience and efficiency are low on officials’ priorities, while digging into foreigners’ pockets isn’t;
- 2000 Baht for the Non-B application
- 690 baht for the ( one-way ) bus trip
- 1500 baht for the temporary Laos visa
- 100 baht each for the taxi
- 650 baht for the hotel room
From Vladimir’s and Alex’s wide experience, Thailand is one of the few countries which requires this nonsense ( leaving to apply for a Visa, then returning with one ). It’s one of the major downsides of working here as an ex-pat, and is apparently causing many people to turn their back on Thailand in favour of other South-Easy Asian countries.