It has taken me a while to write this post, not because the subject matter is hard or poses problems, but because I am angry, damn angry!
Time is upon us yet again for the tri-monthly visa run, although this time its a big one. Our 1 year [12 month] visa allows us to stay for 15 months by doing the final renewal before the year is up. It is now 15 months since we went to Kuala Lumpur for our Non-B immigrant visa's, now we gotta do it all again!!
The tri-monthly visa run shennanigan is really a hassle that I could do without. Living and working legally in Thailand is fraught with so many stumbling blocks, keeping ahead of them can be a task. Our latest fiasco has been with the work permit renewals, these coincide with the visa renewals.
Before this gets too complicated I will lay down the facts.
This is really starting to get to me now, but lo-and-behold, we have got to do yet another visa run. They really do come round soooo fast, three months, whooosh - gone. In all the company setup and work permit carry on we have been through we ensured throughout that we would be 100% legal, I often ask myself if it was really necessary and worth all the money, time and hassle. Even though we pay tax, have non-immigrant visa's and have valid work permits, we still have to leave the country every 3 months. I often wonder if it is just a cash cow for the Thai government, after all most Thai's seem to think that johnny-foreigner has loads of cash to splash, why should the government be any different.
Glad to say we have survived yet another cross-country driving ordeal, the Ranong visa run. This time was a bit more relaxed as we took our time as we ventured from the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea, taking two days to do the journey with a pleasant overnight stay in a 'comfortable' bungalow just outside the main town of Ranong. I am starting to know the route well now, at times you wonder if you have missed your turn-off but gladly we made it all the way there and back without any back-tracking and no arguments about my driving :)
I know that I aint been too regular with posts lately, but when I noticed that the last post here was regarding travelling to Burma for my visa I realised how much Ive been lacking. Tomorrow were off to Burma again, lol, I cant really believe that the 3 month is up already, I hate this trip so much I wish the time between them could be longer.
Im glad to say the visa run went without a hitch, other than the drive up there [which is a bit of a pain - I wont go on about the Thai drivers again], it went well. We always try and make a list of things to do when we go on the visa run as we dont get over to the mainland that often. When you get off the boat at Donsak you more or less have to drive through Surathanni town, so a stop off at Tesco's is always on the cards. It really is unbelievable the difference in prices between Koh Phangan and Surat, the profit margins are almost double on most items and the rest arent far behind - just because we are on an island and everything is 'imported'.
We were subjected to a new scam this time also, when you go to Myanmar you have to pay a 'landing fee' and because you are doing in and out at once they want US$10 from you [recently gone up from $5 - thats inflation for you], so rather that pay $12 for a $10 note we had a friend bring some out when they visited a while back. Now, these were not brand new dollars, but they were pretty clean and crisp. Needless to say the slightly blackened smudge across the top edges of them were not good enough for the Burmese immigration - or rather they were, but he insisted the bank wouldnt accept them from him. So in the end forced to pay 500 Thai baht [as we didnt have any more dollars] which comes to over $15 - not a bad scam is it. The best thing to do is not argue with these guys, the last thing you need as a foreigner is trouble from immigration officials.
All I can say is I am glad it is over, as I said the drive was a nightmare, the long tailboat across to Kawthaung [Victoria Point] was fun as always [although a bit rough this time] and the ability to buy what we needed on the mainland is always handy. But I am so glad that we dont need to move for another three months - although I am sure we forgot loads of things we wanted from Tesco's.
[Immigration office on the water as you leave Ranong - only Thais/Burmese use this, foreigners need to stamp out at the immigration office in Ranong town]
[Immigration office on the Myanmar[Burmese] side, again foreigners dont use this as we have to use the office in Kawthaung]
[View across the town of Kawthaung [also known as Victoria Point - a reminder back to the colonial days]]
I really cannot believe that its time for a visa run again, it seems like we only did one a few weeks ago but it was 3 months ago that we last set foot on the mainland. If you ask any long term foreigner what the worst thing is about living in Thailand, its gonna be the visa run's. Many foreigners are on different 'deals' as far as residency visa's go, the legality of some of them are a bit borderline - legal loopholes that allow them extended periods in the country, but at a cost.