One year after coming to the fascinating kingdom of Thailand I finally had to do what I always considered a myth or something for people who didn’t do their homework. A trip to the Thai embassy in Vientiane, Laos. Amongst backpackers a.k.a. ‘Visa Run‘.
I always thought about the Visa Run as something that people have to do if they didn’t prepare their stuff, if they didn’t get enough information beforehand or failed in organizing the appropriate documents. Now that it happened to myself and – how I hate it when my students tell me that – completely without my fault, I have to say it makes sense. It is stupid, but it makes sense. And here is why…
When I came to Thailand I had a one year working visa (I already complained about the fact that I had to leave Thailand every 90 days anyway…). This visa now expired and I was looking to extend it. My college gave me EVERY document possible but the Immigration Office over here in Udon Thani simply refused to extend the visa by demanding something new every time we went there (pictures of me IN FRONT of the college for example,…) we always came back with what they demanded but they always came up with something new. While we (colleagues and I) were seeing other foreigners walking in, handing 2.000 Baht beyond the table to the clerk and getting their new visa, we did not want to bribe them (nor could we…official governmental school!). That’s how we came up with the idea to try the visa run.
So we went to the Thai embassy in Vientiane (before you end up in the wrong place: You need the CONSULAT section! not the ‘normal’ embassy!). Lined up as first in line (early bird) in the early morning – waiting for the embassy to open gates at 8.30 (and ignoring all the laotian guys trying to sell us some ‘important documents for your visa, sir’). When the embassy opened everything went quite well and fast. We handed over all documents we had from our tries at the immigration office in Udon Thani but the lady at the counter handed back almost half of it and said she doesn’t need any of them…(thanks Immigration Office in Udon Thani…). Then we paid the fee (2.000 Baht) and I had to wait until the next working day to pick up my passport with the new visa.
The pick up wasn’t that fast since the embassy was supposed to open at 1 pm but did not open until 1.45 pm. This kinda sucked because it was incredibly hot in front of the embassy and there is absolutely no shadow around. However after the gates finally opened it didn’t take 10 minutes to pick up the passport and leave the embassy with a valid visa.
What’s hard for me to understand is why it is so easy to get the visa at the embassy but not at the immigration office. This really sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I like Vientiane and Laos, but the pure fact that this system is so screwed simply sucks big time.