Thailand Border Visa Hassles
After our wonderful lazy few nights in Battambang in Cambodia it was a bus journey back to Phnom Penh in order to catch our flight to Bangkok. We had intended to go overland direct from Battambang into Thailand but the 15 day visa limit on land crossings; and an extortionate charge to add seven days to it when you get there meant that it was worth our while to fly via Phnom Penh. Flying from another country gives you a 30 day visa for Thailand, and this fit in with our plans of chasing down our Myanmar Visas and a spot of catch up shopping, before our family arrived in Bangkok for a two week holiday with us. This simple visa concept had completely alluded us, until we'd been explaining our travel plans, to the very informed and well travelled Amba (our new Kiwi friends who are on a similar path to us) when she politely explained to us that we couldn't do what we'd originally intended. Thank heavens for New Zealand vodka.
Getting a Myanmar Visa in Bangkok
In the end getting the visa proved very straightforward, although we did pay a premium as we only had one working day to process before meeting our family and heading for Koh Samui. The process consisted of:-
- a slightly early morning wake up call, to arrive at the embassy by around 8:00am
- a trip to a local shop down the road from the Embassy (the cafe stroke unofficial visa processing centre is amazing) who have all your forms, photocopying and web printing facilities on hand for the cost of a few Baht. We had photographs, but they'll even take passport style pics and have completed forms so if English isn't your first language it makes it easier to understand the forms.
- Back to the queue, tell those that are in the queue about the little shop, as this will save them time in the ticketing system on entry to the Myanmar Embassy Visa Issuing Office, and do what you just did, hey presto you end up virtually at the front ready for the doors to open 9.00am with your forms already completed you'll be issued with a queue ticket immediately.
- You queue at one window, they check your documents give you a numbered ticket and ten minutes later your passports are handed over with your forms and your fee must be paid at another counter, you get a receipt and get told to return after three thirty the same day, or next day or three working days later depending on the option you've chosen. In our case we needed the express service as we would not have enough time on our return to Bangkok to sort this out before our flight to Myanmar in early July. The express same day service costs 1260 Baht, 860 for two day turnaround. This allowed us to have an open visa which starts on entry to Myanmar
- A few little facts, you need to provide printed evidence of your return flight in and out of the Myanmar, (you can get a print out at the afore mentioned cafe, if you run a paper free office like us), two passport style photographs, a very brief itinerary i.e your first address of where you intend to stay, you can get this from a guide book or just ask somebody.
This gave us the best part of a day to go and spend some quality time with all the gadgets on offer at the Pantip Plaza. On our list was:-
- A new laptop - the old netbook we had brought with us was dated, tired and full, a bit like me . Blogging and picture editing was taking twice as long as it needed to and so for the bargain sum of GBP 255 we have a new Asus laptop which is a dream to use, a free external DVD drive for watching those wonderful Asian DVD copies. The bonus is we get 7% cashback for the VAT when we leave Thailand. Brilliant. We spent the best part of three hours in between all the stallholders extracting the best price and it was worth it, saved us about forty quid. For some the choice would be overwhelming, you really need to decide what models are contenders before arriving when choosing to spend your technology buck.
- A network crossover cable which allowed me to transfer everything (itunes/photos/accounts/software settings etc) over from the old laptop to the new one in the space of a few hours which was more than worth the 70p it cost me.
- A new universal power pack - Some of our most useful travel gadgets had been the two back up batteries for the Ipad/Iphones. However, five months travel took their toll and they fell to bits within a week of each other somewhere in Vietnam. We missed them dearly so we have now replaced these with a new usb battery pack which purports to give us three full i-phone recharges and a single ipad recharge. It also comes with a multitude of adapters which will allow us to charge the mifi and other gadgets in an emergency too. Not bad for GBP 20, especially as our next few months of travel will put us in places with limited power (Nepal and Tibet) and on some very long train journeys across China.
- In a similar vein the Ipad flip cover has been falling to bits for quite some time and it meant that the I-pad would switch itself on in the backpack leaving us with a drained ipad battery when we got it out to use. So a new cover was in order, I was ready to spend a few quid on a cheap wraparound device until I spotted a wood laminate one for just a few Baht more which included a free ipad pen so the deal ws done and we now have a new flashpacking worthy stylish case.
All this searching and bartering took us about five hours, but being surrounded by all that technology for five hours was no great hardship for me. Not sure John was of the same opinion, but he would wreak revenge as we headed for MBK the following day to stock up on some new clothes and other essentials before the family arrived for their holiday. Although he was an essential player when it came to getting a good discount.
We returned at three forty five at the Myanmar Embassy and our passports were already complete with their Myanmar visas placed inside. So our Myanmar trip was on; beginning on July 2nd after our two weeks Flashpacking holiday with the family.
Myanmar Visa Application Information for Visitors Travelling from Bangkok, and Directions to the Myanmar Embassy
For those wanting more information about the Myanmar Visa in Bangkok. Here is the lowdown:-
The address of the Embassy is 132, Sathorn Nua Road, Bangkok
We reached it by Taxi seeing as we were staying in the Khao San Road (never again) but used the nearby Surasak BTS station to get to Pantip. From the station it is a five minute walk to Pan Street opposite the Huge Saint Louis Hospital on Sathon Nua Road. The visa section is to the side of the main embassy building.
The little shop where you can get all your pictures, copying and printing done is about 200 meteres further down Pan Street on the same side look out for the little yellow 'professionally printed' sign , we have included a picture to help you find it.
Visa Application is from 9am – 12.00 - we got there about 8am and were third in the queue.
Collection commences from 3.30pm - if you have ordered a same day visa you get to use the express collection queue and we were in and out within two minutes.
You need a copy of your flight details in and out of Myanmar for the express service, two passport photos and a photocopy of the information page of your passport as well as the application forms.
Opens Monday to Friday except for Myanmar and Thai Bank Holidays and Festivals.
Two Flashpackers go on Holiday
So that was the end of our few days alone in Bangkok catching up, booking flights and planning for our next couple of months taking us to Myanmar, Laos, Borneo, Malaysia, and South Korea. It was time to hang up the flashpacker travel budget and go on holiday with the three family members who were arriving in Asia for their first time the following morning. The next couple of weeks would see us introduce them to the wonders of Asia in the form of Bangkok and a stay in a couple of resorts on Koh Samui. It is early rainy season so we were hoping the weather would be kind for their two week stay.
Why Stay In The Khao San Road Area?
We have both visited Bangkok several times before and had completed most of the must do’s of this sprawling city, but we had never seen the Khao San Road. We decided to stay there for this brief shopping and planning extravaganza before our family arrived and all we can safely say is that we will not be staying there again. It is no doubt an interesting place to stay if you are just out of School/University, on your Gap year adventure, or are an aging hippy who likes to walk about unkempt, in an inebriated or drug induced stupor. Although that probably is a little unfair, it's just a little way out from the throng of Bangkok life (unless you want to spend your whole time at the temples or palaces) so if your travelling slowly and don't want to leave the bars etc it would make a good pit stop, but for those wanting to experience the real Bangkok whatever you save in accommodation costs you'll pay for in taxis or tuk tuks as this place isn't easily served by public transport.