I’ve spent the last week locked in our relatively small (I say relatively because most of the time space is no problem, but during a few days of quarantine it gets real small, real fast) with my new companion, Laryngitis. Laryngitis wasn’t very nice. He’s mostly gone but left me with a post-viral cough, ensuring that no one within hearing range will get any sleep from now on. (Post-Viral Cough and I have a long history, last time it stuck around for 9 months. It included one ER trip, several doctors visits, a fortune in asthma meds, lots of cough-induced vomiting and the most intense abs workout ever. The time before that was less extreme but I did cough myself into in a back sprain which was really, really, really not fun. I wonder what exciting stories I’ll have to tell about this episode!)
Anyway, I sat on my butt from Tuesday to Thursday, not wanting to hand out my germs to the kids at school (didn’t want to start the next pandemic, you know!) and school was closed Friday. By Friday, most of my voice was back and I didn’t care enough about the coughing to let it hold me down (Post-Viral Cough is such a regular customer in my life that if I gave into it, I’d never get anything done) so we stuck by our original plan for the end of week 6 and biked to Immigration to extend our tourist visas.
I feel like I should have a crazy story here, but I don’t.
Immigration is a huge red building on a major road, you can’t miss it. It takes about 30 minutes to reach by bike. Figuring out where to go isn’t all that tough either – the bored taxi drivers hanging around are quick to point lost tourists like us in the right direction.
Ranong, as I love to point out, is hardly a bustling tourist and expat center. It does, however, share a sea border with Myanmar, so I’m sure work at immigration is never boring. The big immigration police trucks with their big cages are quite the sight and always make me wonder how often they have to use them and whether they ever fill those cages up.
As one could expect, the outdoor (but nice and shady) waiting area was alive with Burmese families and workers filling out forms and waiting to submit their papers. We were about to line up to take a number when another Westerner walked by us and disappeared through a blue door. It had a “One Stop Station” sign on it and listed a bunch of services you could obtain behind that door (like, you know, a visa extension). We gave up on being numbered and followed him in.
I’d not sure if it was because it was Friday or if every day kinda looks like that but there were 4 people ahead of us. It wasn’t lost on me that the Burmese were made to wait outside while us foreigners got to chill with some air conditioning. I guess that’s where all the tourist tax goes.
Filling out the form was probably the longest part of the process. It can be made shorter by printing it off the website and filling it out beforehand, but seriously, who backpacks with a printer? We also had to pay a reasonable 5 Baht to photocopy our passport, departure card and visa, which can probably also be done ahead of time by those backpacking with a photocopier.
Then we just waited our turn, handed in our forms and passport photos, paid, smiled for some photos (they record photos of everyone applying, I guess they’re more likely to be up to date than the ones we hand in) and receive a stamp with the extended date. Just like that.
And that’s how you extend your tourist visa. Maybe if you look suspicious they give you a harder time but we had no questions asked. I had heard rumors of proof of onward travel too, but that was also a non issue (perhaps it’s different for those who have a visa-on-arrival or no visa at all).
Now we’re all set for our upcoming trip to Bangkok, to Isaan and to the North!