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Trying to get a Visa Extension in the middle of a Pandemic

The day from hell

The past 13 hours have easily been the worst of this trip, and I'm including the day I sunburned myself so badly I could barely move for 3 days. I have never had a day when I felt so confused, so frustrated, at times terrified, but mostly bored.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The day started as normal here. I woke up, had breakfast and coffee and a shower. Checked out the page that told me how to get a Visa extension. It all seemed easy enough, should take about an hour, with an hour getting there and back.

I left the hostel at 9 .30 and walked to the subway, following the directions from the website I'd been using earlier, which were pretty spot on at that point. I left the subway and decided to call a cab the rest of the way, opting to go by bike to save a few Baht, I'm on a strict budget don't you know!

This was my first mistake.

I've ridden many a moped, the last being just a fortnight ago, but nothing prepared me for the sheer terror of zipping through heavy traffic in the middle of Bangkok on the back of a tiny bike, weaving in between trucks and cars on a motorway, speeding down tiny, bumpy alley ways avoiding pedestrians. When we finally got to the destination I almost kissed the ground.

But we were at the wrong place.

We were in another road, with the same name, about two kilometers away from where we needed to be. The poor driver had no clue, as I spent the next 15 mins with several locals, none of whom spoke English, as we worked out where I needed to be. We eventually found the place, I was a lottle less petrified this time, but still glad to be off the back of the bike.

It's a running theme of today. Things seem terrible at the time, but are OK when you look back on it. Am I glad I got a moped cab? Sure, it was an experience and I lived to tell the tale. Would I do it again? Sod off.

So inside the Visa place, I'm told to fill out a form and get some photocopies of my passport, This was easier said than done. The form was confusing and the photocopy place was at the back of the basement floor of a sprawling building with no sort of signage. But I got it done (eventually).

I'm then told that I'm in the wrong building, they've moved the Visa extension place to another complex, some 8km away. It takes me a while to find it, finally getting some help from a nice lady who works there and I call a cab (a car this time).

I should say at this point, that I have in the past been less than patient with people. People who don't speak the greatest English needing something, people having issues at work, even my poor Mum and her adventures with the tv remote. I get irritable very easy when people don't get what I'm saying right away. How I ran Silver Surfers for 10 years and kept my cool (mostly) is beyond me. It's only when you're on the other side of this, feeling helpless, needing just someone to give you a hand, that you realise what an arse you've been to others in the past. I got the help I needed. Hopefully, I'll pay that forward next time someone comes to me.

Anyhoo...

I get to the second building about 2pm and it's absolute carnage. Hundreds, if not thousand of people standing around, no one knowing what's happening or where to go, beleaguered staff trying to direct people with a multitude of languages to the right place. It was a mess.

After standing around for about 30 mins, not knowing if I was in the right queue, or even any queue at all, I walked over to a helper, asked what was going on, they didn't know, I saw someone walk past straight into the building, so just followed them in, bypassing everyone else. Result!! This is just how I got past a 2 hour queue at comicon a few years ago, this is how I ended up in the pit at the front of a Prince concert at Wembley in 1993. Brazenness!

I walked into a building and was asked for my number. I had no number. They then sent me to floor 2 to get a number. At floor 2, we were told to go to floor 4, which looked like it had nothing there, but after a few runs up and down stairs, we finally got to where we needed to be. It was the start of a 6 hour wait to be seen.

We were initially sat on the floor on the fourth floor of a car park. It felt like waiting to go into Guantanamo.

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At first there weren't too many of us, but the floor soon filled up and it became apparent how it would all work. We were on the 4th floor. There were 7 rows of about 20 people. once in a while, a row would leave and go downstairs. What we soon discovered was that you just go down one floor and go to that back of that queue. Then to the floor below, and below.. It took about 5 hours.

At this point I should point out that I had not eaten or drunk anything since 9am. At one point some guys handed out food to the people in one row of our floor, but not my row. Another time, some guys came around and handed out water. But that ran out before they got to me as well. We did at least get chairs to sit on. It's also worth noting that my phone was dying fast. I hadn't anticipated being there an age and so didn't bring my portable charger. I'd been on the phone to Jane for a while too looking for alternatives in case this all went to shit. I had to turn the phone off at 15% to save enough to grab a cab later. Boredom loomed.

FINALLY. I arrived back on the ground floor, the room where we got our Visas. I was pretty relieved. It was 7pm at this point and the office was supposed to close at 4:30. I do feel bad for those poor people who worked there today, I don't think they knew what they were getting into when they came into work this morning!

The room was pretty full, but moved ok, at first. Then it seemed that someone had told the staff there needed to be social distancing in the building and a strange game of musical chairs was played out. I didn't move forward for half an hour but was getting closer without knowing it as chairs were being taken away from the queue to keep everyone away from each other. I think it was pretty pointless though. The virus can surviv on plastic for three days. How many chairs did I touch today???

I finally got to the desk and finished around 8pm, breathing a sigh of relief as I wasn't sure I had all the documents I needed. But it seemed ok, I was done. All I needed to do was go outside and wait for my name to be called and pick up my passport. Bonus! So I sat and waited. And waited.

And Waited.

What I did learn was that there were very few 'Westerners' applying for a Visa extension. By far the most common nationality was Laos, but there were people there from the UK, Japan, The Philippines, Australia, Laos, Vietnam and many others. We sat and waited, in the end I waited for 1 hour and 50 mins. The whole process was supposed to take an hour. What bothered me as well was that whenever they called out someone's name to pick up their passport, they came up meekly, took it quietly and left. Had they not been through what I had been through? Sod that! Sod taking it quietly like I'd been there 15 mins! Not me!

When they (finally) called out my name. I stood up. Shouted yes and raised my arms like I had won an Oscar. We were all in this together. Me, them, the staff who worked so hard so long. I celebrated, I told everyone that it was like winning the lottery and we all cheered. They cheered for me getting my bloody Visa. It was amazing. It was quite emotional. I had been there for 8 hours, we had all been there 8 hours I'm sure. It was a celebration and a bit of letting the stress go.

So I have my extension, I'm travelling at least another 30 days, no worrying for a while.

That was 90 mins ago now and as I said earlier, it's done now. It was a pain, it was boring as hell, especially without my phone, but it's in the past and it was an experience. Good or bad, that's what this trip is supposed to be about.

Posted by cblanc102 08:46 Archived in Thailand Tagged travel thailand visa asia

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