Thai Immigration, Covid19 and Me

If I didn’t catch Covid19 on Monday it will be nothing short of a miracle. Many people will find themselves in worse situations than I found myself on Monday but what I experienced on Monday will live long in the memory.

Visa Time

The day had come for me and Malinee to go to the Thai Immigration office at Chaengwattana, the huge governement complex on the outskirts of Bangkok. We’d written out the forms, we’d got together all the information required and we we’re up early to go and get my marriage visa for Thailand.

The taxi slowly made it’s way through the busy traffic. After moving 300 meters in 25 minutes we finally reached the toll-road where we the driver was able to begin his reckless drive to our destination.

Queue

We knew before arriving that the building would be busy. With the country heading towards a lockdown and planes being grounded, it seems that every expat in Thailand was getting the little stamp in their passport which would allow them to stay.

We didn’t expect it to be quite so busy and after the bag check and the now obligitory temperature check we made our way to a large congregation of people around a table behind which stood four female Thai Immigration officers. The stressed looks on their faces was a clue to the events of the next few hours, but it was a clue I didn’t see until we were already in the eye of the storm.

We’d arrived ‘early’, 8.45 am to be exact, but already the throngs of people milling around the entrance to the immigration office was reaching tipping point. We were given a ticket and told to wait until our number was called – we were given a ticket with the number 736 on it. Maybe, I wondered, they had started the day where they had left off the day before…I was wrong.

We waited around as the numbers ticked by and more and more people began to enter the building. Some people were more prepared for protection from Covid19 than others…

We had a little chuckle about seeing someone taking such extreme measures but I don’t really want to ‘laugh’ at anyone that does this. Some people are more worried and have crap immune systems – maybe this person is the same. I think we always laugh at such sights to stop us from worrying that maybe they know more than we do – that thought sometimes crosses my mind.

Thai Immigration Queue

Finally our number was announced and we walked forward to be told to join another queue. This queue felt more becoming of my personality, more sophisticated, cultured and sexy…and ‘loose’. The queue moved reasonably quickly but we still found time to take a memorable selfie that will be passed down the generations…

They may look like ladies underpants on our faces but I assure you I they’re not. I’ve nothing against putting ladies panties on my face but I would never do such a thing at the immigration offices. The pub, maybe, but not here. As we made our way along this queue we heard a Thai immigration officer say that the numbers of people waiting had reached 1000 and that no one else would be allowed to join the queue today – it was 9.20am and already people were being turned away.

Covid Queue

The fast moving queue quickly led us into the next section of the building where the immigration fun really kicks off and rams into another gear. This was also the point that the sense of worry and panic began to build in people as the space became cramped. We were all being herded like sheep – ‘herd immunity’ in full effect. Four immigration officers stood behind a desk and with no clear lines to be seen, we just joined the rest of the sheep at the back of the space.

The thing that comes into mind when I see the photo above is not just how crammed we were together but the sound. What this photo can never show you is the volume of the Thai immigration offices shouting at us, telling us where to go, where to move to, where we couldn’t go. One particular officer was standing next to one exit just shouting, “OVER THERE! OVER THERE” repeatedly.

People were pushing and the sense of panic was palpable in not just us, the public, but the officers meant to be controlling the situation.

Join Another Queue

Regular readers of this blog may already have read one of my previous trips to the very same place this story is unfolding. The Thai immigration system and office is one known to be…well, slightly behind the times, shall we say. I love this country but some places couldn’t organise a coke deal at a fashion show. https://pauldancewriter.com/2019/01/07/my-nice-relaxing-calming-and-soothing-first-visit-to-a-thai-immigration-office/

Well the Thai Immigration curse struck again when the officer at the front of the queue shook her head and told us “Outside” and gave one of the those hand gestures that doesn’t quite tell you in which direction you are supposed to go. The kind of hand gesture that starts off going one way and then kind of flops in another two directions in the time it takes for you to think “What the fuck?”

We noticed another group of people pushing their way into another section of the immigration office on the far side of the room. We slowly made our way over, being knocked from everyside. Once there I realised that people were just standing around, looking confused as certain people, with certain tickets were allowed in but others weren’t.

Tensions in groups of people is hard to describe but I’m sure we’ve all felt it. That ‘thing’ that you can’t put you finger on that rises in your body and permeates to the person next to you and vice versa. The whole room began to permeate with a growing sense of panic. I’m sure that like myself and Malinee were we all thinking that this was perfect conditions for a new surge in cases of that bloody virus.

People were shouting, people looked frightened, some were slightly aggressive and I saw one woman crying – it reminded me of the time I used to do stand up comedy! (Boom-Tish!)

No, Not This Queue, That One!

We finally got to the front of the crammed entry for the area we thought we were supposed ot go to, courtesy of the floppy handed woman only to be told that we had the wrong ticket and we would have to go outside and get another ticker….that’s right folks, we’d been given the wrong information of where to go AT THE VERY BEGINNING!

By now I was getting slightly stressed by the whole fiasco and would have happily headbutted a stuffed toy but we made our way out and got a new ticket with a new number on it. Within 15 minutes were were sitting at a desk having our forms scrutinized by a female Thai immigration officer that was wearing the exact same helmets that police wear during riots. I know they have to look after themselves but if it is that dangerous to be here why are we being herded like sheep?

Oh…No…Is That Another Queue?

Yes.

We were told that we hadn’t brought all of the information they required for me to get a marriage visa.

Yes, despite Malinee calling in 10 days before we arrived, we were now being told that they needed to see more proof of where we lived. And as my visa only has a fortnight left I would need to go and extend my current visa by another 30 days because for me to have a wedding visa I need to have over two weeks remaining on my tourist one.

Are you following this?

Immigration in a nutshell. A joke.

I went outside, got a seperate form and filled it out and joined the queue where I had seen the woman crying and luckily made my way through with only roughly 12 people barging into me.

On the other side I was greeting with this…

Social distancing…despite cramming us all together outside, at least in here you got to savour the first few moments of the sinking feeling of possibly having a deadly virus in your system in peace.

I got my 30 day extension and I made my way out to find Malinee before getting in a taxi to come home. We showered for 3 hours and then burnt our clothes all in the knowledge that due to immigration not knowing their arse from their elbow we’ll have to go back in the next two weeks.

The following day I read that the British government have given an amnesty to all Thai nationals in the UK and that all visa issues will be resolved when the outbreak is under control. If the shower of shit that is known as the British government can show this kind of thought, why can’t the Thai? To be honest, I don’t know, but I think it has something to do with the 1,900 baht everyone has to pay for a new visa. It’s a nice little earner for the Thai government and money is more important that lives!

At Least I Have My Phone

So we all have our Covid stories and mine is realtively mild compared to many people but I will just wait and see what happens to my temperature over the coming week. But one thing that came to my attention the other day was my phone…it cares about me…

I always knew the love was a two way street between my phone and me. Is this just something that is happening in Thailand? This phone cares about me more than some of my friends!!

Anyway, until the next time, listen to what my phone says and stay safe x

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. I don’t know if your phone cares about you more than some of your friends, but it definitely cares about you more than the Thai government does!

    That is absolute madness! Delayed risk is COVID. Immediate risks included possibilities of rioting, stampede, fistfights, and stress-induced heart attack.

    I know crises cause disorganization within systems, but it seems like the Thai government is already well-versed in disorganization, even in the best of times.

    I hope you both are ok. The silver lining, of course, is that you’re blogging more. 🙂

    1. Hi, yes it was a real eye opener into the Thai governments lack of concern for us (and the fact we may spread it in their borders!) No symptoms for either of us yet so fingers crossed. I read, since I posted this, that many countries are cancelling the need for people to renew visas – the British government have announced no Thai people in the UK need to renew there’s to stay but here….”give us your money”. Still fuming

      1. I don’t have a witty comeback for that. That just sucks.

  2. Oh, and I love how they tell you a range of acceptable social distance… anywhere between 1-2 meters (about 3-6 feet)… you’re choice! In America (and pretty much everywhere else in the western world, I believe) it’s a non-negotiable 6 feet.

    1. Absolutely zero chance of that here.

  3. Rivergirl says:

    No sitting. Just standing in line like multiple cans of sardines… got it.
    I’m ashamed to say my phone doesn’t give a damn if I live or die, it just wants me to stop taking pictures.
    Am I correct in assuming you have to relive this immigration horror some time in the near future?

    1. Yes, due to them giving my much better half the wrong info we will have to go within the next 10 days or so. Still fuming. Sorry your phone doesn’t love you as much as mine loves me – but I’m sure you’re aware by now that I am very special 🥴

      1. Rivergirl says:

        Of course. That must be it…

  4. Arionis says:

    Wow! What a nightmare. I almost lost my mind dealing with US immigration when I married a Canadian. That wasn’t during a pandemic and it was frighting enough, can’t imagine the stress you are going through. I’m not as close to you as your phone but still, stay safe!

    1. Ha – yes it was certainly an experience I won’t forget any time soon!

  5. Suvarna says:

    Such a man interacting read. Even in this situation, your humour is intact 😄. Hope you and your friend did not contract the virus and are totally safe and this pandemic ends ASAP. Stay safe!

  6. tperders says:

    Ah Chaengwattana! Not one of the things I miss about living in Thailand although I did once have an excellent beef krapow at the foodcourt.
    Anyway, I loved reading your blog. It made me laugh aloud at several points and the social distancing chairs! Only in Thailand. Stay safe.

    1. I think I may have had the Krapow from the same place as you – delicious…but then, isn’t it always delicious? 🙂 Luckily, we didn’t catch anything from being there. Hope you’re safe too. Did you live in Thailand a long time?

      1. tperders says:

        True! My husband keeps threatening to open a London krapow cart! We moved back here last summer after 4 years in Bangkok. Glad to hear that you are safe and well. Take care.

      2. You’d make a fortune doing that 🙂 Well done for lasting 4 years. I’ve been here almost two years and although I love it, I already have one eye on moving to somewhere else in Thailand once things get back to some sort of normality.

  7. tperders says:

    Ah Chaengwattana! Not one of the things that I will miss about living in Thailand although I did once have an excellent beef krapow from the food-court there!
    Anyway, loved reading your blog – it made me laugh aloud several times and those social distancing chairs! Only in Thailand! Stay safe.

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