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stop-bullying

Toronto

My final visa runs were to Nong Khai, the same destination as my second, so I've combined them into a single report.

Visa run #3

Juy joined me for this trip which gave me some much appreciated company on my journey.  When we booked the train tickets I asked for a phone number, which the ticket agent gave us, that we could call to verify the trains arrival in hopes of avoiding the two trips I made to the train station on my previous trip.

At about 11:00pm the night before, only 5.5 hours before the train's scheduled arrival, we called the train station and were told the train would be 3 hours late arriving at 7:30am.  This was good as it gave us a little more time sleep in and less time in Nong Khai waiting for our return trip.

We arrived at the train station shortly after 7:00am but soon learned the train had actually arrived on time at 4:30am.  We never got clear explanation of whether there was an error in the information we were told or if the train had somehow made up a 3 hour delay in less than 5.5. hours but it didn't really matter at this point.  The train we missed was the last train to Nong Khai for the day so we would have to wait until the next day.

We returned to the train station at 9:30am that day when the ticket office opened and we rebooked our tickets.  The ticket agent apologized and admitted even he wasn't sure what had happened.  Oh, well.  Not much we can do about it.  Unfortunately I had to pay for the outbound trip again as we missed the train even though it was due to inaccurate information we were given but we were able to rebook the return trip without penalty.

Another complication was that I was already 2 days past the date on my visa.  I did this intentionally so my visa date would match up with my return to Canada and expected to pay a 1000 baht (~$30CDN) penalty, 500 baht for each day past my visa date.  This delay would add another 500 baht that I would have to pay at the border.  I could have paid this penalty at the airport when I flew back to Canada but I felt it would be easier to deal with on my visa run when I had several hours to take care of it rather than when I have only a few hours to check-in and catch my flight.

That night we didn't even bother calling the information line and we showed up at the train station shortly after 4:00am.  The train was late but by only 30 minutes so we waited at the station.  The train arrived at 5:00am as expected and we were finally on our way to Nong Khai.

The trip to Nong Khai and the border crossing was pretty much like the last time.  Juy on the other hand didn't have to go through the same process.  She simply walked up to the immigration officer and had her passport stamped.

My concern over the 1500 baht penalty for overstaying my visa turned out to be for naught.  There were two agents in the immigration booth when I exited Thailand, perhaps an immigration agent trainer/trainee, and after they handed me my passport one of them noticed my expired visa stamp on the scan they took of my passport.  I paused while they discussed what to do but they eventually waved me through.  So no penalty.

Juy and I spent an hour or so wandering around the duty free area and had something to eat before we headed back through immigration.  The return to the Thailand side was uneventful but this time we were greeted by health officials in masks that asked us to fill out a questionnaire and gave us a card that had a few tips on what to do if we started to show signs of the swine flu.

We exited the immigration area and were immediately mobbed by tuk-tuk and taxi drivers.  We grabbed one of the tuk-tuks and headed for a restaurant I had read about on the internet that was supposed to have good western food and a good view of the Mekong.  The tuk-tuk driver dropped us off at the market and said he couldn't go any further but that the restaurant was on the other side of the market.  We soon discovered this was a lie and he likely got a kick back for bringing us to the market.

It was shortly after noon by this point and the day was starting to get hot and humid.  We walked for about 20 minutes before we gave up and got another tuk-tuk.  This guy was only slightly better at reading a map, of his own city even, but was able to get us to the correct location.  A restaurant was there but with a different name.  This would explain why the tuk-tuk driver had never heard of the restaurant but not why he had trouble finding the intersection.

Since the restaurant was not quite as advertised we had the tuk-tuk driver take us to any restaurant that had decent western food.  A short ride later and we arrived at a place called "The Danish Bakery".  It wasn't much of a bakery and the only thing Danish on the menu was meatballs but it had a pretty good hamburger, good french fries and cold beer.

We relaxed at the "The Danish Bakery" for a few hours before we headed back to the train station to catch the train back to Ban Phai.  We made it to the station with more than 30 minutes to spare but our departure was delayed due to rain.  Now, it crossed my mind that delaying a train in Thailand for the light drizzle we saw in Nong Khai would be like delaying a train in Canada because it's too cold.  I had to assume the rain was worse at some other point along the line.

After more than a one hour delay the train finally departed.  We made up some time but we still pulled in to the Ban Phai train station over an hour late at 10:45pm.  We were too exhausted to walk so we grabbed a tuk-tuk to the hotel getting back to our room at 11:00pm.  Total trip time was 19 hot, humid hours.

Visa run #4

After the fun of my 3rd visa run Juy decided not to accompany me on my 4th and final trip.  I can't really blame her although by this point I had the process down to a science.

Same routine, go to the train station at 4:00am, find out the train is delayed until 7:30am, back to the hotel to sleep, return to the train station at 7:00am and leave Ban Phai at 7:30am arriving in Nong Khai at 11:30am.

The border crossing and return were pretty much as before.  When I got back to the Thailand side I caught a tuk-tuk to "The Danish Bakery".  I knew the ride should be about 40 baht but the driver wanted 60.  So I said 40, he said 50, I said 40 and he finally agreed to 40.

I arrived at "The Danish Bakery" at 2:00pm where I had lunch, read my ebook and sipped on my beer until it was time to leave for the train station.

The train left Nong Khai on time at 6:20pm and I made it to Ban Phai only slighly late at 10:00pm where Juy met me and we went out for some late night pad Thai.

My last visa run complete it hit me that my time in Thailand was coming to an end.