21 April 2011


Readers of this humble blog will recall that recently I travelled into Laos. Before crossing the border, I presented my passport to a uniformed Thai official behind the little glass counter in Chiang Khong. I said, "Teacher in Bangkok. Need re-entry visa. Thirty days." He cancelled my B work visa and apparently didn't give me the required re-entry visa stamp. On my return from Laos I said the same things. My passport was stamped and I came back into Thailand believing that all was well with the world and in particular with my passport.

Roll on to Monday of this week. I go to see the principal's secretary with my passport after noting that the B visa I was given in Hull was due to run out on Wednesday. On reflection what I think has happened is that the admin person in the school who looks after ex-pat teachers' passport and visa issues had neglected to request my passport and take it to the relevant government office for a more permanent work visa to be issued. That and the incompetence of one of the border officials has placed me in a very bizarre situation.

I have to leave the country by air this weekend in order to get one of the precious thirty day stamps at an airport. By land I could, apparently, only get myself a fifteen day stamp. Why on earth the passport lady in school couldn't pull some strings and explain the predicament, I have no idea. But the Thais seem to love their bureaucracy, love signing forms in triplicate, love creating little administrative obstacles for people. On Tuesday I checked - "Are you absolutely sure there is no way round this? I have to leave the country?"


Over in Laos I spent under £60 in four days and that included hotels, transport, meals, bike hire, purchase of T-shirt, bottles of refreshing Beerlao, plasters for my foot, a large bunch of bananas and a bamboo flute. Tomorrow I have a return flight to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia - cost £135. My hotel will cost me £20 a night. There will be meals to buy and transport tickets. Ah well, I'll get to see the Petronas Towers, hopefully track down a great Indian restaurant and briefly explore a city I never planned to visit.

I guess there are worse problems to have. A common Thai expression is mai pen rai which essentially means - just go with the flow, bend like the bamboo and don't worry 'bout a thing. So Malaysia here I come with passport in hand.


  1. As you say, you will get to see places you may not otherwise have seen but it does seem a very strange way of doing things. Enjoy!

  2. My first year working here in Catalonia (i.e. Spain for some), a similar thing happened. I had to fly back to Manchester on a weekday (missing work) to get something stamped at the Spanish Consulate in Manchester!!
    We LOVE beaurocracy over here :)

    Check this recording out - a fictious (or not) Spanish tax office...


  3. Weren't those towers in Malaysia the tallest buildings in the world for a while until they were surpassed by a building in Dubai?

  4. Was it caused by a cock-up?

  5. Doesn't sound a million miles away from uk governments bureaucracy of red tape


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