Humans love to travel. All our stories talk about people and heroes travelling from one place to another. People started from a small village in Africa, to Marco Polo who set out to do greater good for mankind. Humans travel. In this grand tradition of stepping out of boundaries, I decided to travel to Thailand. I do not know if there was greater good involved in this or no, but I knew one thing, I needed new socks.
When I planned a trip to Thailand, I had no plan. All I had with me was money that I had saved and a date. Me and my partner survived one year of living together, and it was a moment to celebrate.
With that plan in mind, I found myself sitting in a plush chair in front of a man with dapper mustache staring at me. Gleaning at my plain white cotton shirt and trousers, he, first, did not believe I was looking for an international trip. I was unnecessary nervous, thinking about the hole in my sock and focusing on the package he was throwing at me. When the agent told me about Bangkok and Pattaya, I asked him to add Thailand in the package too. My entire geography mark-sheet flashed in front of me, when the agent explained that the cities are part of Thailand.
Finally, we found an army doctrine in form of itinerary for 6 days in Thailand. The package included back to back site seeing tours that started at 8 in the morning. If I had to get up early on a vacation, I would have stayed home. All my attempts to find a more spacious tour package failed. Most people prefer the no-time-to-breathe package that gives greatest benefit for smallest prize.
After a lot of research (Meaning: Google search), I came up with a website that offered custom packages.
I booked two decent hotels and arranged transport between Bangkok and Pattaya. The website offered a few other things in my 'package' which I gleefully added and thus, I finalized my plans.
Thailand is a visa on arrival country, which means you get a visa when you actually land there. This raised many questions, do they reject people arriving there? What happens when they don't want you there? And so on. A few google searches added more confusion to the question. Although, every time you ask google a question, it offers the diagnosis that you have cancer. Every forum, blog I visited had a different answer to the same questions.
The touts in suit at the Mumbai airport convinced me to buy a Thai Sim Card, which was useless, because you could get the same card for free at Bangkok airport.
I had a lot of questions and fear in my mind, for I was travelling abroad without a visa, hoping they do not send me back. But before I could land in there, I had to cross a very nosy auntie sitting at the immigration desk in Mumbai. Even though I had purchased new socks for my trip, that hole in sock earlier came to haunt me as I stood in the long queue.
The auntie and uncle at immigration table in Mumbai ask all those nosy question, your mother used to ask after a late night party. They are the one who will (if they don't believe you) ask you if you have money before leaving for Thailand.
There is a tremendous amount of confusion about the money that you should carry to Thailand. Every site / forum I visited had different information. So finally, the confusion got clear when we learned that you should carry 650 USD as a family or 1000 Thai Baht.
The flight was pleasant with a 'Oz' movie entertaining us on the way. It was my first trip abroad, and the prospect of free booze, excited me. But when it actually came to order some, the nervousness kicked in and I timidly accepted whatever was offered. With the dexterity of Indian blood we raced to find the carousel that carried our luggage but was politely informed by a sleepy Thai police officer that we need to get my visa stamped.
This was it, the dreaded moment, when I had to figure out if they will let me enter or kick out. Every forum and blog that I had visited, except for those who told me I could have cancer, had a different answer to what you should carry. These were the items we carried,
1. A return ticket within fifteen of your arrival.
2. A hotel stay voucher for the fifteen days you are in Thailand.
3. An immigration form (you will be given these in the plane) and your boarding pass.
The line for Visa on Arrival was filledentirely by Indians (also because this was Bombay- Bangkok flight, I justified) and they were making their country proud by making the worlds worst straight line. The charges for Visa on Arrival are 1000 Baht and there is a separate line for 'Speedy' visa on arrival for extra 200 Baht. A couple over smarted me and got their visa stamped 'speedily' by paying extra and then were sitting for two extra hours outside the airport.
If you are travelling early on, there is no need to go in the speedy line, as the normal line is as fast as a man can work. Getting visa stamped we were welcomed by a Thai Airport hostess who was waiting near the luggage and distributing them by checking the ticket number. There was no immigration, no custom and not even a single nosy and question asking person in Bangkok. We had left all those behind.
The shared taxi (that was previously booked) was waiting for us at the airport along with what seemed like twenty-thirty Indians around us.
As we stepped out of the airport a fresh breath of bad english blew on our face. Sleepy and confused, we attempted to talk to the taxi driver who also was taking in english. Only thing was neither of us was understanding what the other was saying. After multiple attempts we realized we had to wait for the next shuttle to Pattaya from Bangkok. We were trained in depicting and understanding bad english by the locals in Bangalore and for the first time I was proud that at-least one country was competing with India on bad english.
So all said and done, I had left my home country 3000 km behind, got my visa stamped. Now here we were in a foreign country away from the prying eyes of nosy people for a complete week.
Armed with a smart phone, few printouts and a bag-pack we boarded our share taxi to Pattaya.
Coming up next: Landing in Thailand - Bad English, Bars and Barbecue pork.