Published on November 6th, 201324
How To Piss Off a Thai Consul
Not a good idea. But oh well.
Of course Thailand is a sovereign nation that has every right to fashion whatever rules it fancies to allow/disallow folks onto its hallowed ground. However many immigration hoops it deigns to set forth – it has the security of its borders to uphold, after all – can’t let just any ol’ riffraff in. I get it. I really do.
And of course, nobody’s holding a gun to my head here in Thailand, so if I’m not happy with their (nutso, seriously, it has to be said) visa rules, then I darn well should just skip myself merrily out of Dodge, yes?
I mean after all, I CHOOSE to be an expat. To roam the globe untethered from my own native land. I CHOOSE to wander in and out of other sovereign nations, and stay ONLY AT THE BENOVOLENCE of the countries I hang out in – for a week, a month, or years. Sovereign FOREIGN nations where I am ever but a humble GUEST.
Yes, yes, I understand all that. And I’ve ever respected the laws and customs of the foreign countries where I wander. Shoot, it’s precisely the DIFFERENCES that attract me to visit foreign lands to begin with. Differences in customs, in language, in food, in history, in wildlife, architecture, and spectacular attractions, and yes – so too differences in visa requirements.
I get it Thailand. I truly do.
But here’s the thing – all I ask is that when you spell out the r.u.l.e.s for me, you honor them. You stick with the same rules for each and every stray foreigner that knocks upon your gilded door. Heck, you’re even entitled to demand different visa rules for folks from different nations. Easy-peasy, generous stay freebies for fellow ASEANs; tighter, more pricey hoops for Western patriots. Whatever.
It’s fully your call Thailand. All I’m sayin’ is – once you’ve got the rules set, it would seem only fair to apply those same rules to EVERY patriot who seeks to pop into your country for a spell, no?
I mean… as per your very own Royal Thai Embassy website, requiring proof of financials is o.p.t.i.o.n.a.l. Nonetheless, if you’re feeling persnickity today, I can live with that. Indeed, that sign – you know – the sign plastered right there on your counter window that’s THREE INCHES FROM MY NOSE that says:
“Financial proof may be required to demonstrate that you have sufficient funds – a letter from your bank OR $650 per person…”
You know, THAT SIGN?
No problem. Though you failed to mention the little detail about a bank letter in your email to me (you know, the email that I sent you IN ADVANCE politely inquiring just what particulars you needed to grant me a measly 2 month Thai tourist visa – so as to allow me time to perhaps… uh, procure a letter from my bank 8,000 miles across the Pacific – yes THAT email) Like I said, no problem.
Nope, while I sincerely regret that I can’t suddenly pull a bank letter out of my ass this morning, nonetheless…
As per your sign pasted 3 inches in front of both our noses – why Glory Be! I just happen to have… let me see here… By some miracle, I just happen to have a wad of crisp dough right here in my moneybelt – lessee… $500… $600…$700… yup – $940 crisp U.S. of A. dollar bills – right here, right now. Plenty more than the “$650 per person” stated right here on your sign, M’am.
Yippeee! Yay! O.k. let’s get on with this. Here’s your (optional) proof that I don’t plan on living in the street in Chiang Mai, nor pan-handling for phad thai at the night market.
But WAIT! What’s that you say? No?
$940 dollars won’t do? $900+ bills isn’t sufficient financial evidence, cuz… I what? “might have BORROWED the money”???
But your SIGN RIGHT HERE states clearly that $650 is all one needs should you (optionally) feel inclined to question the financial worthiness of a… 68 YEAR OLD GRAY HAIRED AMERICAN WOMAN (that everybody knows no doubt enjoys at least a modicum of a guaranteed monthly income via a U.S. government pension.)
Oh and, did I neglect to mention? I’ve now sat here for 3 hours quietly waiting and watching… a bunch of young strapping (clearly backpacker) lads (you know, the ones barely out of high school with arguably not a farthing to their collective names, much less some official bank letter). Yup, I’ve sat here demurely while they sidled up to your hallowed counter with absolutely no request for financials proffered by you/your staff.
Furthermore, you require ME to have an “onward air ticket” out of Thailand, yet… when you asked these same handsome backpacker lads for proof of onward travel – they mumbled something about “Umm, we plan to travel out of Thailand overland – into Myanmar or Cambodia or someplace…”. And your reply?
“NO PROBLEM – HERE’S YOUR VISAS, BOYS”.
In short, WTF???
Why have you singled out this grandmother of six, with a valid U.S. passport, the required 2×3 cm passport photos, and hard cold cash right here under your nose?
Pissed off? You betcha. Though I made certain not to raise my voice (well, o.k. maybe just a little – I mean, I AM an AMERICAN after all, and everybody knows we’re “loud”. But at least I had the good sense not to blurt out the obscenities I was thinking), you bet I gave that pretty little Thai consul a piece of my mind.
I kept asking “But why?” “Why won’t this $900+ cash do?” “Why does your sign state that $650 per person is sufficient, yet… you accuse me of what? LYING? Pretending it’s not my money – that I BORROWED it”???
“What about the lads that just left with visas in hand? They weren’t required to show you anything but their passports and hand you the usual $45 visa fee.” “WHY are you suddenly making up rules, ignoring your own signs, and singling me out to jump through hoops that those young men (Germans, btw) don’t have to jump through?”
“Because.” was effectively all I could get out of her. Plus by then it was 11:30 and the office was closing down for lunch.
So… I grumbled that I would try to get the exalted bank letter (even though I knew everyone at my bank in Alaska was presently asleep – naturally, as they’re on the other side of the globe) plus an onward air ticket, and be back when the office opened after lunch.
Luckily there was a travel agency nearby and they were kind enough to let me use their computers to access my bank account and get a print out of my pension deposits for the past year. I also had them print a fully refundable one-way air ticket out of Thailand, and…
When the consul office reopened at 1:30, I was the first in line – with passport, photos, bank print out, air ticket evidence plus more than $900 in hard cold U.S. cash. “What more could they possibly want?” says I. No way could I Skype my bank and get some letter in the two days I had left before my flight back to Thailand. Surely the cash plus the bank statement plus the credit card to match the bank would suffice.
Wrong. By then, I’d apparently pissed off the petite Thai consul sufficiently, and she now had her pretty pink panties-in-a-wad. Indeed, she refused to even look at any of the documents I proffered.
NO SOUP FOR YOU!
Needless to say, I was stunned. Couldn’t understand nor believe that she could deny me a simple two month visa simply “Because.” i.e. “Because I’m the Thai Consul and I don’t like you (your nationality? your blue eyes? pigtails?”)
But of course, there was nothing I could do (short of heading to my own U.S. embassy to complain, which would likely get me nowhere anyway.) I was simply forced to accept the fact that – no way, no how was I going to get out of Vietnam with a 2 month Thai tourist visa in hand.
Indeed, the woman seemed so hell-bent on giving me grief, I was now worried she’d somehow electronically tag my passport so that I couldn’t even return to Thailand at all – would be stopped at airport immigration and denied entry altogether (even for the standard freebie 30 day VOA).
Long story short?
Thankfully that didn’t happen. I spent the remainder of my time in Ho Chi Minh City having a great time visiting with my friend Hang, and when I headed back to Thailand with my extra bag two days later, I sailed through Thai customs with a most reassuring “thump-thump-thump” stamp in my passport – allowing me another 30 days.
Fine. Whoop-de-doo. 30 more days in this precious Land of Smiles (yeah, grins uh… NOT!)
The truth is, while I was hoping to stick around here long enough to determine if I want to stay more than a month or three (and if so, jump through the even BIGGER HOOPS of getting a long-term Thai visa), clearly I’m not getting very good vibes from Thailand.
Two years of bliss in Vietnam (seriously). Thailand? After just 4 weeks, uh – not so much.
In any case – lesson learned. Big wake-up call. Absolutely NOTHING is apparently for certain when it comes to visa regs and the whims of uppity foreign authorities. No matter what the stream of Thai visa vets swear in the expat forums (“I’ve never been asked for financials, nor no onward ticket”). Take nothing for granted. Never again will I blithely waltz into a foreign embassy thinking I’ve got all my ducks in a row. Nosiree.
Stark reminder. Prepare for any and all possible contingencies when it comes to begging for a visa. Pray the consul doesn’t take a dislike to you and/or didn’t have a bad morning. And above all – whatever you do…
Don’t piss off a Thai Consul.