Readers' Submissions

Delightful Chiang Mai – Some Shopping There (2/2)



Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

— Stationery (1): Saa Paper

HQpaper makes most delightful saa paper, this traditional handmade paper: Flowers, grasses, leaves and gold threads are woven into very delicate, not too rough mulberry papers. They have a small outlet near the western end of Rachadarmnoen road.

I could marvel for hours in this wonderful material. I ask if the papers are printer compatible; the lady speaks elaborate English, but fails to pepper her talk with facts. It seems to trickle through that some of the papers did work on her ink jet printer; but for lasers she doesn't know. In my own previous experiments with rough handmade papers from Europe, the laser toner would not stay on the material.

This business seems quite upmarket and export-minded, but then again: They don't have proper A4 sizes. And you buy them by the sheet. You just drag the ones you like out of their compartments, and the lady will count them all, one by one, even if one hundred. I really don't fancy to wait for her paper counting ritual, but they do not have any pre-packed stacks of papers.

— Stationery (2): Photocopies

I log my brick of a guide book to the big stationery store on Thaphae road to photocopy the 50-odd pages I actually need for Chiang Mai and around.

The sleepy service lady puts the book loosely on the photocopier; then with a shrug she shows me that the copy looks distorted – because she didn't press the heavy book onto the glass bottom. I gesture her to press the book, so the next copies get much better.

Copying finished. She starts to manually count all the pages. Couldn't she do it while copying? Can't the big machine do the counting?

It is 57 Baht for the copies, plus I buy a SIM card, that's another 199 Baht. The stationery lady calculates the grand total on a piece of paper; for about ten minutes.

I ask her for a stapler, so I can fix the loose papers together. I get a disappointingly small device, so I try to use it only for the first third of my copies. Nothing happens, because the device has no clamps in it.

— Stationery (3): Forms and Stamps

I don my new leather shoes, a shirt and a jacket, make sure I wear my helmet, then I ride motosai to the southwestern suburbia; between Central Airport Shopping Center and the airport itself, I turn left for a special store that is not known for overt customer orientation.

And yes, thank god and hotel laundry for my relatively proper dress, I am welcomed by the sign: "You are requested to dress politely."

In spite of the formal dress code, they have just an outdoor counter, a bit like the bus station in New Sukhothai. It is the Chiang Mai outlet of the nationwide Immigration store chain. I want to shop for a bestseller item, the usual extension for a usual 30-day tourist visa. I do believe to carry all the proper passport pictures, photocopies and banknotes on hand.

I ask the serious Immigration sales lady for 15 days visa extension. – "Only ten days!", she insists. – Why, no bargaining here? I tell her with a smile that in all their easygoing tropical state of mind, her colleagues at Ko Samui's Immigration store branch had given me *15* days last year, and that's true. – But we are in partly chilly Chiang Mai. "Only ten days!"

The serious Immigration shop girl insists that I write down my hotel and its phone number on the form; fortunately in my wallet I have a business card of my lodge. I ask her if she needs my own mobile number, but she wants the hotel's number. A farang next to me is asked for his room number, but she doesn't want mine, and yes, he is better dressed.

Despite my bush of papers, I forgot to bring a copy of my departure card. So I have to venture behind the building. There is a noodle stall that does a brisk side business with photocopies and passport pictures coming out of a mobile printer. Copies here are worse and more expensive than anywhere else in town, of course. I like the space on the immigration form where I could leave a thumb print instead of a signature.

The lined-up chairs in the waiting section back at Immigration store again remind me of New Sukhothai bus station. I discover a lot of sales information on the walls: special deals for long-term stayers, marriages or businesses. The ambiance is slightly cheap for a high price outlet:

For my ten days more, I pay 1900 Baht. This makes sense, because the Immigration store branch office at the airport charges 2000 Baht for overstaying. By shopping ahead for a visa extension at your local Immigration store, you save 100 Baht.

— Air Tickets

With ten days more on hand, I tire of shopping and would like to cool my feet in the soothing sands of a Krabi beach – tomorrow of course. I stir motosai to a designer internet shop on Rachadarmnoen and check THAI's web site: all fully booked, except for a discounted, yet unacceptable 6 a.m. start. I check Bangkok Airway's web site: all fully booked, if I understand the mess right.

I stir motosai to a ticket shop on touristy Moon Muang road: "Sawasdee khrap, I need air tickets from here to Krabeeee. I checked online, but everything seems full." – "Oh, we have just the same internet information as you. So we cannot help you. But you can walk two minutes to Holiday Center down this way, they have direct connection to the airlines."

I walk two minutes down to Holiday Center. It looks slightly less d&d (drab&dubious) than 99 percent of all other ticket shops I saw in SE Asia. They even wear some kind of uniform. Two minutes later, I have all the tickets I need, and confirmed.

— Next Time

I walk two minutes back to motosai. Hey, I think, now I fly out of delightful Chiang Mai and never checked this thing called Night Market. Maybe next time.

Stickman's thoughts:

Very nice. I loved the immigration bit!