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How It All Began Part 5

Black Pagoda Patpong Bangkok

Preparing for the “Big Move”!

Back home in the U.S. we started preparing for our future move. The housing market was pretty good at that time. We had a nice house in a desirable area, so we needed to be prepared for a potentially quick move.

I needed to get complete information about what kind of visa was required to reside in Thailand. I thought that the logical thing to do was contact the Thai Embassy in Washington. Surely they must get requests like this all the time. Surely they must be professionals. Boy was I ever in for my first shock into the reality of the Thai government bureaucracy. I dialed the Embassy’s phone number. It rang. The phone was picked up at the other end. No one greeted me with something like, “Thai embassy, how may I help you?” What I heard was, “We’re eating lunch now, please call back later!” Click. I was dumbstruck. I could have been a? WTF? I wondered what His Royal Highness the King of Thailand would think if he knew that was the way HIS country’s representatives to the United States of America were answering the telephone. Having lived here in the Kingdome for several years now, I’m afraid to say that he probably wouldn’t have been surprised!

I did call back a few hours later, not that it did me a whole lot of good. I introduced myself, and said that I was moving to Thailand. I said that I was over 50 years old, and my wife is a Thai citizen (she still holds both Thai and U.S passports) and requested written information about visa requirements. What paperwork was necessary for me to fill out before leaving the U.S? What documentation did I need? I wanted to be 100% prepared! After being bounced around from one person to another, I was finally told that no real information about visa requirements was available! I was told that nothing could be done until I had entered Thailand. Click. Again I thought WTF is going on here? I was incredulous. No information available? That had to be a bunch of BS.

I started doing some research on-line, and immediately found what I was looking for…a list of requirements and documents. Those lazy a**holes in Washington were either totally incompetent, or deliberately unhelpful. Knowing now how the Thai government bureaucracy works I know it was a combination of the two! Getting a Thai bureaucrat to lift a little finger and actually do some work requires the patience of Job, and we all know that basically when it comes down to it, they really don’t like farangs! Any roadblock they can throw in our way is like a ray of sunshine in their otherwise dreary lives.

Okay. I had a list of what I needed. I gathered all the required documents. I had a physical examination that proved conclusively that I didn’t have elephantitis, leprosy, HIV, and was not a drug addict. I obtained a document from the local police that I was not a criminal. I had certified copies of birth certificates, my divorce decree, our marriage certificate etc. I needed to set up a Thai bank account, but that couldn’t be done until we were in Thailand. I had everything that the Thai government said I needed, and so I was completely confident that all our ducks were in a row. In retrospect, I was a naïve idiot. It would be much too simple for the Thai Immigration to have an actual list of requirements. That would spoil all their fun when slapped you in face and told you that you weren’t even close to having what they required…today! (Even after playing this game three times since I’ve been in Thailand, I never know what new document they will suddenly demand. Again, I think sometimes they just make this up as they go along, just to keep us off balance.)

Even though I knew we would sell our house, it still stunned me when we suddenly did! We turned a nice profit to boot, which would pay for our new home in Lampang! Things were going well.

Now we needed to go through our possessions and decide what we would take, and what we would leave behind. We had a few nice pieces of furniture that we definitely would bring. I definitely needed our Temperpedic mattress. With my culinary background, I had a lot of kitchen stuff. I absolutely would NOT leave behind my books, and I had thousands of them! Unlike Thais, I couldn’t live without books! I looked forward to rereading all of them over the coming years. Of course we had clothing, but could leave behind at least half of that, since it was cold weather stuff. We arranged to sell both our cars right before we left. Between what we would receive for both of them, we could afford one new vehicle once we were here.

It was time to contact some shipping companies and get some quotes. We settled on a company called Omega. Their website showed a good record. Yes, they were familiar with Thailand. No, we wouldn’t have any problems. No, we would not have to pay any duty, since what we were shipping were used household items. Their representative came to our home. We pointed out everything we wanted to take. He measured it all, did a bunch of calculations, and reckoned that everything would fit into a half container. Everything would be carefully packed and sealed at our home. The seal on that container would not be broken until it arrived at our doorstep. Omega guaranteed full responsibility for our stuff from door to door. The agent gave us his phone number. Okay, it sounded good. It would take six weeks or so for our shipment to arrive. We arranged for it to be loaded two days before our departure. We listed our provisional address as that of “H****** Homes.” As soon as we arrived, we would arrange for storage while we built our house.

Let me say categorically, if you are planning an international move, never under any circumstances use Omega! Now the actual wrapping and packing of our stuff went very well. They crew they sent definitely knew what they were doing. By the time they were done loading our container, everything was well cocooned for its sea voyage, and every inch was filled.

Everything arrived safely to the shores of LOS and that’s when the problems began, but I’ll get into that in a while. Suffice it to say for now that when problems arose, Omega was no where to be found! But for now, most of our worldly possessions were bound for Thailand, and we were not far behind!

Welcome to Thailand!

No matter how many times I take the flight from New York to Bangkok, it is always is a serious haul that is a physical and mental drain. So we staggered bleary eyed but with a sense of excitement into our new lives! We were ready to roll. Thai Immigration had other ideas. Dante could hardly have dreamed up a more horrendous circle of hell than what exists at Thai Immigration in Bangkok. The place is overcrowded, under ventilated, utterly confusing and run by people whose sole function in life is to frustrate you at every turn. And you don’t dare to utter an objection or raise your voice in protest. These guys and gals hold your fate in their hands, so it’s all smiles, Thai style, even though you’d love to scream and tell them all to f*** themselves! Virtually everything I had learned online about visa requirements was wrong. I needed a whole bunch of other stuff, all of which needed to be translated into Thai. The translation “service” they sent us to, consisted of an old man, with an ancient typewriter and a dictionary! It took hours for him to puzzle his way through a single short document! When at last we staggered back to the officer who sent us on this quest, we were told that she couldn’t process my visa application and that since we were moving to Lampang, that we need to go to Chiang Mai immigration! For the first, but hardly the last time, I turned to my wife and said, “Welcome to Thailand!”

Stickman's thoughts:

I have enjoyed this series up to this point and I have to say you hit the turbo button a couple of times in this part with me erupting in laughter at your succinct observations. I loved the bit about the answerphone message and the officials too busy to answer the phone because they were eating! Only in Thailand (well the US Embassy in Washington is officially Thailand, isn’t it!)