Visa Run To Ranong

Posted by Garth on Friday, August 15, 2008

I was going to write/post this on the heels of my first visa run, but every time I sat down to write it I couldn't bring myself to do so as reliving the experience just didn't seem pleasant.  But now that I (theoretically) don't ever have to do it again I've decided to regale the gory details.

It all started by me realizing that my first 30-day stamp was soon to expire and I needed to get another one.  There are signs all over the place for visa run services to Ranong, but I decided to use the trusty Internet and see what I could find.  Ended up finding a decent service whose office was about a 10 min drive from Dos Gringos.  Went there and talked to a nice Thai lady who had me fill in some mini form with my name, address and phone number on it.  And pay her 1500 baht.  The owner of the place, some German dude named Norbert called me up the next day and started talking German to me due to my last name, but immediately switched to English when that was how I replied.  At any rate, we coordinated the pick up at Dos and pick up time for 6:30am on June 30th.  I woke up at 6 and at around 6:30 a "minibus" pulled up.  Basically a big minivan.  In addition to the driver and shotgun seats there were three benches which each seated three people uncomfortably.  It wasn't very full so I just jumped in to the seat behind shotgun, with the mistaken impression that it was going to be a comfortable ride.  I might add at this point that my ankle was still pretty sore at this point and the thought of sitting in a cramped car for 10 hours didn't seem very appealing.  But no matter, you gotta do what you gotta do.  Anyway, after picking me up we drove a bit and the driver stopped to pick up another load of people who all got into the benches behind me.  Except there was one more person than would fit in the back benches, and since I'd already slid over to the middle of the front bench to let them in, the last guy took my previous seat.  So I was sandwiched between two dudes (why do I feel like that sentence is leaving myself open to a childish comment from Vinh?).

The a/c wasn't pumping nearly enough, and I was a sweaty man.  During the first leg of the journey I managed to sleep a bit.  At around 9am we stopped at some little open air Thai restaurant (breakfast was "included" in the 1500 baht price).  I don't even know what breakfast actually included... some sort of buffet style Thai food, which I just couldn't bring myself to eat.  I'm trying to immerse myself, but I don't eat breakfast at the best of times, and eating rice at 9am just didn't seem appealing.  So I had an ice coffee and a smoke.  After sitting around there for what seemed like forever (but was probably only about 30 mins) we all piled back onto the minibus and set off again.  I really tried to sleep for the second leg of the journey, but like all Thai drivers (or at least those in Phuket) he was a little ting tong and was taking turns on the road far too quickly for me to be able to remain upright.  So mostly I sat there, tried to move my ankle into positions that didn't cause immediate pain, and closed my eyes in hopes that I could get a minute or two of sleep before the next G-force riddled turn came up.

At around 12:00pm we pulled up to some sort of dock area where there were other minibuses and other farangs like myself just sort of milling about.  We piled off the minibus and I followed our group into some little shop where they charged us 5 baht to make a photocopy of our passports.  Then we were directed to the immigration line for people leaving Thailand and got our exit stamps.  After we were all done with that the whole group of us (not just our minibus but all the farangs from the other ones as well) were directed towards the end of the dock and into a big boat. Getting onto this boat, given my ankle condition, was definitely a challenge, but I managed to board it without falling into the water and making an ass of myself.  I immediately chose a seat inside the boat and out of the sun's harmful rays.  Once everyone was on board we took off down the river.  Enroute there was a Thai dude who kept asking us if we wanted to buy Viagra.  Apparently he had some sort of Burmese connection.  I graciously declined, but there was an old guy who'd obviously been here awhile and went into negotiations with the Thai.  I really need to take more random people pictures (though I don't even think I had my camera with me - my new phone will help alleviate that issue I'm sure).  This guy was definitely amusing.  Probably in his 60s but had a pony tail and a really open collar shirt and was wearing some sort of Buddha medallion.  Definitely appeared to be (at least in my stereotypic image) a long-term sex tourist.  The Viagra negotiation may have contributed to that viewpoint.  Eventually the river opened up into the Andaman Sea and after about 20 mins we arrived in Myanmar (Burma).

Once there the boat docked and we all piled off.  Walked along the dock and there were about 20 vendors trying to sell us shit.  A couple dudes in dress shirts and pants were the "friendliest" and walked with us to the Immigration office and continued to hang out with us while we waited, trying to convince us to do some shopping while we were here.  So, we all stood around (about 20 of us) waiting to be processed by Immigration.  I was the last one for some reason, so unfortunately couldn't do any shopping as this was an in-and-out deal.  Once my passport was stamped appropriately I was quickly led back to the boat and we were off once again.  On the return trip I sat outside for a bit talking to some British guy who'd been here for 5 years... and had done this trip many, many times.  Personally I thought he was a little insane to not have sorted out some better way to stay that long, but chacun son goût I suppose. 

The boat pulled in Thailand, but there were so many long-tails docked there that it couldn't get next to the dock.  So we had to boat hop across 4 or 5 long-tails.  Again, my sore ankle was definitely a detriment here and I had visions of myself slipping and falling between two long-tails, hitting my head on one of them on the way down and drowning.  But with the exception of some scratches from the exposed and poorly sanded wood on the long-tails I made it back to the dock in one piece.  Then it was back to the Immigration line so that the guy that gave us our exit stamps an hour before could now give us entry stamps.  Once that was sorted out and we all had our stamps it was back to the minibus.  This time around though I lucked out.  The guy that had been sitting on my left went with the other minibus for some reason (I'm assuming it had to do with where in Phuket he was going back to) and traded for the old guy that bought the Viagra.  But our driver let him sit in the shotgun seat, so I actually had a little more room and wasn't sandwiched on the return trip. 
We took off from Ranong around 1pm.  At around 3pm we stopped at a gas station/mini mart.  We hung out there for about 20 minutes while people used the facilities, smoked and purchased drinks/snacks for the return trip.  At around 4pm two Filipinas in the seat behind me started singing.  I guess they were having a better time of it than I was.  In retrospect, it at least gave me something to listen to.  But at the time I was bitter and grumpy and tired and sore and just wanted them to stop.  But they didn't.  Anyway, at around 6pm the minibus pulled up at Dos Gringos and I gladly exited stage left.

And there, in a nutshell, is my visa run to Ranong.  Twelve hours of my life that I will never get back.  But luckily, I will never have to do again either.  Knock wood.


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