Sunday (probably your Saturday) I spent 12 hours ferrying onto the mainland and going in a van 400km to Malaysia and back for new visa stamp. I have a multi-entry year long visa that cost me $120 ($54US) but they still make me leave every three months! Three caravaned vans with 10-12 people in each…and there are companies all over Samui that offer the same runs. I thought I would get 3 more months but they gave me only 2 because it is all up to the particular border office what they will give you! Now if I wanted to stay a third month I would have to go to the local Samui immigration office and pay 1800 baht ($54US) for 1 more month! Imagine how many expats all over Thailand or people on long-term stays who are doing the same thing! Way to bring money into Thailand! I think if I had flown out and back in I would have gotten 3 months. But I’m leaving before the third month anyway.
The run was quite an experience as my son Doug who lives here warned me. I think the Austrian trip leader belonged to the gestapo in another life! Maybe even a cousin of Hitler’s! ) Driving 150km an hour (90mph) with only a half dozen near misses, we got only two 5-minute potty stops on the way and on the way back. And at the border there was a HUGE local week-end market where we were told by the gestapo NO TIME FOR SHOPPING! But some of the guys (and they were ALL guys) sneaked some food. And on the way back at the last stop we only got 2 minutes because the gestapo wanted to make the 3pm ferry to Samui instead of waiting until 4pm. At the border office we got yelled at because we were standing as a group, as we had been told NOT to do, and not lined up one after the other like the SS. Wonder what would happen if he tried to do this in China! ) Oh well…it was all quite organized. He knew all the border guards and did a good job greasing the whole thing for us. And wonder of wonders he pronounced my last name (Goetz) right! I told him it was the first time ever! Usually people who don’t know me say Go-etz or Goats instead of Gets! Ha! But had never been on the Thai side of the Thai/Malaysia border so it was nice to see how tropical it was. Southern Thailand has been racked in recent years by a Muslim separatist movement but like with all the negative media attention in Oaxaca…no bombers were seen! Ha!
The pony-tailed gestapo trip leader had visited most of the States and worked for two years in Florida as a tour guide. “Did you know Central Florida is the second largest beef cattle producer in the States?” No! I exclaimed. This is an interesting phenomenon. Often foreign tourists know more about the sights than the local people.
I was tucked into the very back seat (seats were assigned by the gestapo) with a young guy from The Netherlands who at one time had a band in NYC…writing the lyrics and producing the music and who now was writing a book about Thai culture and the law to be entitled “RESPECT” targeted to all the young Western guys who are here for “Happy.” Since he was married to a Thai, I asked how long he had been living here. “16 months,” he says. Oh, good, I thought! And you are writing about Thai culture! Guys don’t realize how dangerous it can be here, he says. Give a Thai the middle finger, he said, and you will be killed. And of course everyone should know what happens if you are caught with drugs of any kind. And 8 people are killed every week on the sandy ring road around Samui. Well, it will be better for young guys than reading “Bangkok 8″ so it may do some good. I hope.