August 31, 2012

Running for a Visa

This is my first ever visa run. I'm not accustomed to being in a country under a tourist visa with the expectation of leaving every few months just to cross a boarder, get a stamp, and then return still with a tourist visa. But apparently that's what ya do here.  Well, those of us who don't officially have sponsors.  Before I get too far along, I wanted to post a video that shows life in Mae Sot. It is excellently filmed and the music is beautifully composed. I do not take credit for the video, it was done by Allyse Pulliam and song is called "Blood" by The Middle East Awesomeness: Mae Sot, Thailand

So, that is Mae Sot for you... but back to this visa run thing. Every few months we will be in this same situation - visa expires in about a week, plan to cross some boarder for a day or two, then travel all the way back home.

We leave Mae Sot for an overnight 8 hour bus ride back to Bangkok where we will buy a bus ticket to cross into Laos (another 8 hour ride). The trick is to arrive in Laos early enough to get the visa process started before 2pm, which means the ride to Laos is another over nighter. Bam! 39 hours gone simply getting to the visa place. It takes a minimum of 24 hours to get a new visa assuming you arrive early enough (63 hours). If we turned around and went directly home, this is another 39ish hours giving us a grand total of 4.25 days of traveling.

Imagine having to do this every 30 days. Fortunately 60 day visas exist and there are rumors of 90 day visas, though I've never actually seen one. Also, fortunately for me, Aileen and I are staying in Laos for a few extra days. This is a nice thing about the visa run scheme - I'll see Laos for the first time, in a few months even Cambodia, Burma, and may take a trip to Malaysia. So really, there isn't much to complain about except for long bus rides. I'll get to travel and add new stamps to my passport (which if I hadn't lost my first... second... or third.. maybe even fourth, eh I've lost count) I would have a filled passport by the end of this adventure.

August 27, 2012

Mae Sot

By: Aileen Rhodes
   It is hard to get back into the swing of things. My nearly 2 month long hiatus makes coming back to blogging difficult. China, with all it's glorious censorship made blogging impossible. Hence nothing new has been posted.  But, we'll skip all the traveling to Thailand and jump on into how life in the new town is going. (If you are really dieing to hear about our travels, and they were amazing with wonderful pictures, check out Adventures of A Nerdy Nomad - Aileen, my wife, is an excellent story teller).

    Aileen first described Mae Sot as a frontier western town. I immediately pictured shanty like wooden shacks with dusty roads and an even dustier post office. I imagined a single intersection maybe with a brothel or a saloon and a small police station with two cells.  I even pictured a tumble weed rolling  down the road - made of coconut husk shavings of course; I mean, we are in Thailand after all.

By Aileen Rhodes
     Well in truth, Mae Sot is very much like a frontier western town. Just across the water you can see Burma. But not in the way I imagined. I mean, the police station may only house 2 cells and there are only 2 stop lights on the main, rather dusty, road. The feeling of frontierism actually comes from the strange collection of people that flood the town. There are International NGO workers, volunteers, professionals, missionaries, activists, refugees, tourists, and locals from all walks of life. Everyone is coming here to see the world or to change it. Not that this is a bad thing, just different.

    Thailand is famous for its easy going kinda life. It is easy to see why people flock here. It is even easier to see why people simply stay. One of our favorite food places is called Canadian Dave's. An expat operated (with the help of his Thai wife) gastronomic wonder. It is a place where access to great ingredients make for great food. Here one can get nearly any western food.

   Just yesterday I met a German girl who returned to Mae Sot for a second year work with a music school. And her friend, he plans on staying for 2 more years at least. So, I must admit... I like the idea of frontier life. Unless I'm sent to Burma for work, I can see myself in Mae Sot for at least a year - or 2.