Thailand, Travel, Work

Kuala Lumpur MKII

The time has come. My 90-day Non-Immigrant ‘B’ visa is about to expire. A visa that could be renewed for a further nine months with the addition of a work permit. Sadly, in my role, I technically work on a project by project basis. The work permits that I get issued from the Film Authority only cover the project period. And at the moment, it’s the beginning of the rainy season with few valid projects. So… time to get a new visa.

I’ve done a bit of research and Thailand offer a Non-Immigrant ‘O’ visa. This is for people retiring in Thailand, for those who have Thai children or for those, like me, with a Thai spouse. I would have been able to apply for this in Thailand providing I met the criteria, which I do, apart from one point. Due to this one point I’m having to apply from a Thai embassy (outside of Thailand). My most recent trip to get a visa was to Kuala Lumpur. It’s not the cheapest option (Laos and Burma are the cheapest), but it’s easy. I can fly directly from Chiang Mai with AirAsia, it’s a well-developed city with plenty of distractions and places to eat and stay. And, most people speak good English. Which is a huge bonus if you’re on a fairly stressful hurried trip to apply for a visa in a strange and foreign land.

I leave on the 16:55 flight from CNX to KUL with AirAsia. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve flown with Asia’s answer to EasyJet so hopefully there good. Once again I’ll be staying at the all green PODs hostel in Brickfields. And I’m sure I’ll be walking the five-minute walk to Little India a few times to stock up on curry, rice and naan bread. Or maybe jump on the bus to China Town and eat some chickens feet and cow tripe. In the interest of saving a bus ticket, I think I’ll stick to Little India.

I’m also going to make more of an effort to make use of the brilliant public transport in KL. Last time I used a combination of taxi’s and the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. Which was great for getting and idea of the geography of the city. But not so good for the wallet. Will also be trying out the AirAsia SkyBus service from the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) to KL Sentral station. AirAsia, along with other budget airlines, fly into the LCCT rather than the main international terminal. It’s effectively a different airport. If I was to use the superb KLIA Ekspres train again I’d need to first catch a bus from the LCCT to the main terminal. The SkyBus however equates to £3.50 return whereas the KLIA alone costs £7 each way + the connecting bus.

In total, I’m expecting this trip to cost around £300. Which includes the £110 visa fee. I’ll be gone for four days. Although it could have been two if the flights had been slightly better timed. To give a comparison, the visa companies in Bangkok, quoted me 25,000 baht (£500) to complete this. And they would do it all by post. So not only would I be £200 down, I’d also have to trust my passport and wedding certificate to an unknown man and the Thai postal system. No thanks.

After planning this new visa-adventure I also decided to apply for a new job. Pro-Consul at the British Embassy in Bangkok. Not entirely sure what this involves. But, sounded good at the time. And, I wouldn’t have to make any more visa runs.

I’m going to try to write some blog posts while in KL, but I’m only taking my iPad, not my beloved MacBook Pro. So forgive and mistakes if I do.

Thailand

Visa Run

When I arrived in Thailand to get married, I was issued a 30-day tourist visa on entry. I was on day 27 when I went to the Chiang Mai immigration office to get a 7-day extension. Enough time to prepare documents for a visa run to Kuala Lumpur. As I was now going to be working in Thailand I needed a visa that allowed the addition of a work permit. The most sensible and achievable was the Non-Immigrant B visa, the ‘B’ standing for business. In Thailand to obtain such a visa requires you to apply from outside the country at a Thai embassy. I’d done some research and found a few prime locations, but decided to head to Kuala Lumpur, which would also be my first visit to Malaysia.

My wife (Mos) and I both headed down to Bangkok on the overnight train from Chiang Mai. She was planning to visit some friends in Bangkok whilst I sorted out my visa in Kuala Lumpur. The next morning I booked my flights online, paid for them over the counter in 7 Eleven (yes, you can do that), and jumped on a minibus for the airport. Strangely the cheapest flights I could find were with Egypt Air, both the flight to and from KL were at most thirty percent full.

Once I arrived in Kuala Lumpur got on the KLIA Ekspres train and headed to my hostel where I had booked a private double room to enable me to complete my paperwork. I stayed at PODs in the Brickfields area of KL. Which is heavily populated by Indians as it is only a short walk from the famous Little India district. Brickfields is also home to a large population of blind people. Most have been trained to work in massage shops to enable them to earn a living. The area was great, loads of restaurants (mainly Indian), really good transport links as it is right next to KL Sentral station. PODs was brilliant too, highly recommended.

The next morning I was up and ready to head off and find the Thai Embassy, I’d heard it was a pain to find, and in the interest of saving time and hassle I got in a taxi. It took about forty minutes and cost about £5 ($8). Well worth it to not be drenched in sweat when arriving in my shirts and ‘smart’ jeans at the Thai Embassy. Once my number was called I went to the window, gave in my paperwork and the cash. Simple. Such a relief. I’d heard horror stories about other embassy offices. But it wasn’t over, I would have to return tomorrow afternoon to collect my passport, hopefully with a Non-Imm B visa in it!

I decided to spend that 28 hour window productively and got myself a two-day hop-on hop-off bus ticket and explored the city. Petronas Towers, museums, shopping centres and the old Colonial centre of the city with the mock-tudor club houses for the then British government. It’s a great city and I hope to go back with Mos one day.

When the time came I used my hop-on hop-off ticket to reach the Thai Embassy, this time via a much more scenic route (with commentary in a variety of languages). Lined up outside the embassy and waiting for the gates to open. Two hours later, I had my passport and with it, my Non-Imm B visa. I treated myself to a pizza and a cold coke and headed back to the hostel, ready for my evening flight back to Bangkok.