Friday, March 18, 2005

Thai Prison

I'm writing this incident after the fact Mom because I didn't want you to worry. On Tuesday I looked at my Visa and realized it had expired 11 days ago. I had always assumed the Thailand Visa was good for 6 weeks and I just never looked.

So I immediately phoned the Canadian Embassy to find out my options. A humourless woman told me: "If the police stop you, you will go to prison." Alright, now that she had my attention I asked what to do next. "You need to fly out of the Country right now." So my trip was dashed on the spot. And it's even snowing back there right now! "I have to fly back to Canada right now?" "No", she said, "You just have to fly out of Thailand. If you go by ground transport they may decide they have time to prosecute you and so you could be put in prison until your trial."
So Wednesday, I went to the nearest travel agent and booked a flight for Pnom Pehn, Cambodia. The cost of the return flight was 8600 baht, which Dennis calculated to be 326 dollars Canadian (For those of you who watch numbers like I do, you might be going ahhh right now). So here is the story of my race as a fugitive in Thailand.

Thursday,March 17th
10am: I go out to the street and hail a taxi to Bangkok Airport. This is Jack. He's from Ubon Ratchatani; an ancient City I will be visiting next week. We talked in broken English about the Temples there and his wife and two children.

11:30 I arrived at the Departures area and got my boarding pass. Then I went to Burger King for breakfast just in case this was going to be my last meal. (I was scared but at least I was still thrifty).
11:45 I went to Passport control. I handed Quan my documents and he stopped, looked up and said: "overstay". "Chai" I replied, in my best Thai accent. "With me come" he said and I followed him to a back room.
Now I've never experienced a strip search before so let me tell you that I'm glad I didn't get one that day. He sat me down and talked with his supervisor for a couple of minutes. Then he looked back at me, shaking his head and saying: "Twenty-Two Hundred Baht." You never saw anyone pull money out so fast in their life. They stamped something and motioned for me to leave. It was over. I could breathe again. I wasn't going to prison after all. But then as I headed for gate 75 for departure it occurred to me; what if they don't let me back in? I could be stranded in Cambodia for the rest of my life. As you can see, mild paranoia had taken over.

2:40 I boarded the plane for Pnom Phen, Cambodia.

3:50 I arrived in Pnom Phen Airport.
4:00 I got a Visa for Cambodia ($25 American)
4:09 I handed my passport to a soldier behind the desk and he looked at it for what seemed a long time Then he adjusted the little camera that points at you from the counter, to make sure he could really see me on the monitor properly. I tried to look innocent. Finally, after stamping it 11 times, he handed it back to me and ushered me out.
4:10 I am outside the Airport breathing in the warm Cambodian air as a man hands me a complimentary map of the City. So great to be here!

4:11 I ran to the Departures area.
4:14 I boarded a flight to Bangkok.
5:02 I was back in Bangkok Airport.
5:15 I handed my passport to the woman behind the desk and said: "Sawadee Cup" in my best Thai accent. She smiled and said: "Sawadee Caw. Welcome to Thailand."
The whole flight and processing in two different countries; two and a half hours.

So now I'm feeling pretty cocky. I am legal here and I'm back in Bangkok Airport where this wonderful Thailand adventure began. Last time, I was accosted by a woman with a clipboard who insisted that 700 baht was a fair price to take me downtown. This time another woman accosted me and I asked her how much. "five hundded baudt" she says. "I paid 300 baht to get here this morning" I tell her with one of those looks my brother Mike does so well, as if he's using one eye as a telescope to look at the other person. She smiled and said: "taxi meters over there".
So I meet up with Sancha who tells me he has a great deal for me.

He drives me to a mini bus station where these three dangerous characters joke with me for almost an hour before charging me 60 baht to send me to where I'm staying. I kept asking how long it would be before we left and 'Nick' said: "oh we just wait two more people." I thought for the price it made sense that they should at least have three of us in the bus. Finally, he said for me to get in. He opened the door and there were 15 people crammed into that little bus. And he made three women shove over even more so that I could fit in too. But he got me there.
So that's how I avoided spending time in a Thai prison yesterday. I know there are a lot of you saying: "I would have loved to have seen the prison Steve." Well, I'll tell you what. You come here next time with me and I'll take care of your Visa for you. Hey, did you know they're good for 6 weeks?



Anonymous said...

You're so busy getting your feet polished you forget about your visa?
We'll talk.
What do you bake for people in Thailand slammers? Poppy seed noodles?
This is your mother speaking. PAY ATTENTION.

Anonymous said...

You must have had a 4-leafed shamrock in your pocket.
Well done!

Anonymous said...

"Oh My God"

That little adventure must have been pretty scary.

You should be able to go bungee no problem now eh!!


Anonymous said...

Not quite as good a story as blowing up your car outside Winnipeg, but close! You always have fun no matter what, Steve.


pmelissa said...

I bet you can bend steel in your bare hands.

Anonymous said...

all I really want to know is... how well did your expensive underwear hold up through all of this????


Anonymous said...

Your blogs are better than watching t.v. I was thinking of smuggling you some money in a compartment of a Thai bible or . Now Steve, this your ex talking - remember all the times when I would go nuts because you would overlook ESSENTIAL things Huh Huh?
know what i mean?? so let me get this straight, you flew to Cambodia so you could renew your passport to Thailand. I thought you were coming home - I take it you will be spending a bit more time there which is great.
Hey - good job on the Thai words. It's only that innocent look I think and an angel sitting on your shoulder that gets you by.
Anyway glad you're safe and sound
Love Deeds

Angie said...

Hey Steve, who is the hottie from Canada???? You should get his number ha ha... Quiet life my butt....i know you guys are having too much fun without me but you better save some cold drinks for when i come in June...Oh yeh can you remind my dad that Christmas is in December only...ha ha hopefully he gets that joke.. Just kidding dad. Thanks for keeping me posted Steve you know i appreciate it, 0h and i don't think your weight has gone up. Oh tell dad he only looks like he has lost weight when he is standing. Loves Ang

Anonymous said...

Hey steve,
I always knew you were a fugitive on the run me and mikaela had a good time laughing at your comment about how you ran to cambodia of all places and then right back to Thailand.

Steven said...

Meg: It was devine intervention. I almost crossed the Malaysian border a week before by bus. They would have nailed me.

Steven said...

Sarah: 'Oh My God' (I'm glad we cleared up that it was you and not L who started that one.)
I think the Thai prison system has it's own form of bungee jumping. Unfortunately they don't give you equipment. Actually, all the officials were really nice in both Countries; atleast as nice as they can be while holding machine guns...