Thursday, 15 January 2009

Visas and Stuff

There are always things going on in Phuket. We have recently had children’s day, a fair at Saphan Hin, a party at the university and soon it will be Chinese New Year. It all helps to keep Phuket fun. As well as all the regular attractions such as trips to the beach, you also have these special events for a bit of variation. It is not as if you are ever really struggling to find things to do.

I have just got back from my annual (well 15-monthly) visit to Penang to renew my marriage visa. I normally get a 1-year multi-entry. This visa allows you to stay for 90-days each visit, as many visits as you want for the 1-year duration of the visa. That is, you have to do a visa run every 90-days by hopping over the border to another country and hopping back again. It was an arrangement I was happy enough to accept. A visa run every 3-months is not a great hardship and we usually turn it into a family trip.

It is the fourth time I have made the Penang trip and I was beginning to look on it as a formality. Well this time I got a bit of a surprise as the consul turned down my application for a multi-entry and only gave me a single-entry 90-day visa. It goes to show you can never take anything for granted. The problem is the various Thai consuls around the region can and do apply their own interpretations of the regulations. In this case, they said I should have 800,000 baht in the bank (actually twice as much as is required for the 1-year extension of stay).

It is no use jumping up and down about these things. You have to accept them and find the best way of working with them. So I have 3-months to work out another visa option such as applying for the 1-year extension of stay. If not, then I do know people who actually go to Penang every 3-months. I really do not fancy that option but it is there as a last resort.

For the moment, it is nice to be back home. Tomorrow is teacher’s day so it is a day off school. I think we will go out somewhere.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

New Year in Phuket

Last year we welcomed in the New Year at Patong. It was actually generally a very unpleasant evening and we swore we would not do New Year in Patong again. So, this year we went for a very different option – camping at Nai Yang Beach.

We have camped at Nai Yang before but we weren’t quite sure what to expect at New Year. We thought it might be busy, it is a Thai holiday and the Thais do enjoy camping. Well there were plenty of people there during the day – certainly compared to normal but still a lot less than an average day at Patong. Many of these people came like us, to set up camp for the night. It was enough people to make it feel like it was a special night out but not so many to feel crowded.

The camping area at Nai Yang Beach is in a national park. They have recently started charging the full 200-baht entrance fee for foreigners but we had no problem convincing the attendants we were local residents and therefore entitled to pay the local 40-baht entrance price.

Most people want to camp in the area under the trees by the beach. This means you have to bring your own tent – if you rent tents from the park they insist you camp in the designated camping area on the other side of the road. We bought our own tents and bbq and set up camp right next to the beach. We spent the day dipping in the sea between drinking a few beers and eating from the bbq. The sun set so we spent more time drinking and eating.

Our kids were having a great time on the beach. First, they dug quite an impressive hole. We left them to it so I was a little surprised when I was told I must go to the beach to see the work of art they had created. It was quite amazing. There was a wonderful mixed group of kids beavering away, creating a truly impressive masterpiece. They had formed a series of concentric circles around the hole framed with a couple of triangles. If the ancients had done it, it would have been declared one of the wonders of the world. Okay, that is a slight exaggeration but here was this mix of young children, naturally working in unison and with great enthusiasm to create a lovely little masterpiece on the beach. An hour later, the tide washed it away.

A few of the campers had bought their own fireworks. From Nai Yang, there is a fantastic view along Mai Khao Beach. As midnight approached, you could see the firework displays kicking off from the few resorts along that beach such as the Marriott. It made a lovely sight.

The next day we did more of the same. Fresh fish on the bbq, a few beers from the ice box and swimming in the sea. It was a vast improvement on the previous year and a much better way for the whole family to welcome the New Year.