Four weeks in Chiang Mai and Fate has been so overwhelmingly kind to me that I have barely had a single Loment – a Laurie Moment, an embarrassing mishap, a catastrophic calamity or a death-dodging disaster.
Life was getting far too normal and boring so I decided to commit a few minor crimes to spice things up.
To celebrate my four week anniversary in the Land of Smiles I sat there cross-legged on my favourite beanbag at the coffee table, weighing up my options.
Do I play the role of some sort of Scouse Bridget Jones minus the giant stash of cocaine, risk being caught and taken to a Thai prison where I’d sit there surrounded by a gang of self-professed battered housewives and deceitfully singing Like A Wirgin?
Do I chance giving myself a millisecond to weigh up whether or not I can outrun a perfectly polite policeman to avoid being fined money I don’t have, before shamedly realising small doesn’t mean slow?
Or , even worse, do I spend my perfectly sunny Saturday morning doing horrendously beige Life Admin?
MY THAI LOMENT
My thirty-day tourist visa had run out and I was now illegally staying in Thailand.
The visa system here is complicated and I no longer have my Uncle Mike and Uncle Ben doing all my L’Admin for me, so of course I procrastinated my visa tasks until the very last minute and accidentally missed the deadline.
It was a Saturday morning, I’d got up early and was as prepared as I ever could be with my passport in hand and five small portrait photographs on which I look like some sort of Afghan hound extra from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp.
I Googled my destination but it was closed – apparently government offices don’t open on Saturdays.
Oh no, I said out loud as I sat there knowing that this was it.
This was my first Thai Loment.
LIFE DECISIONS OF AN IDIOT ABROAD
Hundreds, no thousands of people from the West live here on tourist visas that they extend by thirty days before leaving the country only to re-enter a day later. Twice a year they’re allowed to do what is known as a visa-run across the border to Laos or Myanmar.
There are many companies that overtly offer up this covert operation as a service and I found plenty of options online, but I just didn’t fancy spending my entire weekend in the back of a mini bus in sweltering heat only to cross a tiny line on a slab of land, get a piece of paper and turn back again.
I’m not sure what I think about the whole expat life here yet, but something doesn’t really sit right and the approach to visa-ing says it all. Whatever it is, the whole entire thing is a massive faff and I needed to focus on my prison-dodging task at hand.
The fifty billion Google tabs I had open were hurting my head and I only skimmed a few before making yet another great life decision.
I decided that the best thing to do was to take both the Bridget Jones and petite-police-chase options and just wait until the immigration office doors opened up on Monday morning.
YOU GOT THIS
Up before the dawn; writing done, jog-in-the-smog done, meditation done and off I go in a taxi armed with my passport and Lady And The Tramp portfolio ready to get legal.
The immigration office was swarming with paper-holding people and it wasn’t even 9am.
This kind of situation is my worst nightmare and my archnemesis, L’Admin was smugly swanning around the waiting room in his black cape waiting for me to take my ticket.
There were so many signs, so many people and nothing was clear so I took a seat on the blue plastic-covered seats to take time out and work out what to do. I spotted the sign for visa-extension with a pile of papers underneath and plodded over.
OK this bit, I didn’t mind because I love filling in forms and answering questions. I completed the visa extension request and stood in line waiting for a ticket that would allow me to sit back down and wait even longer.
When I got to the desk I was greeted by an officer who made his ability to spot a moron within a two foot radius incredibly clear with the look of disdain on his face and his monotonal grunting.
TO & FRO
I wasn’t allowed a ticket.
First, I needed to get a photocopy of my passport from a pop-up photocopying station over the dual carraige way. So off I went. Came back. Then I was told I needed a photocopy of my departure card. Off I went. Came back. Then I was told I needed a photocopy of my original tourist visa. Off I went. Came back.
Then I was reminded I needed money to pay for the visa…
I understand that most people would have this covered in one go and may feel the onset of anxiety dodging cars on a busy, Monday morning superhighway while the chances of getting into trouble with officials were scaling up by the minute, but after a lifetime of similar escapades, I consider myself a seasoned Disaster Artist and it was like water off a duck’s back.
After all this to-ing and fro-ing which had taken at least two hours, I needed a break. So I sat down in a local cafe to enjoy a nice little matcha latte before heading over to the cash machine.
Why, today of all days, does my bank decide to lock me out of my account because I accidentally forgot to tell them I was on a Gap Year for Geriatrics?
Fortunately, for some bizarre Fate-ridden reason I’d decided to take my boss’s money card out with me to get our cleaner’s salary ten days before her pay day, so I got the cash and headed back to that dreaded paper-filled palace known as Immigration.
Ticket number 53 in hand, I sat there typing out my first scribblings of a book while waiting for my verdict from thr disapproving judges begind the desk.
Five hours and a 4,000THB fine later I’m free and legal.