Run for the Border

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
Trip End May 30, 2013

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Where I stayed
Crystal Guesthouse Pulau Penang
Read my review - 1/5 stars

Flag of Malaysia  , Pinang,
Thursday, January 3, 2013

As of 12:01 am, we are criminals. In Thailand illegally. We've overstayed our Visa.

A complete misunderstanding. I thought we had until the 3rd, but upon closer inspection (on the 1st) we saw that it was actually the 2nd. Having booked diving and secured (and paid) for a  place to stay we decided to take our chances and see what would happen. Is there one 'free day' as the guide book suggests? Is the fine 500B/day? Has it increased to 1000B? Will we ever be allowed back in Thailand again?

Bus tickets in hand we were waiting at 7:30am. No time for delay. No chance for error. We didn't want to risk being 2 days over. We needed to get there before the border closed! With a long journey ahead of us the driver put the petal to the metal. He must have sensed our urgency. But even with the minibus floored, the needle on the speedometer never moved. Neither did the gas gauge move from E or the odometer change from 111 111 111. He did stop to fill up on gas, so I knew we would be alright for awhile...

Leaving Lanta island, the driver took a left when I was expecting a right. Malaysia was SOUTH and we were heading NORTH to Krabi! What is going on? We don't have time for this! Getting off the bus we were called to get on another bus with passengers going to Khao Sok and Koh Lok (both destinations FURTHER north). Was this some kind of conspiracy?

Dazed and confused, stickers were stuck to our shirts identifying our destinations so the staff didn't have to speak with us. We were herded into a makeshift shelter where mini-busses parked outside on the grass. We felt like convicts already!  Nameless faces, tagged for easy identification.

Finally we were grouped with our other inmates, um, travellers going south to Malaysia and we filled our bus. After we were all ready to go, we were sorted and counted by a series of wardens, or whatever you call people who work for the bus comapany. Clearly the bus was full and clearly there were nine of us, but to no matter. We were counted again. Sitting on our grassy knole type parking lot, it seemed like a lot of formality. Finally, a new face popped in and did a count and started to ask us questions. Like: where were we from, where had we come from that morning, what resort did we stay at last night. Was this some kind of interrogation? 50 questions?  Satisfies with the answers, we were finally on our way! After sitting and getting counted for so long it was all rush-rush-rush now with no time for toilet and no time for food.

Four minibuses and 10 hours later we were finally at the border. I didn't think that they would be open, but we were able to shamefully show our entry stamp, get slapped on the wrists, fill out a tome of paperwork, and pay our fine.

Malaysia side was easy! They didn't even look at our Thai stamps. So, not knowing that we were criminals, didn't even bother to look at the x-ray machine scanning our bags!

There we were!  Escaped persecution and in a new country! But we were still to receive our punishment.

Arriving a few hours later in a crowded busy street and exhausted after the long day, I made the fatal mistake of booking into the first place that had cheap rooms (and paid before looking). Marching up 3 floors of dirty institutionalized building we arrived at a dorm room with 10 beds, no windows and sweaty old guys (daily highs are average 36C here). The smell was beyond  anything I've encountered before.

Perhaps we have gone to jail...

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