Visa run virgins
Trip Start Feb 15, 2006
164Trip End Feb 16, 2007
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Anyway visa runs seem to be the every day norm in Thailand, especially here on the island of Koh Tao. Almost every travel agent advertises them and it's pretty self explanatory; you cross one of the boarders and come back again, simple!
We book our tickets and pay the 1,400 baht which includes boat, bus and boat there and boat, bus, boat back. It's cheaper to take the night boat and the lady explains we will travel on the car ferry (11pm) which has beds, blankets and pillows to Chumphon
We eat, collect tickets and the lady informs us that the car ferry is not running tonight, it's a normal boat; ok fine, it leaves at 10pm. It's now 9.20pm so we pop into the 7 - 11 to get pop and crisps. While I'm queuing at the counter some guy elbows me in the head; ouch! This should be a sign of how the night will go, he apologises profusely and I say 'hey it's ok, I'm fine' as if it happens every day, pay and leave heading towards the pier.
Our boat is now in sight, Ben and I look at the boat, then each other and then back at the boat. Its bright blue and red and looks like it could sink at any second. A man takes our tickets and tells us to get on board, I want to scream. We climb on to the lower deck, it stinks of oil and in the middle is a huge table which covers ¾ of the deck so I head upstairs in search of a bed, blanket and pillow as the lady promised
We tip toe between the limp bodies sprawled out along the deck and park our bums on a corner of the bench that runs all the way round; its going to be a bloody long night. As we set sail uncomfortable and cold I figure this lot ligged out on the floor are not visa run virgins. The sea is ruff, the waves toss the boat around like toy in its grasp and there is a never ending circle of lights surrounding us from fishing boats casting their nets in the deep, deep sea. I manage to squeeze my self into a gap on the floor shivering from the wind, wrapping myself in the life I grabbed as soon as I stepped on board. The elbow man is on the boat and turns into my saviour as he lends me not one but two t-shirts to keep me warm. Ben goes to the loo and upon his return he drags me off the floor shouting 'come on down stairs its going to. . .' and before he finishes the sentence the heavens have opened, bodies are alive and diving for cover into the tiny cubby hole barely big enough for eight people and now housing 20. We run down stairs trying not to fall over board as the boat is tossed from left to right
At 3am the boat docks, we sit and wait not sure where we are or exactly where we are heading, only wishing I was in a nice warm bed sleeping like pretty much the rest of Thailand. The mini buses arrive at 5am and we embark on the second leg of our journey, 2 hours later we (about 25 of us) file into the immigration office to get our passports stamped, confirming we are leaving Thailand. We get back in the bus and 10 minutes later we arrive at the dock for the second boat where a man collects all our passports along with $5 (deportation tax) and we sail across the river to another immigration office, then sail some more and hey presto we are in Myanmar (Burma). We have 15 mins to by cheap cigs (£2 for 200) before we head back to the boat, returning to the immigration office on the river where a guard comes on the boat to check our bags (you're only allowed 200 cigs per person and 1ltr of alcohol), he then signals the all clear for us to return back across the river
The moral to this story is:
If like us you are virgin visa run people follow my good advice regardless of what the person who sells you the ticket says.
1. Arrive at boat at least one hour before departure time (or more if possible) to get a space to sleep (cubby hole is best choice).
2. Take jumpers/t-shirts and be wearing warm clothes (take sleeping bag if you have one).
3. Grab life jacket and use as pillow (you may need it and I counted more people on board than life jackets).
4. As soon as the mini bus arrives dive in for best seats (the three directly behind the driver with the most leg room then you may be able to get a little more sleep).
5. Ask driver if he is calling at KFC for food (you will be starving) it's the highlight of the trip.
I hope you get to catch the nice warm ferry boat and wish you lots of luck if you end up on the same boat we did; Bon Voyage.
To be continued. . . . .