I hate these things. Treated like cattle. Speeding around curves is fun for me, in my own car…. but not in this situation when you in a vehicle with the aerodynamics of a loaf of bread and no seatbelt.
You get picked up at night, stop every 2 or so hours and arrive 6am at the border as it opens. Note to readers (don’t sit at the back unless you like being jolted airborne and awake every 30min), I had done this all before so I knew the drill.
At the border you race to the start of the line, get your stamp and get back to the bus ASAP. I raced! My visa run overlapped my final year exam preparation with the kids I was teaching. So I needed to stand in the queue for fines and pay 3000thb 92$ overstay fees. I was number 2 in line. But then came a mafia looking Russian with his family. I was now 6 in line. Two oompaloompa orange looking Russians decided to get onto this Russian dominating train and push in. As well as 2 more Russian families… Note to self and readers: bring earphones and the biggest and most confrontational friend you know.
Two hours later..
I step out of there and we off to the next border Malaysia. I scan my fingers….. and get told to wait in the office. #$%&. I try recall reading anything about using 2 passports as illegal. No?
30 min later they attend to me, I rescan my fingers and I can go through. All the people in the bus waiting for me. Hungry, sleep deprived angry Russians. I crawl to the back seat that is now allocated to me.
I found out on arrival that you can no longer get a 30-day tourist visas on land entries. Now I need to buy a VISA and a fine I paid for staying an extra week for preparing my kids for their final exams. Now my expenses became more than the price of my whole visa trip – fail
I ate the 3rd worst buffet breakfast of my life and collapsed in my room.
Last time I made the mistake of trying to walk around the Old Town in Penang and see all the street art myself. This time I hired a bicycle guy to take me around for an hour…. than2… then 3… It was pretty cool so I stayed and I kinda liked being pedalled around. I remember smiling from ear to ear and thinking “I feel like a tourist again” – my favourite feeling in the world
My peddler was super old and friendly. I made sure we stopped enough times to take some pictures and give him a rest in the 3 hours of Malaysian Heat and bought him a Coke.
As I arrived back as it started raining, I think I could have gone for 4 hours. I searched my pockets for the 90 Malaysian Ringgit or $24 I owed him. I was 9 Ringgit short. After my fine and my application for a visa, I had no more money left. The old man let me off 10 Ringgit which I felt so guilty about – if anyone sees this man please support him, he was so accommodating to my mistake.
With one Ringgit to my name, I decided to go back to my room and survive on a packet of Lays and M and Ms for the night.
I woke up to the 2nd worst buffet breakfast I’ve ever had and proceeded to wait 3 hours in the hotel foyer for our visas to return. I checked my stamp and we were off.
I watched Udemy videos on the way back which I was highly grateful for. My last visa run involved a chatty American passing a bottle of Hong Thong Thai whisky around the bus. He subsequently passed out first and kept everyone away with his snores.
Summed up visa run times
8 hours from Phuket to Malaysian border
2 hours stamping visas
Drive 45min to Penang
Ticketing and snacks – 1 hr stop
Malaysian Border -10 min
Thailand border – 30 min stop and a little extra in the passport “to go smoothly”
3 – 4 hours drive and late lunch
4 hours later arrive in Phuket north 10/11 pm.