Visa Run and Beautiful Art around Banana Boutique Hotel

Matt Davison Travel 0 Comments

visa-run-phuket-malaysiaIf you’re a foreigner living in Thailand you’ll be familiar with the term “visa run”. There are countless choices, but one of the cheapest and standard run, is Penang.

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.

The hotel

Banana-boutique-hotel-roomI get to the Banana Boutique hotel in Old Town Penang. I’ve stayed here before and it’s decent. It’s good for what you pay considering, buffet, flat screen TV and cable.

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

Malaysia bicycle carriges

my ride in Malaysia

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.



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