Yes, I overstayed my visa by 11 days and I completely freaked out. Googling the circumstances didn’t help calm my nerves when I found out cause someone said he stayed in jail for a day. And technically, I was breaking the law despite Thailand being… “laid back”.
6 July 2015, Monday
Took the minivan from Pai to Chiang Mai to change to a sleeper bus. Boy, my journey to Siem Reap was a long one.
Route for 6 July to 7 July (time taken is a rough estimate, based on my memory):
- Pai to Chiang Mai (2.30pm – 6.00pm)
- Chiang Mai to Bangkok (7.00pm – 5.00am)
- Bangkok to Thai/ Cambodia borders (8.30am – 2.00pm)
- Cambodia borders to Siem Reap (4.30pm – 9.00pm)
I was the only one in the minivan/ bus to be heading to Siem Reap. The receipt I received had instructions to report to a shop (Route 88) by 7.00am when I reached Khao San Road, Bangkok.
The sleeper bus was just like a normal coach with reclining seats, filled with backpackers going to Bangkok. Could barely sleep cause they were playing two Fast & Furious movies and I could barely sleep in a comfortable position cause of space constraints.
7 July 2015, Tuesday
Reached Bangkok at 5.00am, goodness it was too early. Needed some food so I went to trusty McDonald’s to have some breakfast. There was no bathroom around that I could use to pee or wash up! The public ones in the plaza were closed at night.
Sat at a bench in the end to wait for 7.00am and used my wet wipes to freshen up and wear my contact lens. I was ready to conquer the next leg of my journey to Siem Reap! At the same time, I was starting to get worried as time drew closer to reaching the Thai borders. What was going to happen to me???
Found Route 88 in a shady alley behind KFC and the shop was closed… Thankfully a coffee store owner was there, took a look at my receipt, and told me to just sit there and wait. Started making small talk and he thought I was Japanese. That was a first for me.
Decided to spend 5baht at the guesthouse next door to pee and brush my teeth. After awhile, a motorbike pulled up by the road and a guy yelled “Siem Reap!”. The coffee store owner gestured that it was my ride. I was amused at how there were no official instructions and everything was based on trust. What if I wasn’t supposed to be on the bike? What if I was going to get kidnapped?? Kidding, I didn’t think too much into it. At the very most I would scream my lungs out and punch people.
The minivan, once again, was packed with backpackers. Almost reached the Thai borders around 11.30am. Why I say almost is because before bringing us to the borders, they dropped us off at a local restaurant. This is where the “scams” take place.
We entered a closed-door room in pairs and for those who needed visas to enter Cambodia were told to pay 1,600baht. I think the rate you get for doing it at the border itself is 30USD. You had to pay another 10USD more at the “scam”. Luckily for me, I didn’t need a visa and ended up paying 100baht for who knows what reason. I guess you could reject getting a visa with the “scammers” but they’d probably cause a bit more trouble for you and maybe you’d get dumped somewhere along the roads. Just kidding.
SO. After an hour or so of dilly-dallying, they split us up and put us in separate minivans. From 12 of us, I ended up in a minivan with two other people – Brian (English) and a Hong Kong guy whose name I didn’t get though we chatted before that. I will never understand their logic of splitting people up and putting them in separate rides.
We were finally on our way to Cambodia! And that’s when the jitters started to kick in.
While walking to Thai borders, I asked Brian about him overstaying his visa cause I overheard him talking about it earlier. He overstayed for four days last year and all he did was to pay a fine of 500baht/ day. That was a bit of a relief for me cause no jail was mentioned. Brought up that I overstayed mine for 11 days.
Boy, was I glad that I spoke about it. The two guys were so sweet – they waited for me while I impatiently waited for my fine to process. I was stuck at immigration for about 40 minutes, paying for the fine, going through some paperwork. I was touched and very glad they stayed and waited for me instead of heading off to Cambodia borders. It would’ve meant I was completely on my own. I didn’t even see any other familiar faces from our minivan!
Even if they didn’t wait for me, I guess I would have done fine. I’d been to the borders before two years ago so everything still looked the same. Also, we were given stickers for tour agency guides to identify us and point us to the right direction.
Cleared Cambodia’s immigration and took the shuttle bus to a bus station to wait for the bus. The whole immigration process actually took us almost three hours! Ridiculous, yet not surprising. I had no complaints though honestly. I was just glad I was with people and I wasn’t in jail. I knew I was in safe hands cause Brian’s been to Cambodia countless times and he kind of knew his way around.
Waited pretty long for our bus to be fixed and they would only set off when the bus was almost full (to make the trip worth it) so more waiting it was!
Stopped at a restaurant for dinner around 8++pm and we finally finally reached Siem Reap! Brian decided to come with and stay at the same guesthouse – Velkommem Guesthouse – cause it was only USD5 a night. Good to have company with you.
I’ve been so cautious about my visa dates ever since this episode. Don’t want to have to go through unnecessary trauma and lose money over a silly mistake. Learnt my lesson the hard way though! Just glad I didn’t have a jail story to tell after!
Next post about meeting up with Ann and exploring Siem Reap.