We arrived in Thailand on a tourist visa so we knew we would have to change it as soon as we got a job in a school. To get the Non-immigrant B visa, which allows us to work as Teachers, you have to leave the country and visit immigration in another country. The nearest Thai consulate from Chiang Mai is in Vientiane, Laos. We had to wait a few weeks for all the documents, finished school one day at 4pm, given our documents, went home, packed and were on an overnight bus to Udon Thani by 7pm. Udon Thani is still in Thailand but its 10 hours away by bus, a very long 10 hours with little sleep, light shining in your eyes and a desperate need for the toilet without waking other passengers up!
Arriving in Udon Thani, we then get a mini bus to the Thai/Laos boarder to leave the country. Pay the equivalent of £35 for a Laos tourist visa and make our way to the consulate. Get ripped off by a Tuk-tuk driver, although Tuk-tuk’s aren’t the same as in Thailand, they are proportionally longer and have an awful smell to them! Hand in our documents to immigration, had previously heard we’d be queuing for hours but there was a Thai holiday the next day so queues were empty. This meant we had to spend 3 days in Vientiane, with little money, lessons to plan and not really wanting to be there in the first place. We had only moved into our new condo 2 days before!
Having looked around, there wasn’t much to do there either but we wanted to make the most of it, so we ticked all the tourism boxes! Visited Buddha park, which was stunning I must say, full of old Buddha ruins! Visited the Putuxai monument, a French war victory gate which looks identical to the Arc de Triumph in Paris! And finally we took a very hot walk to view some incredible sand art as part of a sand art festival, they actually had a festival for sand art, however we were the only ones there! Evenings were spent walking to the river side and exploring the very busy night market and stopping off at overpriced restaurants, not really being able to find Laos’ own cuisine, it was mainly Thai, American or Indian.
After spending 3 days lesson planning and sightseeing, we decided to go for a pizza for our last night. As delicious as it was, my boyfriend and I became very unwell in the morning. Too ill to walk, we got a tuk-tuk to pick up our new Thai visa’s and then a mini bus back to Udon Thani. Went to queue for a taxi to the bus station (feeling dreadful), when we overheard a group getting a taxi to the airport. Decided to jump in their taxi and paid a whole £20 for a 40 minute flight straight back to Chiang Mai! More expensive than the 10 hour overnight bus but the way we were feeling, we’d have been foolish to get the bus again!
Having to leave Thailand to go to a consulate in another country is not going to be high on anyone’s list of things they want to do. We had the option to go to Laos, sort our visa’s and lesson plan for the upcoming semester. Or we could make the most of our trip to Vientiane and become tourists again for the weekend. The second option seemed much better and to be honest, even though there is little to do in Vientiane, I actually had an enjoyable time there (although I won’t be rushing back anytime soon!).