Monday, January 31, 2011

A guide to getting married in Thailand - Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my guide to getting married in Thailand......

Our day started with an early morning taxi ride to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The journey took about 45 minutes, due to horrendous congestion and cost over 250 baht.

The reason for our trip was to get the Freedom of Affirmation document and translated copy, stamped and certified by the Legalisation and Naturalisation Division.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, shares it's offices with the Department of Consular Affairs and the full address is 123 Chaeng Wattana Road, Laksi District, Bangkok, 10210. Their opening of hours are officially 8.00-11.30 and 13.30-17.30

Here is a link to their website.......

We arrived just after 8.30 and the ministry was already starting to get busy. I dread to think how long the queues would have been if we'd arrived later!!!

The Legalisation Department was on the 2nd floor. Upon arriving, I advised the staff on the front desk what I needed, they then told me to fill in an "Application for Legalisation" form and I must return to them, once the form had been completed, to get my queue ticket.

The form looks like this........

They provide 2 services, standard and express. The standard service takes 3-4 days to authorise your documents and they return them to you by post. Whereas, the express service offers same day collection. I chose the latter which cost 800 baht.

We had to wait about 30 minutes to submit the paperwork and were asked to return at Midday to collect the authorised copies.

This may not sound like a long wait but, there is not much in the way of entertainment near the Ministry, so we didn't have much choice but to wait on the premises. There was a decent canteen, a shop and book store, so we were able to while away a bit of time.

However, come Midday the documents were not ready and we ended up waiting until 1.30 for them to be returned.

Once you have the documents, you then need to take them to an Amphur (district administrative office) to register your marriage and get an official wedding certificate. We decided to do this in our home town, rather than enduring another taxi journey in Bangkok.

The cost of registering the marriage is 200 baht and you sign the following document which the registrar has prepared.......

and will then receive your wedding certificate which looks like this........

When we had finished at the Ministry, we returned to Sampeng to do a bit of sightseeing and, of course, more shopping!!!

The following pictures were taken at Wat Traimit, which is famous for it's 5 tonne solid gold Buddha and is somewhere that I had always wanted to visit.

We finished our day with a seafood dinner at a street side restaurant. Our meal of curried prawns, seafood salad and Tom Ka Gai (chicken in cocnut milk) cost just over 800 baht.

The choice of dining options, in Sampeng, was fantastic. There were restaurants around every corner and as you can see from the photos, the roads come alive at night, with street vendors and market stalls.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A guide to getting married in Thailand - Part 1

Yes it's true folks, Penfold is getting married. But, as this is Thailand there are plenty of bureaucratic hurdles to jump through to ensure that everything is legal.

It's ceratainly not as simple as going to Las Vegas and paying an Elvis impersonator $20 for a marriage certificate. I can say with great authority that your wallet will be significantly lighter at the end of the process!!!

I will endeavour to explain everything in a step by a step fashion, in case any of my readers are considering taking the plunge.

However, please be aware that I am writing this from the perspective of a British citizen and passport holders from other countries may require additional documentation and information. The rules and regulations often change, so please double check everything that you will need, with your respective emabssy.

Here is a link to the British embassy which will prove helpful for my UK readers.......

The first stage in the marriage process requires you to download a copy of a document called "a freedom of affirmation to marry". You will need to re-type it, to include your personal details and then print a couple of copies.

This will be followed by a trip to the Consular Section of British Embassy in Bangkok, to get the affirmation signed, stamped and authorised.

Here is the link to the document you will need.....

The embassy is located at 14 Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330. The Consular Section is open Monday's to Thursday's from 08:00 to 11:00 and from 13:00 to 14:00 for collections. Friday opening hours are 08:00 to 11:00 with collections from 11:00 to 12:00.

Knowing that dealing with government organisations is laborious and time-consuming and the chances of us getting all the paperwork we needed in one day were slim, we decided to stay in Bangkok for a couple of nights.

We left Pattaya on the 05.30 Ekkamai bound bus (which costs 113 baht) and disembarked about 2 hours later at On Nut. From On Nut we took the BTS (Skytrain) to Ploenchit (30 baht) and from there it is a short walk to the embassy.

The embassy looks like a prison from the outside with metal revolving gates, bag searches and razor-wire topped walls!!! But, the security staff were polite and spoke good english.

The consular section was relatively quiet, with only 4 other people waiting, but that didn't come as a surprise, considering it was 8.15 in the morning.

Upon entering, you print a ticket from a machine, which gives you your queue number. We then waited about 45 minutes before I was called to be processed.

They need the affirmation of freedom to marry document that you have prepared in advance and they also take a copy of your passport. The lady who dealt with me was very efficient and courteous and it only a matter of minutes to submit the documents and get a receipt which looks like this.......

My one complaint, was the fee that is charged for this service, an eye-watering 2,725 baht (approximately £58). The Chargé D'Affaires, Mr Asif Anwar Ahmad should change his name to Dick Turpin.....because that's highway robbery!!!

Having plenty of time to kill we decided to head to our hotel, the Golden Chain, which was in the Sampeng area of China town. The taxi journey from the embassy took about 20 minutes and cost about 170 baht. We chose Sampeng because it's famous for cloth and textiles and my wife-to-be wanted to look at outfits and other essentials for our wedding day.

The hotel was in a good location, being close to shops, markets and restauarants. However, it looked very run down and could have done with a lick of paint, but for 470 baht I suppose we couldn't really complain.

With it's odd juxtaposition of plastic chairs, antique chinese furniture and a lift that was so old, guests weren't allowed to operate themselves, coupled with a dwarf at the reception, made it feel like something from the League of Gentleman.

We took the opportunity to have a stroll aorund Sampeng and for shopaholics it's an absolute paradise and certainly puts the bustle into bustling!!!

Our shopping trip would have lasted for the rest of the day, if my affianced had had her way, but there was the small matter of returning to the Embassy to pick up the paperwork.

The consular section only allows the collection of documents between 1pm and 2pm Monday to Thurday and 11.00 to Midday on Friday.

Once you have collected your stamped and authorised "freedom of affirmation to marry", which looks like this......
You must then have it translated into Thai. There are plenty of agenices in the vicinity of the embassy, but we were accosted, by 2 employees from "Professional Visa and Translation Services" who promised us a speedy translation service for only 200 baht.

But, professional and speedy they most certainly weren't!!! From the moment we stepped through the door I knew it was going to be a complete and utter disaster.

We were introduced to one employee, who I thought was going to carry out the translation, but she then disappeared and we were kept waiting about 15 minutes, before the managing director, Tony, came to see us. We had a conversation to confirm my details and despite his good command of English, I had to repeat my name about 15 times. I must have looked liked I had Tourettes, waving my arms around and trying to mime my name!!!

We were then shown to their waiting room, which in fairness was very nice with sofa, tv, dvd player etc. It was then that Tony must have forgotten about us and gone for his lunch, as we were kept waiting for the best part of 2 hours. I'm sure they would have left us there for the night had I not reminded them!!!

The length of time spent waiting for the translation meant that we didn't have time to complete the next stage of the marriage process, but it did give us time to do a bit of shopping and dining.

We took the BTS from Ploenchit to Chitlom, which about 1 minute and cost 15 baht. From there, we walked to Platinum Fashion Mall. The mall specialises in wholesale cothing and accessories and for those of a non-shopping persuasion, it's 10 floors of sheer hell!!!!

Here is a link to their site, if you're interested!!!!

En route to Platinum we walked past the infamous Central World shopping mall, which was razed by the "Red Shirt" protesters during the recent anti-government demontrations. A stark reminder that beneath the surface all is not well in Thailand, despite the relatively calm at the moment.

We rounded our day off with a lovely Japanese meal at a restaurant called Ramen, a short stroll from Platinum. There was a lovely steamed sea bass in a chilli and garlic sauce, two plates of katuse-kare (Japanese style curries with breaded chicken and pork), fried vegtables, together with plenty of liquid refreshment, all for under 900 baht.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Carnage on Thailand's roads

The build up to New Year's Eve is notorious for seeing an huge increase in the number of fatal roads accidents here in Thailand and 2010 was no different.

There were 3,497 accidents reported between 29th December 2010 and 4th January 2011, with a total of 358 people being killed. But, what is more worrying is that this figure is a 10% drop on the number killed in 2009!!!

Here is a link to The Nation newspapers website which gives you a detailed breakdown of the figures.

The 2 biggest factors involved in most road accidents in Thailand, are excessive speed and excess alcohol.

Thais are bad drivers at the best of times, but add some whiskey into the equation and you have a recipe for disaster!!!

The most shocking accident that happened over the festive period and has been making headlines around the world, involved a 16 year old female driver who collided with a minibus at the entrance to a tollway, causing the passengers to be thrown from the vehicle and on to the road 30ft below. Eight people died at the scene with a ninth dying later in hospital.

Here is a link to the full story.......

The underage girl had no licence or insurance and was driving in the dark and over the speed limit. In a cruel twist of irony she walked away from the accident unhurt.

She has been pilloried by the media for her reaction to the accident. Instead of calling the emergency services or trying to assist the injured, she was photographed texting on her mobile phone.

As you can see from the photo, with her relaxed stance, she doesn't look the slightest bit bothered about writing-off her car or the fact people are dying only a few metres away.

A Facebook page has been created and has attracted 1000's of followers who want to see the young girl held to account for her actions.

The police have said that the girl will be charged with "reckless driving causing injuries and death". But, as this is Thailand I don't hold out much hope that she will be convicted.

This is due to her father being a high ranking member of the army and people in positions of authority in Thailand can usually use their influence to avoid justice.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Day trip to Koh Larn

Koh Larn is the largest of the small archipelago known as the "Near Islands" which include Koh Sak and Koh Krok. It is 8km from the resort of Pattaya, at the South Eastern End of the Bay of Bangkok.

Koh Karn is relatively small and only 4km in length. It's quite hilly and reaches about 200m at the highest point and is covered with tropical forests, although a lot of the wilderness has been lost to development over the last few years.

The island can be reached by ferry or private speed boat. The ferries depart from Bali Hai (South Pattaya) pier which is at the end of Walking Street and run almost hourly from 7am until 6pm. The one way fare is 30 baht per person and the journey takes about 45 minutes depending on the weather conditions. We took the 11am service, along with what appeared to be the entire population of Moscow!!!

The quickest and most exhilerating way of getting to koh Larn is by speedboat. The fare will depend on the size of the boat you hire. To hire a boat for the day will cost you upwards of 1500 baht for 2 people and can cost as much as 5000 baht for a group of 5 or 6. But, if you are travelling in a group and can split the cost between you, then it's well worth the money. The journey time by speed bost is only 15-20 minutes and you can decide where you would like to be dropped off and picked up.

Travelling around the island is very straight forward. When you arrive by ferry, you will be dropped off at Twaen beach and there are plenty of motor bike taxis or songtaews (taxis buses) that can take you to next destination. There are set costs for going to each beach or attraction and every taxi operator charges the same, so you can't negotiate a discount. If you're feeling brave, it's also possible to hire a motor bike.

Twaen beach is one of the biggest on the island and is nearly always crowded. The day we went was no exception, so we decided to take a motor bike taxi tour, which cost 250 baht and check out some of the other beaches. We visited Thong Lang, Samae, Thien and Naul.

Here are some of our photos for your viewing pleasure........

My favourite beach was Thien, which had just the right amount of places to eat and drink together with a range of watersports and it was very pretty too, with some interesting mangrove trees and nice clear water.

There are plenty of water-based activities to keep you occupied on Koh Larn's beaches including scuba diving, undersea walking and semi-submersible rides.

If you don't like beaches or outdoor persuits then Koh Larn isn't really the place for you, as there aren't many other attractions, although there is a Buddhist temple and a shooting range.

Our day came to an end when we were suitably tired and red cheeked (from being in the sun and not from excess alcohol consumption...I know what you were thinking!!!!!).

The highlight of the return ferry journey was watching a drunken German passenger fall off a broken seat. The Thai's have a great saying for this.....som nam na....which means serves you right!!!

The only downsides to Koh Larn were costs of food and drink, with prices being about 10-15% more than on the mainland and the amount of litter. Whilst the beaches themselves were kept reasonably clean and tidy, the interior of the island was literally awash with rubbish.

All I can say is........."you dirty b*stards".