Show Me the Money

I picked up my visa in the afternoon as soon as they started handing them out to all the people that applied the morning yesterday and as soon as I got it I dashed for the border taking a series of local buses in hopes that, unlike last time, I could get through before dark. I made it to the border crossing at dusk and when it was almost my turn to get checked out and stamped in a guy from Singapore in front of me who arrived with me on the same bus told me to put 1 MYR in my passport with my arrival card to speed things up. I told him I would not be doing that and was thinking not only would I not give them the equivalent of a U.S. quarter for simply doing their job and be complicit in corruption I wouldn’t even give them a penny, not even a really dirty one I was just looking to get rid of.

When it was my turn to step up to the window I thought I’d be on my way in no time as usual however after checking to make sure the face matched the passport and that my new visa was legit the lady asked me to show her 20,000THB which is around 570USD to prove I had enough money to visit Thailand. Although this was my first time at this particular border crossing I’ve been in and out of Thailand many times over the last 13 years and I’ve never been asked to whip out a wad of cash at the immigration window however she wouldn’t stamp me in unless I did so I had to get out of line and run into Thailand as an illegal immigrant to find an ATM, one that worked, and run back so the bus wouldn’t leave without me and so the guy that told me to give the bribe and who did and who did not get asked to show any money wouldn’t kill me for making him and his wire-thin boyfriend wait for so long.

After getting the money I ran back to the same window and as requested I counted out the twenty 1000 THB notes in front of the immigration officer and after I did I noticed the two Malaysian citizens I had just jumped in front of also had 1 MYR tucked into their passports. I guess that’s how they operate at the Sadao border crossing, you give them a “tip” and they don’t ask you to prove you have enough money to survive in Thailand. After I got back to Hat Yai I had some Chanee durian for a quarter of the price that the durian liars in Georgetown were selling it for and then I caught the last bus back home. After a nasty four and half ride in a bus that periodically smelt like a bathroom that someone just wrecked and then emptied a can of “air freshener” in, moreover I was crammed between window and a big guy that kept falling onto me as he slept like a log through the journey. I Finally made it home just before 2am asking myself if I should rethink my second attempt at a flying ban.

Sadao border crossing

P.S. I sent a letter to the immigration bureau saying that any rules they did have should not be selectively enforced depending on whether or not you bribed the immigration official but I’m pretty sure they won’t do anything about it and that business at the border check point will continue as usual. A few months later during my next visa run I found out that although the local Malaysian tourists were only bribing the Thai officials with 1 MYR ($0.24) in order not to be asked to show proof of adequate money as the law requires I saw western tourists putting 200 THB ($5.90) in their passports. I’m not sure how word got around that they needed to pay around 25 times more than the locals but it sure worked out for the officials.