Renewing a Thai passport – what a nightmare!

After bidding farewell to my brother and his family at the Ubon Ratchathani airport my wife and I took a deep breath and thought now what?!

We had a lot of jobs we wanted to complete but not sure how best to go about them. In two days time we had an appointment organised with a group called Compassion to check out their local Ubon operation as well as to meet with our sponsor child. It didn’t seem worth it to drive back to the village only to return such a short time later so we let the hotel know that we would be staying on a little longer.

Another job that needed doing was renewing my wife and two daughters Thai passports so we all set off to the local passport office to get it done. Imagine my surprise when a sign outside said they were closed due to the government protests that were happening at that time. We ventured inside and spoke to someone who said that no passports could be processed at that time and that it would remain that way for the foreseeable future. The only way was to travel to Bangkok as there were two offices still open to help people in emergencies.

With only a few weeks left in the country we decided not to take the risk by waiting and headed back to the hotel to make plans. First thing we did was call compassion and ask if we could move the date forward to that afternoon and thank fully they said yes. Seerung then took all her paper work back to the office to talk to the staff who were on strike to ask if she had everything in order for a trip to Bangkok. No use going all that way if something was missing. Once it was confirmed we had everything I then booked tickets for the first flight the following morning to Bangkok for all five of us.

Back in 2009 I blogged about finally getting Thai passports for my kids. It was one of the hardest paperwork jobs I had ever had to complete with wrong turn after wrong turn, lies and corruption. I wrote back then that never again do I want to do that. I figured that renewing a Thai passport would be so much easy then actually applying for one. How wrong was I!

The meeting with compassion went really well and it was so nice to finally get to meet our sponsor child. I am not sure what the rules are from Compassion about posting photos of sponsor children so have decided it would be better not to. If anyone is interested in sponsoring a child in Ubon, Thailand or elsewhere in the world I can really recommend the Compassion team. I was very impressed with what they are achieving.

We were up by 5.30am the following morning but for some reason it took us way to long to get ready. As I ran down Sapphasit road trying to get the attention of a taxi driver I thought perhaps for the first time in my life I would actually miss a flight. We made it with just a few minutes to spare.

By 8am we were at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok and by 9am we were outside the passport office in Pinklao. Of course, we soon discovered it had moved but thankfully only 500m down the road. By 9.15 we arrived in a pool of sweat hoping that this was going to be a painless process. The elevator doors swung open on the 5th floor and we were greeted with the longest queue of people I had ever seen. 1,200 people were lined up in between various shops like a super long and very flexible snake.

Immediately people told us that we were too late. Apparently they can only process 1,200 people a day and that quota was already full. People had been arriving from 3am that morning! As it was a Saturday and on Sunday it was closed we were looking at a very long and unexpected stay in Bangkok. Just to add to matters, my visa was expiring the next day as well. I said to Seerung that I would wait with the kids and for her to see if she could find someone in charge and see if anything could be done.

20 minutes later she came back with three tickets in her hands. They were numbered 1201, 1202 and 1203! She had found someone with a sympathetic ear who went and spoke to her boss before returning with those three magic numbers!

Our excitement was short lived though as we considered the day ahead. The line did seem to to move quite quickly but then we realised that it was only the first stage. You are seen by the people out the front who check that all your paperwork is in order. If so, then another number is given to you which is for the next queue to actually go out the back and get your photos and fingerprints done.


After two hours of waiting with Seerung shuffling along in the queue while I sat on the floor with the kids we eventually got to see the paperwork people. Unfortunately it was just as lunch was being delivered and the two ladies were not very interested in us. They took a quick look and said that a document was missing and we would have to come back with it another day. All the blood drained from my face as Seerung patiently explained that everything had been checked in Ubon and we were told we were good to go. As they started shovelling food into their mouths they simply said that there was nothing they could do and to please leave. I told Seerung that seeing as the document they wanted was actually located in New Zealand we needed to do everything we could to get them to change their minds.

We asked to see their boss but they said he was busy. We said we would come back in half an hour after lunch. When we did they said they did not know where he was. Suddenly an official looking man walked into the room so Seerung asked if that was him and they said yes so we grabbed him as soon as possible. He looked through our paperwork and listened to our story and then scribbled a note to attach to our form and said we are good to go! What a relief that was!

We got our new queue numbers and then found a patch of floor to start another long wait. During this time Jacob started running a fever so I went and got him some medicine which he took and then fell asleep in my arms. My back felt sore for days! After almost 5 hours of sitting on the floor and 12 hours since we had started the days journey finally we were the very last people left in the room and then we were called. By 5.30pm it was all over! We staggered outside and found a seat and considered our plans.

This is Marisah getting her photo and finger prints taken.

This is Marisah getting her photo and finger prints taken.

Using my phone we figured there was enough time for Seerung and the kids to get back to Don Muang airport and catch the last flight back to Ubon. I also had just enough time to get to Suvarnabhumi airport on the other side of town to catch a flight to Phnom Penh in Cambodia as my Thai visa was expiring the following day. I chose Phnom Penh because it was the cheapest ticket at the right time into a country that I could get a visa of arrival.

We walked out onto the street where I hailed a taxi and loaded the family up. No time for farewells and I felt really sorry for the kids who were a bit confused with what was happening. I then crossed over the busy road to catch a taxi going in the other direction. Boy did it feel good when I fell into that back seat and closed the door!

We all made our flights and I arrived exhausted into Phnom Penh a little before midnight. I got some sleep but woke early which was good as it allowed me a few hours to walk around the streets of Phnom Penh. Too be honest it did not impress me all that much but obviously I had barely even scratched the service. Later that day it was the return flight back to Bangkok and onwards to reunite with my family.

Can you believe that this is the only photo I took of Cambodia! This is the Phnom Penh boardwalk

Can you believe that this is the only photo I took of Cambodia! This is the Phnom Penh boardwalk

If you are thinking that then I managed to have some time to rest up after all the adventures, you would be wrong! As soon as we were back together it was time for a five day celebration to be held at our house in the village! More to come on that soon.


A future Thai Volleyball star?

Little boys and girls are obviously different and there is always that standard “girls play with dolls and boys play with balls” thing I had heard about and witnessed but even so, I have been surprised at my son, Jacob.

With no encouragement from me, his entire life, apart from food and sleep seems to revolve around tractors, planes, helicopters, cars and balls. Ping Pong balls, Aussie Rules balls but most fun of all is the good old soccer ball as it least it bounces straight! Such a different lot of interests compared to his sisters at the same age.

I remember blogging something similar about him two years ago when he was only just 12 months old.

Kicking the ball with his older cousins is always a great way to spend an afternoon. Well for him anyway!

Kicking the ball with his older cousins is always a great way to spend an afternoon. Well for him anyway!

Sometimes you don't quite connect properly.

Sometimes you don’t quite connect properly.

Yet other times you get the timing perfect and that sweet spot never felt so good.

Yet other times you get the timing perfect and that sweet spot never felt so good.

Volleyball has always been very popular in Thailand but with the recent success of the national women’s team at the Asian Championships where they won the gold medal all of a sudden it seems everyone is playing it.

Jacob watched with interest before deciding it was time to have a go as well.

Get your hands in the right position.

Get your hands in the right position.

Bend your knees and keep your eyes on the ball,

Bend your knees and keep your eyes on the ball,

Whoops, a little too early and over the back it goes.

Whoops, a little too early and over the back it goes.

This is harder then it looks!

This is harder then it looks!


Perhaps I should keep my eyes open?

Perhaps I should keep my eyes open?

Nah, keep them closed. Practise makes perfect!

Nah, keep them closed. Practise makes perfect!

Playing tourist in Ubon Ratchathani

Before we knew it, my brother and his families time in the village had come to an end. We had planned a few days in Ubon Ratchathani before they started their long trip back to Australia.

We took the long way back to Ubon via the Chong Mek border crossing with Laos and lunch at Sirindhorn Dam. I have been there so many times I have lost count but this was the first time my wife had accompanied me. It was great showing her around plus we took a few minutes to check out the accommodation options that are available in the hope that next year we will be able to stay for a few days.

We had tried to book rooms again at T3 House but they were full, as were Sunee Grand so we ended up taking four rooms at Pan House.

The next two days saw my wife and Sister in Law off shopping while my brother and I took care of the seven kids. Unfortunately some sickness with Jacob and then later my niece Abigail but a little dampener on things but we still managed to have a lot of fun.

I took my brother on a 10km run around the old town centre, complete with dozens of hungry dogs before finishing with a traditional Thai breakfast. We took the kids shopping, ten pin bowling and swimming. We ate out at various restaurants and managed some time painting and playing at Tung Sri Muang Park.

Suddenly departure time was upon us and we were waving farewell to them at the airport as they flew out to Bangkok and onto Australia. It was a fabulous time with them, even if there was so much we did not end up getting to do. I guess there is always next time! I will leave you with some photos from the last few days.

Walking along the bridge road to check out the Hydro at Sirindhorn Dam.

Walking along the bridge road to check out the Hydro at Sirindhorn Dam.

Looking down on the Hydro Plant.

Looking down on the Hydro Plant.

This is what we could see.

This is what we could see.

There was time to walk through the beautiful gardens at the lake while heading to a fabulous lunch at the restaurant.

There was time to walk through the beautiful gardens at the lake while heading to a fabulous lunch at the restaurant.

It really is quite an oasis.

It really is quite an oasis.

Painting at Tung Sri Muang Park.

Painting at Tung Sri Muang Park.

Jacob hanging around with his Uncle Paul.

Jacob hanging around with his Uncle Paul.

Jacob pretending he was going to sleep with his cousin Rebekah.

Jacob pretending he was going to sleep with his cousin Rebekah.


Celebrity Farang in Thailand!

Thailand are much more accustomed to foreigners (farang) then they used to be but there are still some isolated parts of Thailand where you can create quite a scene when in your travelling party are four young girls with very white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes!

As I mentioned in my previous blog my brother and sister in law and my four gorgeous nieces were visiting us. Due to the late wet season I thought we should go and check out Huai Luang Waterfall. Once again the friendly national park people took pity on us and the ridiculous dual pricing system that happens in Thailand (tourists can pay up to 10 times more then locals) and we got in at local prices.

We deliberately choose a week day to avoid the crowds so imagine our disappointment when we arrived in the car park to find at least a dozen huge tourist coaches each carrying more then 50 students each!

This is what it looks like from the top of the stairs and then again from the bottom. As you can see, there were quite a few people around.

Huai Luang waterfall Thailand

Huai Luang waterfall Thailand

Huai Luang waterfall Thailand

It wasn’t long before the students soon starting singing the seaseme street song:

One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Well, not quite – but you get my drift right?

It started off nicely enough with my nieces thinking it was pretty cool being so popular.

It started off nicely enough with my nieces thinking it was pretty cool being so popular.

But soon it started getting bigger and bigger and a little crazy.

But soon it started getting bigger and bigger and a little crazy.

After almost 10 minutes and hundreds of photos later it was showing no signs of letting up.

After almost 10 minutes and hundreds of photos later it was showing no signs of letting up.

I mentioned to the girls that this is what it is like to be a celebrity. To imagine this every time you went out in public. To always try to keep your call. To try and maintain a normal life. Impossible!

Eventually they decided that enough was enough and just started to ignore the calls to pose. Not that it stopped them from standing around and watching these strange creatures from another planet country.

A farang celebrity in Thailand

Don’t get me wrong, we all had a blast and it was a real eye opener for the kids. Most of the time the kids showed respect but eventually enough was enough so we decided to head further down stream to get away from the paparazzi and some much needed peace and quiet. An interesting but still lovely day trip.

Huai Luang waterfall Thailand

Foreigners at Huai Luang waterfall Thailand


Visitors to our Thai village

My brother and his family were not arriving until about 6pm but I decided to head into Ubon early anyway. I checked into T3, set up my office and managed to knock over about six solid hours of computer work using the much more reliable internet at T3 then the very poor substitute I have back in the village.

I only took one quick break all afternoon to grab a snack.

My afternoon snack from Indochine, a Vietnamese restaurant located only 100m from the T3 hotel in Ubon Ratchathani.

My afternoon snack from Indochine, a Vietnamese restaurant located only 100m from the T3 hotel in Ubon Ratchathani.

I was on my way to the airport when they rang, asking where I was as they had arrived a few minutes early. I put the foot down and 90 seconds later I pulled up out the front where they were all waiting. The kids were stoked when I told them that they were allowed to ride in the back with all the luggage. A real shame I forgot to take a photo.

Back to T3 to show them to their rooms before we hit the streets of Ubon looking for a feed. We ended up at a very popular place on Sapahsit Road that opens late in the afternoon but never seems to close until around the time that the sun comes up. We created quite a scene walking in with four gorgeous blonde kids in tow! Lots of yummy Thai food was consumed before it was back to the hotel for some sleep.

My brother and his family tucking into some Thai food in Ubon.

My brother and his family tucking into some Thai food in Ubon.

The next morning we my brother and I went off to pick up their hire car for the next 8 days. Via Balcony Kiss for a coffee of course! I have previously talked about Jay Jay here on my blog but that was all about hiring a motorbike in Ubon Ratchathani. They now also do cars and once again we got excellent service, a good price and a great car. I can highly recommend them.

Once the car was sorted it was back to pick up the others, a quick visit to Tesco and then the drive back to the village. My kids were very excited to welcome them to their house. They had been talking about this moment for years. It wasn’t very long before the visitors had worked out where things were and had made themselves at home.

Rebekah was the most adventurous early on at trying out new things and attempting to play with the shell shocked local kids.

Rebekah was the most adventurous early on at trying out new things and attempting to play with the shell shocked local kids.

That night, after dinner and showers the kids decided to put on a show for the adults. Some of it was quite funny.

Farang kids in Thailand playing

Farang kids in Thailand playing

Kids at Attention

Kids at Attention

The next few days disappeared quickly. A lot of the time was spent just hanging out around the house and village but a few trips were taken as well. The weather was very cool so just the one swim was had at the river.

Last year I blogged about cooking damper over the coals and it was a lot of fun so we did again this year. With the cool weather the cooking was not only fun but kept the kids warm as well.

Kids cooking damper in Thailand over coals

Their trip coincided with a Sunday so we took them to the little local church that we had found the previous holiday. It is conveniently located next to the only 7/11 for 40 kms so an ice cream just had to be bought. Talk about taking up all the room!

Kids eating ice cream on the steps on a 7/11

One afternoon we had a little free entertainment right behind our house with a few rounds of cock fighting taking place. I was surprised that Ariya seem pretty interested in watching but not really anyone else.

Cock fighting in a Thai village

The next (and last) photo for this entry shows some of the kids at a waterfall. It was an interesting day with the kids become celebrities for an hour but I am going to save that for a separate blog coming very soon…

Thai waterfall


Back in Ubon Ratchathani

After a great three days in Bangkok with family it was time to head to Ubon. Both girls had been sick the day before and while Marisah was a lot better Ariya was still under the weather. The taxi ride wasn’t much fun for her and just as we pulled into Don Muang airport her stomach gave way.

As I had most of the luggage (5 bags) it was quite an effort trying to deal with Ariya plus get us through the night mare that is the Don Muang bag scan and check in system. Eventually we were on our flight and made it to Ubon with only one more vomit!

Due to the girls sickness Seerung and I had decided it would be best if we rested up the night in Ubon before she came and picked us up the following morning.We caught a taxi to the T3 hotel and took our usual connecting rooms on the 4th floor. Both girls had a sleep that afternoon and when the woke they were feeling much better so we went out for an early dinner before heading back to the hotel. More sleep and by the morning we were raring to go.

After waking we packed our bags before walking down to a favourite coffee shop of ours, Balcony Kiss. Unfortunately the coffee had changed and so had the food (there was none) but we still enjoyed the cool morning sitting outside with my coffee and the girls juice. I walked down the street a little and found some kebabs and sticky rice for us all to much on for breakfast.

After a long wait eventually Seerung showed up with the car and Jacob and a nice mini reunion was had! It was then back to T3 to pick up the bags and check out then onto Central for some shopping before heading home to the village.

It is always a great feeling being back in my tojo ute pick-up making the drive over the rough dirt roads back to my second home. It was lovely to see everyone again and to notice that once again my in laws had done an excellent job looking after the house and garden.

The next few days were spent catching up with all the rellies as well as settling into the slower pace that is Village life. Before too long though it was time to head back to Ubon to pick up my brother and his family for part two of their time with us.