This is a funny story of how I entered Thailand without a visa to get my visa for Thailand to legally enter Thailand. It happened at the border crossing between Laos and Thailand, at a train station, in the middle of nowhere.
Changing my plans
As I said, I started my trip in Bangkok and then headed to Chiang Mai. There I met a lot of cool people and we travelled together further north, to Pai. Here is where the fuck up begins. Because all these new friends I met were heading next to Laos, I decided to abandon my initial plan and follow them. So I flew to Laos and spent some time in Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane. From Vientiane to Cambodia is a long bus journey and I was already quite sick of buses. Another option was to get a night train from Vientiane to Bangkok, spend some days in Koh Chang and then take a bus to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. Having already a good experience with the night trains in Thailand, I decide to go for the second option. Since I was just transiting Thailand for a few days, the 15 days visa on arrival was good enough.
The night train doesn’t actually leave from Vientiane, but from Nongkhai train station in Thailand, on the other side of the Mekong river. To get there, you have to take a train from Thanaleng station in Laos and cross the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge.
The fuck up
So on the departure day I got picked up from the hostel and dropped at Thanaleng station. This is also the point where you get the exist stamp from Laos. If you haven’t been to Laos, you should know that it is a communist country where things are not very well organised. When you arrive in the country you have to provide one passport photo or pay 1$ fee and when you leave the country you have to pay 2$ fee. So I hand in my passport to the customs and they ask me for the 2$. I kindly refuse to pay since it is not listed anywhere and it feels absurd to pay an exit fee, when you already paid 40$ for a visa to enter the country. They also refuse to give me my passport back. I offer them 1$ instead, they reject my offer and I am forced to pay the 2$ fee. At this point I was not in the best mood. I was angry for losing the 2$, it was very very hot and my stomach was not very happy about the lunch I had earlier.
At the train station, this couple from New Zealand that I previously met in Vang Vieng shows up and we waited together for the train. In total we were like 30 people going to Bangkok. After a short 10-15 minutes train journey we cross the friendship bridge and we arrive in Thailand. We get down the train and all passengers go one by one for the Thai immigration control. I was one of the last passengers and I could see everyone passing the visa checks without any problems. Then it is my turn.
I give my passport to the immigration officer and he asks me if I have a visa. A bit confused, I tell him that I want the visa on arrival, like everyone else. He tells me that I can not get a visa on arrival from there and to step back because I can not enter Thailand. The kiwi couple that were behind me pass without problems as well because most of the countries don’t actually need a visa. This is when I realised that I was stuck in between countries, in the middle of nowhere. You know, like in “The terminal” movie. I was officially out of Laos and I could not enter Thailand because that border post doesn’t give visas on arrival. All this was so unexpected that I didn’t even had time to realise how bad the situation was.
* The photos are from google maps and they belong to their owners, except for the first image