Indian Couple Travel to Thailand – Bangkok

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Thailand Visa on Arrival and Immigration Formalities

It all begins with a desire to travel around the world. The first step in this direction was taken on last year trip to Bhutan which was breathtaking. The second opportunity to travel was with my wife just after our marriage. I have been considering international travel since last year, and we zeroed upon Thailand in October 2015. The factors to consider Thailand were Visa On Arrival, inexpensive, easy to travel, beautiful, culture and heritage and diverse landscape. Thailand is an easy to travel great family destination and I would recommend any Indian Couple travel to Thailand for their honeymoon.

Since, it would be first such travel I tried to plan it perfectly with the help of Internet. Some websites I referred were Agoda.com, Momondo.com, Tripadvisor.com, DesiYatri.com, SoloBackpacker.com, RoughGuides.com, IndieTraveller.com, www.vfs-thailand.co.in (Information about VOA), https://extranet.immigration.go.th/voaonline (VOA Online Form), www.suvarnabhumiairport.com, indiamike.com, wikitravel.org etc. Travel dates (10 days including travel) were decided based on number of places to be visited, inexpensive flight tickets and sufficient time to prepare for the trip after marriage.

We started from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi at 2130 hours on SpiceJet flight to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport, Kolkata. The flight was already delayed by two hours. We had our connecting flight to Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok at midnight which could have been missed if not for same operator and same PNR number for the journey. Our checked-in luggage was to be collected at Bangkok itself. There was another honeymoon couple travelling to Thailand. We chatted about our plans and the husband helped me by converting my USD 56 in THB 2000 which I could not do in advance. I thanked him, as THB 2000 was to be paid for me and my wife as VISA fees.

This was my first International Trip which included Immigration formalities like filling up immigration forms, presenting Passports and getting photo clicked by Immigration Officer. The Officer stamped my passport with departure date. In flight, we were handed over Thai Immigration Forms with included Arrival and Departure Cards. I filled up in the form in flight itself. The flight to Bangkok was full at this time of year.

Our flight reached Bangkok at 0430 hours as per Thailand Time Zone. First thing that impressed me was well laid out plan of the city from the plane’s window. Arrivals at the airport were plush and elegant. We found our way to Visa On Arrival section easily.  While, other travelers were struggling with their VOA forms, we had filled Online VOA form available at https://extranet.immigration.go.th/voaonline and taken the printouts in advance. We did not had to wait in the queue for long, as most of the passengers were busy filling out their Immigration and VOA forms. I had following documents with me for VOA:

  1. Passport
  2. Online Print-out of VOA Form
  3. 4 cm X6 cm photograph
  4. Boarding Pass of the arrival flight
  5. Return Ticket from Thailand
  6. THB 1000 for VOA fees
  7. Immigration Form (both Arrival and Departure Cards filled)
  8. Printout of Hotel Reservation Slip
  9. Money equivalent to THB 20000 as we were a family. This was not asked by the VOA Officer.

Since I was with my wife, I presented both (mine and her) VOA forms at VOA counter. After verification, the Officer placed both of ours passports with documents and fees in a transparent plastic folder with a Token Number. We were also give the same token number and asked to wait. After some time a person came to the waiting area with the transparent folders and started announcing token numbers. We collected out Passports, VOA stamped, allowing us single visit for fifteen days and the receipt for VOA fees. The procedure was so easy that all initial worries seemed trivial and unfounded.

Then we went to Immigration Counter where we presented out Passports. After checking the documents and VISA, the Immigration Officer stamped our passports with arrival date. We collected our checked-in baggage after crossing the Immigration counter. All this took about an hour.

Day – 1 Bangkok (Thailand) – Chao Phraya River and Wat Pho

After collecting the baggage, I soaked up the surroundings before taking next step. I had no Thai Baht with me, so first thing was to get some USD converted into THB. I had brought USD 1000 for day to day expenditure while all flights and hotels were booked in advance.

Somewhere I had read that currency conversion rates at Airports are not attractive and so it was here. I converted only USD 40 (~THB 1400) from a bank counter till I find another exchange in the city. The bank asked to scan the first page of my passport. We walked to Airport Line Metro Station located at the basement of the Airport. On the way we brought a SIM card from DTAC store. The card provided us 1.5 Gb data in THB299 with THB100 talk time. The card was activated immediately.

To my surprise and excitement, I saw Super Rich 1965 store at the basement near Metro Station, I converted about USD 303 at the counter at much better rates. In Thailand I did not see any exchange providing better rates that Super Rich 1965.

Metro train dropped us at Ratchaprarop station where I had booked hotels. I checked in Siam Star Hotel, a budget hotel which I had booked to take rest before checking into Berkeley Pratunam afternoon.

Happy Honeymoon by Hotel Berkeley Pratunam
Happy Honeymoon by Hotel Berkeley Pratunam

After taking lunch at Bombay Palace Indian Restaurant located at Ratchaprarop Road, we took a train from Ratchaprarop Road to Saphan Taksin changing trains at Phaya Thai and Siam (Later I realized we could also take direct train to Saphan Taksin from Siam or Ratchadamri). We boarded a tourist boat from Saphan Taksin pier located below the station in THB 40 each to Tha Tien pier. A lady was holding a mike in the boat and was trying to explain about the important places on the banks of Chao Phraya river, but nobody seemed to care. I could have better taken another boat used by locals at much cheaper price. We enjoyed the cool breeze and the scenery around the river. I caught a glimpse of Wat Arun which was under renovation, so I decided against visiting there.

Chao Phraya River Bangkok
Chao Phraya River Bangkok

After getting down at Tha Tien pier we walked to closely located Wat Pho temple. The temple enshrines a gigantic reclining Buddha.

Buddha's Pillow at Wat Pho Bangkok
Buddha’s Pillow at Wat Pho Bangkok

We spent some time at the temple before taking a tuk-tuk back to our hotel in THB 150, we later covered the same distance in THB 120. Almost all the taxis we hailed for did not agree to drive on meter, so we avoided them to the possible extent. In the night we roamed around night market in Ratchaprarop and Pratunam area. We had our dinner at Chotiwala Indian Restaurant.

Day – 2 Bangkok (Thailand) – Grand Palace and Siam Niramit

We got ready by 0800 hours to leave for Ayutthaya at the earliest. Just outside the hotel we asked for Tuk-Tuk to take us to Victory Monument so that we can catch a Van to Ayutthaya.  But, one of the Tuk Tuk driver diverted us to first visit a ‘government’ tourist information office or TAT Office (a common way to refer tourists to private tour agencies). One has to be careful about these touts. We were into the trap now. So, the tuk tuk driver took us to Thai AW Travel Co. Ltd located near Ratchaprarop Station. The agency was successful in convincing us that we are now too late to go to Ayutthaya and must either take a private car to Ayutthaya which will cost us THB3000 or book local site seeing tours.

I did not take both the options and instead booked a tour to Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market – JEATH Museum, River Kwai, Death Railway and Tiger Temple. This group tour cost us THB 5000 including vegetarian lunch, ticket to JEATH museum and peddle boat at the floating market. After paying in advance and booking the tour, I came out of the tour agency’s office and decided to spend the day visiting Grand Palace, Ocean World and Siam Niramit. I had to drop Ayutthaya from my itinerary.

I hailed another tuk tuk driver and he agreed to drop us at Grand Palace in THB 120. He started his story that Grand Palace is closed today, there is a Buddha festival and all such stuff. He then advised us to visit TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) Office. I asked him to doubly make sure that it is the government office and he confirmed. But, to our surprise he took us back to Thai AW Travel Co. Ltd office where we had earlier booked a tour. We told him that we have already visited the office and it is not a government office. He suggested that there is a souvenir shop nearby to which we strictly said NO. Then he complained that there is no gas in his vehicle and demanded us to pay THB 50 and take another Tuk Tuk to Grand Palace. He simply refused to take us. Tit for Tat, we got down and refused to pay him anything. I was disappointed the way he treated us and decided to be more careful next time.

We reached Grand Palace which had ticket price of THB 500 per person. Gentleman and ladies with sleeveless clothes and visible knees were not allowed to enter the Palace. The palace was beautiful and we spent about 2-3 hours admiring the architecture.

After visiting the palace we hailed a taxi to our Hotel. We took some rest before leaving for Siam Niramit show. From Ratchaprarop area, we took Bus No. 54 which dropped us at the gate of Siam Niramit with ticket price of THB 1500 per person at the counter.

Siam Niramit Bangkok
Siam Niramit Bangkok

 

I would recommend the show if one is interested to know something of Thai culture, history and the way of living. Before the show starts at 2000 hours, we visited the living replica of Thai village and witnessed folk dance and music. The one and half hour show in itself was brilliant, well choreographed, colorful, musical with amazing effects. Me and my wife loved the show.

Day – 3 Bangkok (Thailand) – Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market, River Kwai, Death Railway, JEATH Museum and Tiger Temple

The next day we woke up early morning for our tour booked the previous day. The van driver was late by half an hour but the van was comfortable (13 seater). We were first taken to Khao San Road and just like us there were other vans from different parts of the city. Here travelers are reshuffled based on their destinations. In our van, all passengers were going to Floating Market. Damnoen Sadauk floating market located about 98 kilometers south west of Bangkok is beautiful and a unique market in itself. The market is full of handicrafts, fruits and local food. The prices are a bit on higher side but one can always bargain hard.

Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market
Damnoen Sadauk Floating Market Bangkok

After noon, we reached JEATH museum established in the memory of World War II when Japanese forces constructed railway to Burma and the bridge at River Kwai. The river was flowing silently and the iron bridge was flooded with tourists both Thai and foreigners.

We reached Tiger Temple at 1500 hours. We were informed of the rules to be followed while visiting Tiger Canyon. First, do not wear bright colored clothing especially red, yellow or orange. It seemed the motive of all tourists was to get pictures clicked with tigers. There were about fifteen tigers in the tiger canyon tied with iron chains. Most of them were sleepy and were sprayed with water to make them pose. Tourists paying THB 600 fees were separated from those paying THB 1000. The former could take pictures with tiger sitting behind them while the later can take tiger’s head in his/her lap and get a picture clicked in a group.

Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Tiger Temple Kanchanaburi, Thailand

There was a monk sitting the entrance of the canyon supervising the staff. The staff were helping tourists click photographs with the tigers. To me, the tigers seemed unusually calm and the reason offered by the staff was that tigers like other cat species sleep in day time and are more active in morning and evening. Also since they are brought up by human beings, they do not mind being in their company.

Bangkok Pratunam Area Visible from our Hotel
Bangkok Pratunam Area Visible from our Hotel

For Days — 4, 5, 6, 7 of Indian Couple Travel to Thailand, read Indian Couple Travel to Thailand – Krabi

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-1

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Read about how I transferred Vacancy (Changed allotted schedule) for Basic Mountaineering Course at HMI Darjeeling

The Beginning

After one and a half year of applying for a dream, I was now setting forth for Himalayan Mountaineering Institute HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course. I was feeling really great with a mix of anxiety, nervousness, excitement, happiness and fear. I did not have any idea what to expect, except for what I have read from other bloggers who have earlier gone for this course.

All credit for making the dream come true goes to my parents and my General Manager who allowed me to leave for the course. Also, to Shanky who shared my work load in my absence. I understand there will be worries at my home till I come back and a lot of my work at office will have to be done by others or will be waiting to be done when I come back.

HMI BMC The Preparation

I had been preparing for this course since the day I applied, i.e. one and a half years ago. But for last two months, I have been continuously doing physical exercises without any longer break. I improved my running from 5KM to 10km in this period and regularly exercised from US Army PT Guide. This has proved to be beneficial and increased my confidence to complete this course with flying colors (just like the Doctor I met in Har Ki Doon wished me too.)

From Har Ki Doon, now our Indiahikes HKD batch has been in regular contact through WhatsApp and we have been sharing a lot of things there. The learning from my first HKD trek has been useful to know what to pack and what not. Still, a lot remains to learn. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.

The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.
— Albert Einstein

HMI BMC The adventure starts here…

Even before the trip, adventure had set in my life…The night before leaving for the course, I went for a preventive medical checkup which included blood pressure check, blood sugar (RBS) check and getting tetanus injection. The hospital I went was quite reckless to allow an uneducated compounder to take my blood pressure reading and give me tetanus injection. He did not even know how to hold a stethoscope, me and Shanky had to literally run away from that hospital to save our lives. Anyway, I went to another doctor who had earlier signed my Har Ki Doon Medical Certificate and most of things he checked confirmed that I was normal except for a bit higher reading on Blood Pressure front about which I need not worry. He gave me tetanus injection in my arm and it wasn’t painful.

On the day of leaving for the trip, me and a colleague left office in company car till Mundi. From Mundi, we took lift on a truck which was going to Khandwa. The ride was fun. I messaged Shanky, “Adventure starts here… Going from Mundi to Khandwa in a truck! Hurray!” He wished me good luck.

I came back from office in afternoon to catch 1730 hours Guwahati Express train from Khandwa to New Jalpaiguri. I reached my room and got ready to leave. All things were packed with supplies necessary to complete the tour. If everything goes right, I will reach NJP at 0130 hours next night.

In the meantime, I was listening to Eddie Vedder’s — Into the Wild and the song playing was ‘Long Nights‘:

“Long Nights”

Have no fear
For when I’m alone
I’ll be better off
Than I was before

I’ve got this light
I’ll be around to grow
Who I was before
I cannot recall

Long nights allow
Me to feel I’m falling
I am falling

The lights go out
Let me feel I’m falling
I am falling
safely to the ground

I’ll take this soul
That’s inside me now
Like a brand new friend
I’ll forever know

I’ve got this life
And the will to show
I will always be
Better than before

Long nights allow
Me to feel I’m falling
I am falling

The lights go out
Let me feel I’m falling
I am falling
safely to the ground.

Train Journey From Khandwa to New Jalpaigudi

A highly mixed set of emotions were overflowing in me at the time of leaving. I gave the keys of my room to the caretaker of the Guest House located just opposite to my house as my room-mate had lost his keys. I wear my rucksack full with all the requirements and a handbag containing a DSLR Camera by which I intend to click excellent landscape pictures of the Himalayas. I did not take any auto-rickshaw and crazily walked three kilometers from my room to the Railway Station with the load of approximately 15 Kilograms on my back.
I was a bit concerned about travelling alone through Bihar (it would be my second crossing from the state, the first time was while going from Jaipur to IIT KGP in college times with friends), but the stereotype soon waived off and I made myself comfortable observing co-passengers in the third AC coach. I had thought I will spend most of my day time sitting instead of sleeping, thus I did not use my side upper berth till night. I consider this berth when I want no disturbance whether day or night.
There were two men sitting on the lower Side Berth quite loud in their actions. One of them was playing diverse popular music on his mobile phone throughout the journey (except for the night) and another one quite interested in almost everything going in and outside the train. Anyway, nobody seemed to mind them. They were talking in a language I had never heard. Since they travelled beyond New Jalpaiguri (NJP), I guess they belonged to Assam. They must have become friends on the course of their journey between Mumbai and Khandwa. In the night I came to know that they were travelling in RAC and that would not get clear till next night so they shared the Side Lower berth.
Another passenger was a typical Bengali old man on the lower berth. He was quite methodical and meticulous in his actions. He talked in very sweet Bengali language over phone. He carried fruits, puffed rice, medicines, books etc in his bag kept below the seat. Since, everything had its designated place in the bag, it was not difficult for him to take out whatever he wanted in one go. He had kept a dozen bananas, a couple of newspapers, his spectacles and water bottle neatly on the table. His bedding including a blanket was neatly spread on the seat. He also carried a small handbag in which all his valuable stuff was kept and whenever he went out of the train on any station he carried the small bag along with him. He was generously sharing bananas with a little girl of another family travelling with us. He looked calm throughout the long boring journey and never changed his ways.
A family consisting of husband, wife, a three year old daughter, a toddler and wife’s brother joined us at Jabalpur in the mid-night. We came to know that the husband was transferred to West Bengal from Jabalpur. They carried a lot of luggage with them and some part of the luggage had to be shifted to luggage room of the coach. Though the brother was there to help them as he would be coming back to Jabalpur alone, he did not seem to be of much help except for occasionally taking care of the children. I always feel good (and safe) when a family is present in the compartment, it feels less boring too.
There was also an old woman who got separated from other relatives travelling in the same train because of uneven allocation of berth while booking. She would not sleep on the seat that night as she successfully swapped her seat with a solo traveler.
The journey was long, difficult, with runny nose (due to AC) and boring except for the time I spent reading ‘Into the Wild’ by Jon Krakauer. An insightful book especially after I have watched the movie many times since college when Jai introduced me to it. Outside the book, everyone was surprised how the train running on and occasionally before time.

The train reached NJP ten minutes earlier at about 01:00 AM on 12.09.2015. The man who had RAC finally got a seat and was sleeping peacefully. I don’t know what made him wake up in late night that he came out on the platform and suddenly dropped his mobile phone below the train on tracks. As he got down to catch the phone, he lost consciousness and fell down with his head in the space between the coach and the platform. Luckily, the train was not moving and the other passengers quickly pulled him out. They sprinkled some water on his face, he came back to his senses. No idea if he found his mobile phone again or not.

I moved on to the Platform No 1 and asked at the RPF counter about the means to go to Darjeeling at the night time. To no significant help, the person at the counter asked me to go out of station and enquire. I was already aware of the shared taxis running between NJP to Darjeeling (thanks to IndiaMike.com), but was doubtful if they run at this time of the night too. I went out and enquired the same and got to know that they start running in the early morning. I later during the course came to know from some HMI friends that they run throughout the night too. Anyway, I came back to the station and waited for the early morning. The time was spent charging my mobile phone and tablet, exploring the railway station, washing my face, changing t-shirt and doing nothing.

Read my experience of HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course at:

HMI Darjeeling Basic Mountaineering Course – Part-2