I’ve now been in South-East Asia for over four months and have started thinking a change of scenery is in order. But first, as I’ve been on the move for the past 11 weeks through Cambodia, Laos and South Thailand with Aimee, I’m spending the next three weeks regrouping in my little adopted home of Pai before shaking things up with a trip to China.
That was the plan anyway, until I found out about new visa rules for China. The process became a lot more complicated in July 2012 and you now need either an invitation (as per the Russian visa application) or to show your flights in and out of China, hotel bookings for your whole trip plus bank statements proving you have enough money. Kind of realised this once I got to Bangkok, when I’d been hoping to go to the embassy that day.
I spent the day reassessing my plans because I wanted to work in China and quickly realised it wasn’t going to be possible. I decided to still go but just for a month or so as a tourist. So that night, I went out for dinner and cocktails and tequila, got home at 1.30am and started cementing my dates, towns and booking flights and accommodation. With the dutch courage I managed to book flights to China, from China to Russia, and put 10% deposits on hostels for the five weeks, all by 3am.
The next morning I was up at 9am, found an Internet cafe that would photocopy my passport and print all my bookings, then hightailed it to the embassy where I filled out two tedious visa application forms and stood in line for an hour to file it. After some hefty questioning about my motives for visiting China, they seemed satisfied although I was worried about whether they would give me the full 38 days I reqested. Amazingly, the next morning was a breeze and I collected my passport with a fresh new Chinese visa for 40 days. So, here I come China! 25th Feb (my birthday) is when I fly out from Bangkok.
Speaking of Bangkok, my three nights there this second visit was heaps of fun, I still love the city. Not even staying near Khao San Road changed my opinion. I got a dose of Western comforts – my first Italian food since Oz, some new clothes and toilettries, and I finally got to see Life of Pi! I have been wanting to see it since it came out last year but literally haven’t been anywhere with a cinema in the past two months. We also snuck into Hansel and Gretel afterwards which was hilariously bad. My few days of nice hotel and city life felt like a much-needed mini-break from Asia.
I arrived in Pai at 11am this morning, pretty good timing considering I left Bangkok at 6pm last night. It feels great to be back, I ran into people I knew right away (one I knew was here, but two girls from Sydney I had no idea were in Thailand), and I’ve found a really nice bungalow which is a ten minute bicycle ride from town. I’m in the sticks but only for four days – on Monday I’ll move closer to the gym. In the meantime they’ve given me a pink bike to ride around with a basket on front and extra seat on the back! It’s nice being out here away from the hoards of people and motorbikes. Looking forward to settling in for a few weeks for some Muay Thai training, planning for China and catching up on sleep.
FYI: Applying for the Chinese visa
There’s so little information on the internet about how to apply so I thought this might help anyone wanting to visit China. Some similar information I found on a travel forum was a lifesaver for me.
What you need to take to the embassy:
One passport photo
Recent bank statement showing that you have money to pay for your trip
Printed flight itineraries (into and out of China)
Printed hotel bookings (it is unclear whether you need to book just your first hotel, or all accommodation for the duration of your trip, I booked all to be safe on Hotel Bookers where you just pay 10% upfront)
Photocopy of the details page of your passport
(and of the current visa page of your passport if applying from a country other than your own)
Also a good idea to look at the application forms online before you get to the embassy, as you’ll need to have details such as your health insurance policy number and contact details of your hotels in China.
The Chinese Embassy in Bangkok:
Apply between 9am and 11.30am, Mon – Fri
Approval process takes 1-4 days depending on how much you pay
Check the website before you go to make sure they are not closed due to Thai or Chinese national holidays
Allow plenty of time to get there, the embassy is a long way from Khao San Rd (motorbike taxi is best, around 120-150 baht each way)
Pay on collection in Thai baht