10-day Vacation in Thailand || Visa on Arrival Mayhem & how to deal with it at Suvarnabhoomi International Airport, Bangkok (Day 1)

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One would wonder what could be so eventful about our arrival in a city that we have to write a post about it. Well, it was quite an adventure actually. Our trip had already started with a not-so-impressive and most chaotic interaction with SpiceJet for their SpiceMax offer. You can read about that here. We had hoped that things would settle down after this and were looking forward to beginning our vacations. However, we still had a few "Interesting Experiences" to get through before we would be able to do that. But at that time we did not know this. 

Our flight had landed at 2:45am and our domestic flight to Chiang Mai was at 10am. After exiting the aircraft, we thought we would quickly take our Visa on Arrival and then collect our luggage from the belt (as per SpiceMax, our luggage would be priority and would come out first). After this, we figured we would have enough time to catch a few hours of shut-eye in some lounge. But as soon as we walked into the corridor where Visas on Arrival were being processed, we realized that we may have to cut down a bit on that planned shut-eye. 

The scene before us was that of complete mayhem. Hundreds of people were standing, rushing about, standing in queues that no one seemed to respect and that didn't seem to be moving. We saw some people filling Visa on Arrival forms, but these forms didn't seem to be available on any of the counters. And there wasn't any airport official to guide overwhelmed souls like us. On a seemingly abandoned information desk, some passengers had taken up seats behind the counter. Some people mistook them as airport officials and were asking them for the forms. They then clarified that they were tourists like us. Then one smart tourist, with what we can only assume was sixth sense, asked one of the tourists who had taken up a seat behind at the information counter to check if there were any forms beneath the counter. There were! So this tourist quickly started handing out these forms. If we hadn't been so stressed about the Visa on Arrival and our flight to Chiang Mai, we would have found this situation quite hilarious. Anyway, we grabbed two forms. VJ joined the queue that no one seemed to respect, while I stood at the information counter to fill the forms. 

At this point, it is also important to talk about an online portal where you can allegedly fill the Visa on Arrival form before your arrival in Thailand. We had tried that before our flight to Thailand. But after you have filled all the information, when you try to print the form, the format is so bad that you cannot read anything. Even though the output is simple html, it is so screwed up that you would spend an eternity trying to correct it. Therefore, we did not take these print outs with us. Also, we saw a couple of people showing those print outs to the officials at the Visa on Arrival counter, but they were asked to again fill the Visa on Arrival form. So there's no point of this option actually. Also, there was a gate for a priority queue, which seemed to cater to senior citizens, but there was no one there and we saw all senior citizens standing in the queue with us. 

Anyways, we were now in a queue that was merging into a crowd somewhere up ahead and were moving at a snail's pace. Eventually, after almost an hour, we also merged in that crowd. We thought that after that we would come face-to-face with a counter, but no. We were dismayed to find that there was another queue beyond this and it seemed to go on for files. However, seeing no other option, we accepted it as our fate and stood in the queue, silently thanking the cosmos that we had enough time on our hands before our flight. 

Anyways, after some time, we noticed that there was a desk on the left side of the queue where a few officials were checking documents. Panicked Tourists were coming to this desk, quickly getting their documents checked and heading off to another counter, where the queue was shorter and moving much faster. We asked one of the airport police professionals about that and were told that you can pay 200Baht per person and get a faster processing. We asked him how much time we would save if we took that option. "Not much anymore. May be 15-20 minutes," he said, and then showed us a photograph of the scene behind this counter, which appeared to be almost similar to what we were seeing here. It seemed to us that for 400 Baht we would be saving only 20 minutes and still be standing in mayhem. Some people around us, who had earlier flights, nevertheless, took that option and disappeared. Since our return to India we have read about this option more and also spoke to our friends. It turns out that this option is actually a bribe, and you won't even get a receipt for the 200 Bahts. So we are glad we did not go for it. 

Two hours later, we were almost at the head of our queue and from our positions were able to look inside at the counters that the policeman had shown us on his phone. They were almost empty! But by now, it was too late for us and not worth it any more. But we were worried about our baggage, that was supposed to be on belt for almost 3 hours now. Anyways, finally it was our turn and the VISA interview went very smoothly. We had taken care to be ready with all the documents and that paid off here. We were then asked to wait to be called to collect our stamped passports. That took 10 minutes and we thought that maybe the worst was behind us.   

And then we realized that there were long queues leading to the passport control counters where we would need to get our photos clicked. By now we were resigned to our fate and stood patiently in the shortest queue. By the time we were done with the entire process, it was 7:15 AM and we had our next flight in less than 3 hours. We found our luggage standing next to the belt along with luggage of other spicejet passengers who were probably still stuck in a queue somewhere. By the time we had checked in for our next flight, we barely had one hour on our hands and absolutely no time for any amount of shut-eye whatsoever. There was a small glitch here as well.  There were extra charges for checked-in luggage in the the Vietjet Flight that I had booked to Chiang Mai. The charges were about 900 Bahts. I had chosen this flight because of its timing and low-cost fare. But after adding 900 Bahts I think we would have had other, much better, options too. 

Anyways, now that the Visa on Arrival was done and we were on our flight to Chiang Mai and most of our travel and stay in Thailand was already booked, we were sure things would start looking up. But more excitement was yet to follow. Stay tuned to find out what happened when we landed in Chiang Mai. 

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