D’oh! Almost Couldn’t Extend My Thai Visa

August 5, 2016

Expat forums have cautionary tales by those whose mistake preventing them from extending their retirement visa* for another year. The usual mistake is to leave the country without a re-entry permit. The other way? Forget until after the 7 day grace period.

I remembered it was coming due, and the date (10 days from now) I could first request an extension. But I did forget to keep an eye on my Thai bank balance. One way to meet the visa’s financial requirement is a Thai bank account where the balance never drops below 800,000 THB (~$23,000) in the 3 months before applying to extend.

As always, I’d set calendar alerts up the wazoo before and during the 3 month period. But somehow, after returning from the Spain trip, I managed to see the last few and not act.

My Thai bank sends an SMS after every ATM withdrawal, showing the amount and the new balance. Sometimes I ignore them for weeks before putting them in the account spreadsheet. Two days ago I thought I should check this… 809,237 THB. Yikes! That was close.

It was easy to fix: withdraw using ATM cards from 2 US banks, deposit into Thai bank. Repeat daily until comfortable with the excess. Next year, assuming I’m still here, my alerts will include inputting the SMSs on the day they’re received.

* Visa pedants take note: I simplified terminology and processes for readers not like you. Go back to thaivisa dot com.

Fall Trip: Atlanta with a side of Paris

July 24, 2016

I can’t recall going from initial idea to buying flight tickets so quickly, or planning a trip mostly based on another’s suggestion. I’ll be house sitting and cat tending for a dear friend in Atlanta, GA. Her job sometime requires being away from home for a week or 2 at a time, returning for weekends or a week depending upon the assignment. My 4 week house sit will include at least 1 week with her. I haven’t seen her in 11 years, so 1 week works for me.

Think about it (I did). I travel for several reasons: 1) New people, places and things, 2) Photography, and 3) Food. A month in Atlanta will be plenty of #1. I haven’t spent more than a trivial amount of time anywhere in the South since age 13. Her place is within walking distance of the college where she works, in a neighborhood with many faculty and post docs. Not exactly typical Atlanta. However, access to ‘typical’ and photography is a very close bus line which connects to 2 metro rail stations. I have no doubt a city I’ve never been in will stimulate my photomojo for a month. And, in appreciation, I will work at learning how to create some ‘Aww…’ worthy cat photos.

As for food, didn’t the South invent and perfect artery clogging, pork fat flavored, salt delivery systems? Seriously, a major appeal to house sitting is access to her well equipped kitchen. I haven’t had that since leaving the US in 2008. Actually, I haven’t had access to a kitchen of any sort. I’ve loved to cook since not long after grad school. I’ll see if I remember how.

Atlanta by way of Paris? By way of Tokyo is the rational choice. It’s the shortest and lowest cost route. But I’ll have to change planes somewhere, so why not stay a few nights? I’ve recently been there, done that in Tokyo. So I selected Paris because it’s Paris. Also there are rational reasons. Air France has non-stops to both Bangkok and Atlanta, a Premium Economy class with 6 more inches of leg room, and the fare is same for a few nights layover as a few hours layover.

Yeah, this is Thailand

June 24, 2016

Two reminders within 10 minutes of the culture adjustments one must make not to get worked up while living here means I have a new post.

Combining the drop in tourism since the coup with the usual substantial drop in business during low season, and one would think foreigner oriented businesses would try to hang on to their loyal customers. Not here, surprisingly often. After breakfast yesterday, I walked over to the boss lady (BL) and handed her a 100 baht note for my 99 baht tab. Sitting next to her (they were both attending to a baby) was an older woman I took to be the BL’s mother. BLM said ‘Thank you’ with finality. I didn’t have 10 baht for the tip so I held out (but didn’t give to her) a 20 baht note  and asked if she had ‘small money’ (i.e. change in coins). BLM took the note and said no. I took it back from her, said ‘next time’ to the BL while BLM glared at me. I’ll know from BL’s reception next time if I should even bother sitting down or ever returning.

Next I went to the local branch of Bangkok Hospital to change a follow up appointment from Bangkok to Hua Hin. As usual, the English abilities of those working reception was excellent. Appointment was for Friday, 1 July. No can do because the July doctor schedules are not in the system yet. I asked what about Thursday? Same answer. I asked isn’t Thursday the last day in June? It took a second for her to be embarrassed. Not my intent, but sometimes not taking no for an answer is the best tactic.


Link to Daily Updates on My Spring Trip

May 10, 2016

I’m in year 2 of a post-one-photo-a-day project at 365Project.org. For this trip I’ve created a second album solely for trip photos with comments about the day or the photo. Thumbnails photo are laid out on a calendar: While Traveling Album. Photos taken on the trip where I attended to the aesthetics or creativity of the image instead of recording a memory are on my primary album. In trip photos started on 23 April. They’ll continue until early June.

It’s a nice day for a light wetting

April 15, 2016

If I only had a waterproof camera…

Yesterday in Hua Hin was the first and only day of public celebration of Songkran. Privately, Thais join their families in a celebration that involves water. Publicly, people throw it at each other. Like most expats, I did it once. Enjoyed the fun, didn’t like the malicious aggressiveness of packs of drunk young males.

This year I went out in the morning, stopping to be a target for the kids standing in front of their homes and shops while some adult kept watch over them. A few were mystified why I didn’t try to avoid, others happily flung and squirted water.

Approaching one shophouse, I could see a little girl, maybe a yard tall (I call them yardlings), while near her was a bucket with a lump. That lump was a boy’s head. He was small enough to sit in a bucket that came up to just below his shoulders, in water up to his ribs. Armed with a bowl about 4 inches across, he was so excited his first throw missed. I moved closer. Frantic now, his second effort was in line but aimed too low. I squatted, his third fling hit home. His joyful reaction was priceless. So were the smiles on mom and dad.

Travel Whim Met Reality, Part 2

April 13, 2016

I figured it was time to start monitoring lodging availability for Seville and Jerez de la Frontera. Traveling by whim is good in theory. But just in case let’s see if there will be rooms. There won’t.

May 1st falls on a Sunday. So what? D’oh! May Day is a big holiday in some countries. In Jerez, the week following May 1 is their second biggest event of the year, La Fería del Caballo*. That’s when I wanted to visit. So, instead of Seville and Jerez and overnight trips, it will be Seville and day trips. Jerez is close enough for a day trip. It’s no big deal. Not better, not worse, just different. But I’m sure glad I checked 2 weeks in advance.

*Horse Fair, for the sort of families who have owned horse ranches for generations, plus their friends and social equals. The public has access to the outer layer of the grounds, but the rest is invitation only.




Travel Whim Met Reality

March 25, 2016

My forearms were hurting a bit from too much mousing but the trip ideas were flowing so I stuck with it for a few days. The result is a plan with my ‘must sees’, interspersed with unscheduled days.

Some destinations could not be left to whim because of price and availability of desirable lodging. Why?  Spaniards away from home for a spring weekend affect supply and prices. Old towns sell out before the new part of town. On hilltops, the upper old town sells out before the lower old town. By ‘sells out’ I mean in the range I’m willing to pay.

The Map of The Plan:


#1 Fly to Granada. 3-? nites
#2 Between #1 and #3 with some or all in #2 Seville. 0-6 nights.
#3 Arcos de la Frontera, a hilltop walled town. 2 nights
#4 Somewheres inside the magenta loop. 5 nights
#5 Cáceres in the old town. 2 nights
#6 Salamanca on a weekend. 2 nights
#7 Not on map – #8 Segovia – #9 Not on map. 7 nights.
#10 Cuenca in the upper old town. 2 nights.
#11 Toledo in the old town. 2 nights
Last night in Madrid then fly to Stuttgart.


I’m glad I found the advice to book lodging in Amsterdam before buying airline tickets. There was precious little availability for my preferred flight dates. Because I have 11 hrs and  15 mins between arriving from Bangkok and departing for Granada, I chose to stay in the airport in a… well… they call it a ‘Standard Cabin’.


A gatekeeper prevents optimists from bringing anything larger than a carry-on bag into their Yotel (that’s the correct spelling). One must use airport baggage storage or be checked through to the next flight.