Getting a 90 Day Thai Tourist VISA in Phnom Penh

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I arrived in Thailand. Spent a month not doing much but chilling and enjoying some overdue time off from contracting overseas. After 30 days, it was time to do a VISA run. I decided on Phnom Penh.

It had been five years since I’d done a VISA run from Thailand. So I decided to do it in Phnom Penh. I decided on Phnom Penh primarily because I’m familiar with the city. I’ve been there about 50 times over the past 15 years. It’s a fun city that still isn’t too commercialized or Westernized. I value that above all things. I don’t come to Southeast Asia to experience the West or hyper-commercialized experiences. I like it the way it is…or was. The West and China are screwing up Cambodia as much as they’ve screwed up anything that they’ve touched. It’s just a slower process in Cambodia because everyone is so laid back. There’s not hurry in the land of the Khmers and, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with that.

I arrived in Phnom Penh expecting to give my passport to A2Z Tourism in the morning and receive my new VISA in my passport that evening.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

It’s no longer possible to have a runner or a tourist shop turn in your VISA application. You have to do it yourself. You have to physically journey tot he Royal Thai Embassy, turn in your VISA application packet and retrieve your passport. You have to do it.

And…it’s not as difficult as it sounds. At least, it wasn’t for me.

After I contacted A2Z and was informed that they could no longer provide the VISA service for me, I did a bit of research. I read horror story after horror story. People being denied VISAs. People being turned back at the window at the Thai embassy for not having proper documentation. Story after story of people complaining about the experience and their documentation not being accepted. Folks being denied VISAs for abusing the tourist VISA system.

I was stressed. STRESSED. I thought for certain that I was going to be stuck in Phnom Penh and not able to get back to Thailand.

But that didn’t happen.

Turns out, the process was pretty simple and straight forward even if the Thai Embassy VISA page is a bit ambiguous.

The ambiguity, I’ll explain later.

According to the Thai Embassy webpage, one needs to show up between 0830 and 1200 Sunday through Saturday to turn in one’s VISA application and associated documentation.

The documentation consists of the following:

  • 1.      Visa Application form(s) and photograph(s): Completed and signed Visa Application form and recent photograph(s) (size 3.5×4.5 cm).2.      Passport (valid for no less than 6 months)3.      A copy of passport or travel document4.      Travel tickets out of Thailand5.      Evidence of adequate finance $1,000 per person or $2,000 per family or equivalent another currency.

    6.      Other documents: as may be requested by Consular officers in addition to the documents above. Please note that Consular officers reserve the right to require additional documents, or an interview with the applicant, as deemed necessary, without prior notice.

You show up with the documentation and the fee. Give it to the guy at the window. He checks your documentation. If all is good, he gives you back your documentation along with a number and sends you inside the embassy for processing.

They did not require an interview of any Western European or American who were  there that day. They did require interviews of the Khmer, the Arab and the Afghan who were seeking a VISA that day. The Afghan was rejected.

You go inside the building and the waiting room is right there. You wait for your number to be called. The person at the service window checks your documentation again. If it’s straight, she asks you for the fee, processes your package, gives you a receipt and tells you to come back at 1330 three days later with the receipt.

That is it.

The only way to be expedited is to have a doctor’s note. That is as of this moment. This may change. They will only approve single entry unless you are employed in Cambodia. you’ll need proof.

The fee was 40 USD. I gave them a 100 dollar bill. The woman at the window gave me 60 bucks change. No problem.

After that, you go back to your hotel and spend the next three days doing whatever you want to do.

Three days later, you show up with your receipt at 1330. They hand you your passport with VISA and you go on your way.  The three days does not include weekends or Thai and Khmer holidays. Check the calendar for holidays before you go.

Seems pretty straight forward. Yeah?
joe snuffy


Those are all of the documents that you need.

Now, to the ambiguity mentioned earlier. The Thai Embassy VISA page does not specifically state that one should bring a bank statement as proof of financial means. 20,000Baht is about 700 USD. I had 1,000 dollars on me. I took a stack of 100 dollar bills with me. That seemed to me to satisfy the requirement. They want proof that I have 700 bucks. I took a stack of Benjamins. Yeah, that didn’t work.

The Thai Embassy webpage doesn’t mention having a copy of the Passport data page either. I didn’t have one.

Luckily for me. The guy at the window was extremely helpful…and patient.

He allowed me to email him copies of my bank statement and my passport data page. He printed them out for me and included them in my package.

Once I had all of the documentation, I was sent inside with the number ticket.

For me, the process was easy. I did note that all of the non-Westerners had to interview. Everyone was nice or, at least, professional. I had no issues and they were helpful. If you are not a Westerner, you should contact the embassy before you go and plan on, at least, a month long process. It may go quicker for you. It may not.

I would estimate that 90% of Khmer moto taxi, tuk tuk drivers and cab drivers know where the Thai Embassy is located in Phnom Penh.

That’s pretty much it.

Olympus E30

Dave's CamBag

My new camera.

Making plans to take a 9 day tour of Vietnam with Unny in December.

We’ll start at Phnom Penh in Cambodia.  Take the fast boat down to Chau Doc.  The first day in Vietnam we’ll do the Mekong Delta tour.  I’ve done it once but this will be Unny’s first time there.

Then it’s off to Saigon.  While in Saigon, we’ll take the Cu Chi Tunnel tour and tour the City.  Plan on hitting up the backpacer area and maybe we’ll buy a painting or two.  Definitely have to entertain ourselves at Apocalypse Now Bar.  Stop by Mogambo and see Mama Lani.

Next stop will be Da Nang.  At Da Nang we’ll spend a day at Hoi An.  There is an art shop there that I’d like to visit.  Theysell original art.  A bit pricey.  I think I’ll splurge this time and buy one or two of the guys works.

From there, we’ll find a way down to Hue City.  I want to see the Citadel there as well as the old Royal Cemetery.  We’ll take a cruise down the Perfume River.

Final stop will be Hanoi.  A tour of the city there will include the Hanoi Hilton, the Ho Chi Minh Mauseleum, the old French Quarter, the lake in the center of the city (the name of which escapes me right now) and the National War Museum among other places.  This time, I’m going to get over to Halong Bay as well.  I missed it last time because I was too lazy to get up and go.

I’ll use the new camera to take plenty of pictures and Unny and I will have a ton of new and amazing memories to reminisce upon in our “Golden Years.”  lol

Should be a great trip and I bought this groovy new camera just in time.  Now I just have to learn how to use it to it’s fullest capability.

Angkor and Siem Reap: The American Guide

I had been planning and putting off going to Laos since 2005.  I’d even booked a flight boarded a plane and been diverted by a cyclone.  Wound up going to Chiang Mai instead on that trip. This trip.  I hadn’t intended to go into Laos.  My intent was to stay in Cambodia a bit longer and travel upriver to Battambang and see a bit of the countryside away from the usual tourist chatter. This time, though, I decided that it was time.  I’d waited long enough for Laos and Avin decided to go with me.  But first, Angkor…

Amy, Rey and me at Bayon Temple

On my last holiday (July 2008), I had come to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh and two of my friends from the capital city had come up with me so that I could give them a tour of the Angkor temples.  A bit of a twist there.  An American giving Cambodians a tour of their own cultural treasures.  I’ve been there 6 or 7 times by now.  So I guess I know them as well as anyone.  I’ve almost seen all of the temples around Siem Reap. On these next few trips, I plan on branching out a little further and seeing some of the sites near the Thai border.  But that’s for the future.  Amy, Rey and I toured the temples.  I took them to all of the major sites.  Angkor Wat.  Bayon.  Ta Prohm.  Bakoung.  The Elephant Terrace.  The Leper King.  By that time, the unrelenting Cambodian sun had taken it’s toll.  We returned to our hotel to rest during the heat of mid-day. During the summer months of Cambodia, you have to get out of the heat at mid-day.  That sun will cook you.  I’ve stayed out in it.  But I’ve not many Cambodians who will endure it for long by choice.  I like being out at this time because there are fewer tourists out at this time.  I can be alone in the temples.  Get great pics.  Take my time.  Afterward, we went to the Temple Club.  We watched the Apsara Dance Show and had a few drinks.

The funny part of this night came after we left the Temple Club and it’s Apsara.  We walked up Pub Street to a rooftop bar at the end of the street.  Before we went up, I noticed neon lights a little further down the street.  I asked the girls if they wanted to check it out.  They agreed to come along.  When we got inside, it turned out that the bar was a Khmer version of a strip club.  No  nudity.  But dancers on a stage in skimpy outfits.  These girls were acrobatic.  I don’t think any American girls could compete with the way these girls dance.  I sat down and ordered a drink for myself.  Amy and Rey ordered a beer.  I looked around a bit uncomfortable.  Not for myself, though.  I was fine in there.  More than fine.

I need not have worried.  Amy and Rey loved the place.  They danced to the music.  They talked about the girls.  Asking me which was sexiest and prettiest.  Compared the dancing.  They applauded at the end of each dance.  We sat there and carried on and had fun.  A little later, we invited our favorite over for a drink.  I was thinking the girl would have a beer or a whiskey and coke.  She ordered a Soy Milk.  I almost fell over laughing.

It was an interesting trip.

The girls left the next day and I met Avin…

That’s another story.

The Killing Fields of Cambodia

“Chea, how come good doesn’t win over evil?” young Chanrithy Him asks her sister, after the brutal Khmer Rouge have seized power in Cambodia, but before hunger makes them too weak for philosophy. Chea answers only with a proverb: When good and evil are thrown together into the river of life, first the klok or squash (representing good) will sink, and the armbaeg or broken glass (representing evil) will float. But the broken glass, Chea assures her, never floats for long: “When good appears to lose, it is an opportunity for one to be patient, and become like God.”

from the book When Broken Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him

Cambodia. Pol Pot– Brother Number 1. The Khmer Rouge. Infamous for the “killing fields.” Brought to the notice of the West by the movie which shares the name. Cambodia is synonymous with these fields, with death, with genocide on a massive scale. The Khmer Rouge were the authors of this tragedy. Turning children into murderers. Turning the “base people” against the “new people.” Turning children against their parents. But Cambodia is more than this tragedy.

Cambodia is much more than that stretch of time dominated by the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Cambodia is the beauty of the Apsara. The nobility of Jayavarman VII. The majesty and antiquity of Angkor. The power of the Mekong, Tonle and Bassac rivers. The smiles of it’s carefree peoples. Jungles and forests and elephants and monkeys. Even so, a visit to Cambodia can never be complete without the reminder of the desolation and carnage that communism wrought upon the soul of the peoples of Cambodia.

The evils of Tuol Sleng. The Killing Fields. Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot. Democratic Kampuchea. The dark history that is enshrined at Cheung Ekh along with it’s victims.

Cheung Ekh is a foreboding place. It is a stroll into madness and the heart of evil. I could feel the past there . The sadness that bled into the ground with the blood of it’s victims. The blood that swells just beneath the sod. The evil that consumed the people of Cambodia under the guiding hand of Pol Pot. It’s victims caught in an eternal and silent plea for justice. A justice that will never be realized. Those skulls stare at you.  Forever questioning how such a peaceful people could be turned into the tool of genocide by a mad prophet of death and destruction.

Cambodia’s notorious Brother Number One. The leader of the evil red revolution and murderer of millions. He died before he could be brought to justice.

Walking through the killing fields of Cambodia is horrifying. Yet, it’s fascinating. As I strolled through Cheung Ehk, I read the signs posts and literature. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt a hand wrap around my heart. My stomach knotted up. My pulse raced. Walking through those fields, one’s soul joins the millions of victims in silent protest. One can feel their screams, the pain, the anger, the outrage. Surely, justice must come. It will not.

There is no justice. It is estimated that anywhere from 1.2 to 2.2 Million Cambodians died at the hands of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. Cities, villages and families were decimated. So many lives ended. Stolen. Human history unwritten, obliterated.

The motto of the Khmer Rouge as regards the “New People”: “To keep you is no benefit. To destroy you is no loss.”

The base people were the people of the villages. The new people were city dwellers. In 1976, the Khmer Rouge evacuated all of the cities of Democratic Kampuchea. And as the Jungle reclaimed the land, the Khmer Rouge destroyed a people. Their first victims were the literate. The educated. Being in possession of glasses was enough to prove guilt. As with all of the “great proletariat” revolutions, the Khmer Rouge soon ran out of victims outside of the party and fell upon itself with equal zeal. Killing for the sake of killing. Murder became the great tool by which Pol Pot could purge the people of the evil of capitalism and turn back time. Erase history. Start from a new, pristine point without the corruptions of the West.

He would save the people by destroying them. A novel idea shared by many in the lands of Islam today. The leaders of Islam share this vision. They would set the world on fire to save us from what? Hell. Create a hell on earth to save us from hell in the afterlife. There is nothing new in this. It is the same act of the murderous tyrant and his minions throughout history.

movie poster