THAILAND - A SHIPMENT, A WEDDING AND AN ACCIDENT
Without counting the visa runs from Laos it was the third time we entered Thailand on our trip. We crossed the friendship bridge across the Mekong near Vientiane, passed through Khon Kaen and headed straight through one of the few boring landscapes of Thailand to Bangkok. The list of to do’s was long and the shipment date from Laem Chabang to Masan in Korea was set to the 26th of February which meant that we had to leave Rouletout on the dock on the 24th.
Luckily we had found a veterinary clinic in Vientiane so the serum sample of Mutlu’s blood was already on its way to Scotland for rabies immunology testing - a prerequisite to enter Korea; an item less on the list. But still we had to get flights, make sure the airline is ok with Mutlu, get a cradle and get married! As Korea doesn’t allow for weddings of foreigners and our Hongkong option had become obsolete we decided to simply do it in Thailand. I also had planned to have some service done on our Rouletout in Bangkok - typically a much cheaper option than Korea or Japan - so our headquarter was set to Asia Trucks not far from Bang Na in Bangkok. We arrived Wednesday night at the workshop - welcomed by the same friendly security guard as last time - and prepared for the visit of the Austrian embassy next morning. Each respective embassy has to prepare a marriage application that is subsequently officially translated into Thai and legalised by the Thai Foreign Ministry. With these applications (and a translator) you can go to any registrar’s office, get married and do the same procedure the other way round. Meaning that you have to get the wedding certificate and related documents translated into a language accepted by your embassy, get it legalised by the Thai Foreign Ministry and then get it apostilled by the respective embassies.
So the first task was to get the marriage application from the Austrian embassy. I had received some of the required documents from Austria before so the task was easy, drop the documents at the office, pay and wait for 2 days. Luckily in the same building is a German - Thai translator office that gave us some useful hints and the address of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A long weekend came up and we took the opportunity to stroll through Bangkok, ordered a cradle for Mutlu at a vet, got Rouletout cleaned from mud and dirt and booked flights to Busan in Korea after we finally got answers on which airline takes dogs of Mutlu’s size and which doesn’t (thank you Thai Airways). We became experts in riding our small motorbike through the crazy traffic of Bangkok and prepared Rouletout slowly for his journey. Despite a Thai bank holiday we could pick-up the marriage application from the Austrian embassy on Monday but had to wait for the Turkish to open on Tuesday. Luckily they were fast and we got the document within the hour.
After another 15km of crazy driving through the city we arrived at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a huge complex full of people running left and right. The first shock came when the official translator said that they can not finish the translation today. But it wouldn’t be Thailand if there was not a solution, some guy saw us asking and offered his services, 2 hours. OK, short exchange of phone numbers and off he went. We waited and checked how the legalisation works: there was a next day express option but you had to submit by 11:30 - we were too late for that - or the regular service which takes 3 days (submit until 14:30). A well nourished woman came to help us with the official forms that we had to fill-in. After a little more than two hours the translated papers came back and we tried to submit them. The lady at the counter made it clear to us that it would be faster to submit them tomorrow morning for express and not now when only regular service was accepted. OK, we stood there for a while, the guy who organised the translation not far from us and evaluated options. It became clear that it would be much easier to get married nearby the ministry of foreign affairs and not elsewhere in Bangkok or even in Krabi. We asked our “translation guy” if he had an idea where the registrar’s office was; that’s when he picked up the phone and less than a minute later Kwang (the well nourished lady from before) stood next to us. “You want to get married?” she asked, “Yes” we replied, “OK, let’s go she said”. A little bit puzzled we tried to explain that our documents were not yet legalised and that we are happy to use her services at a later date. “Submit the documents now and we go” she said, she can submit the legalised ones at a later date, no problem we are in Thailand. Interesting, we left the docs at the counter for regular service, agreed on a price for all services and minutes later we sat in a taxi and - next surprise - headed downtown. Obviously Kwang had certain inroads at a specific district office - as we arrived it was close to 16:00 - a time when they are normally already closed. Nevertheless (or because of that) all employees were focussed on getting us married.
Papers went from left to right and back, countless signatures were given, two of them were nominated as our witnesses, from time-to-time Kwang tried to explain what was going on and after a little more than an hour we - now a married couple - left with colourful, Thai wedding certificates and a bundle of documents that we couldn’t read. All of them stayed with Kwang for translation and legalisation and we agreed to pick them up a day or two before our flight to Korea. For us the first part of our honeymoon started, 50km on our motorbike through Bangkok back to our Rouletout who waited for us to get prepared for his first shipment. Wednesday morning started early, final preparations before we said good bye - for the third time - to the team of Asia Truck and headed south east to Laem Chabang, the big harbour of Bangkok where our RoRo-freighter (roll-on / roll-off) from Wallenius Wilhelmsen was expected for Thursday night. Berna went to pick-up our rental car in Pattaya while I finalised the customs procedure - as always in Thailand without any issues - and got the paperwork at the dock done. Removing all valuables from the front cabin was the last task before we waved bye bye. Rouletout was standing in line with hundreds, soon to be thousands of new cars bound for Singapore and Jakarta.
The M/V Don Juan, one of many PCTC’s (pure car & truck carrier) of Wallenius Wilhemsen, can carry up to 5’846 (typically new) cars, rather rarely it carries a used caravan like ours amongst them. For the first time in almost two years we were without our home. It was quite a change to drive a regular car on our way south but we made it to Ao Nang in the late afternoon of the next day and tried to get a boat to Tonsai. As we already knew, this was quite a challenge as Thai muslims are not too happy with dogs but we made it just to encounter the next challenge: Despite earlier information, none of the resorts was happy to see Mutlu so after one night in Andaman bungalows (where we sneaked in Mutlu) we decided to move back to the mainland to our former home in the area, Chong Phli which is now under new management and even nicer than before. Our real honeymoon started, we climbed, chilled, met with old friends from the area, discovered a few new cliffs and after a few days Martin and Lisa this time with her sister Theresa came to join us. With their help we finally took our wedding pictures and we enjoyed the last few very hot days.
One morning Berna decided to drive our car into a scooter packed with a Thai family, a father with 3 kids, but luckily nobody got seriously hurt and after a short excitement, 10’000 THB and two hours everything was sorted out.
With a new car we headed back to Bangkok to finalise what we had started. We found a lovely guest house east of Don Mueang airport in a quiet and traditional part of town and contacted Kwang to retrieve our wedding documents. Firstly we got bad news, on one of the documents my passport expiry date was wrong, the Foreign Ministry refused authentication. But it wouldn’t be Kwang if she couldn’t make all that happen in one afternoon, we raced to the registrar’s office, got an amendment to our documents, drove out to the Foreign Ministry, got it translated and authenticated on the same afternoon! Next was Mutlu’s papers that had to be prepared at the quarantine office of the airport, the process was quite quick and in about two hours we had the export and health certificates. What was left was to get the wedding documents apostilled at our respective embassies. We started at the Turkish one that finalised it in 20 minutes, at the Austrian we learned that this also takes two days - on top of it one of the documents was authenticated by the Foreign Ministry in copy only which meant, that the Austrian embassy would not apostille it. It were our last hours in Bangkok, luckily we remembered the translator just a few floors above the embassy and we explained the situation to him. Within 30 minutes all was clear, he would take care of everything and ship the finalised documents to Korea. I almost forgot, we had to pick-up the original bill of landing for our shipment at the Wallenius Wilhemsen office in Bangkok - without this document you can not receive the cargo at the port of destination - and off we went to the airport for our night flight to Busan. New adventures were waiting for us in Korea, but as always, more on that in our next blog entry.