Jan 6th, 2015
I would pick up my Myanmar visa today. The embassy would open at about 2pm, so I had quite some time. I went to a library, where I knew I could probably find free wifi and a comfortable seat. When I was in Europe, it always worked — where there was a public library, there was free wifi. There was a library named XX library not far from Myanmar embassy, a small one but in a beautiful and quiet yard. When I got in, I noticed a note saying that the library was only open to members and to become a memeber one needed to donate like 10 USD. 10 USD?! WOWO! That’s a lot! The lady in charge of the library was an amiable old woman from the US. I talked to her and explained that I was only travelling here and paying so much for a membership to use the wifi for perhaps only once would be not reasonable. She was kind enough to let me stay around, using the wifi for free.
It had only one floor and there were only English books. The house looked quite old and so did the charis and tables. It’s founded about one hundred years ago. The chairs were so comfortable that I fell asleep with my laptop on my lap…… When I eventually woke up, it was already 2pm and I hurried to the embassy immediately. Then I saw, WOWO! an unbelievably long queue in front of the room where there were visa windows! There were surely more than 100 people in the line. That was quite a scene and everybody stared at its remarkable length. Most surprisingly, the length only increased with time and never decreased. It was the time of the day with the most ruthless sunshine. In Bangkok, since it’s so near to the sea and the presence of many waters, the heat had a scary degree of humidity. Everybody was complaining. “Why does the queue not move, at all?!” “Those who are in front of it, what the hell were they doing?!” I heard complaints everywhere while we were being becoming barbecues.
One hour passed, the queue did not move at all and got simply longer. “What the fuck are you they doing in the visa room?” “These bastards in front, can’t they just fucking hurry up?!” The complaint had got another flavour, strong flavour.
Two hours passed, still the queue did not move AT ALL! That was beyond understanding and tolerance. “Fuck them! I am going to shout to them in the room right now!” One could hear the tension inside the room and many people went inside the room again and again to check what the hell was going on. “Did those in charge of giving back passports suddenly drop dead?!” “If I were you, I would definitely use my Asian gene and pretend to be Thai and get in there in no time!” somebody said to me. The discontent was fastly becoming an unrest.
The visa sector of the embassy was supposed to close at about 4:30pm, but at that time the queue still did not move an inch so it stayed open. Impatience was cooked up by the penetrating heat and the stiflingly wet air. I looked around, I saw expressionless faces, anxious gestures and I heard cursing everywhere. We were sweating, worse than pigs. There were no shades, no winds. The foreheads of many people in the queue were glowing from the thick sweat. Those who went inside and came back brought the news that there were already countless people, local Thai people and foreigners in there and the windows were all the time busy, but still the queue did not fucking move half an inch! I had never seen so many people waiting for the visa of a country at the same time. Myanmar was known as a not-so-touristic country and the visa could be hard to get, but Bangkok was a sort-of shortcut for it. Eventually there were at least 200 people queuing. The queue started inside the room, in front of the visa windows and zigzagged inside the room and grew outside and formed an amazingly long snake by the roadside. People were taking photos of this snake. Bangkok was touristic, but to see so many tourists, mostly “whites” in one spot, the concentration still impressed them.
Near me there was an old lady in the queue, with chapped face and swollen figure and a Belgian guy with strong Dutch accent and two young Finnish guys. We constantly saw some young girls who were behind us went inside the room and came out a while later. They started to suspect that these girls jumped the queue and got the visa in front of us!
“Well, they are young and beautiful females!” The Belgian guy said helplessly and cynically.
“That’s not fair! I have been waiting longer than them! and I am OLDER!” The old lady shook her unkempt red hair and shouted angrily. She had lost her good humour and her face told me that she was ready to tear those girls into pieces. She went up to them and told the girls clearly and straightly:”Wait in your position! I have been waiting longer than you!” The girls were shocked and immediately explained:”No no, I was just inside to use the toilet!” She did not believe that and insisted that they should stay in their positions. She was not the only one who were outletting the anger. Yes, from impatience to discontent, then from discontent to protest, eventually the protest was developing into almost a riot! People started cursing and many went inside the room to ask and even shout angrily “What the hell is going on?! We are dying in the heat outside!” I was still in good humour and knew that waiting was the only thing I could do. To kill the time, I talked to people around me but they turned out to be simply some westerners coming to Thailand for the beach. I did not remember much what they said. They were quite boring, except the Belgian guy. He was in his fourties and had lived in Thailand for more than 2 years, simply doing NOTHING but having fun. WIth the low price in this country, trust me, an European could enjoy fun life simply by getting unemployment allowance from his or her government back home. If you have even some savings, then you can live like in paradise here. He told me that there were many girls of Dai ethnicity of southern China working in the sex tourism sector here. Why? Their skin was fairer and their language was close to Thai language, so it’s easy for them to learn Thai and have a job here. That’s something new to me. I looked at this guy. He had a very carefree attitude and had become very tan after two years in South East Asia. He had a kind of dreadlock and seemed to be not so interested in anything. He did not smile at all. It seemed that there was nothing exciting in his life anymore but if you asked him if he was happy, he would say yes with a not so convincing face. I guess that he was one of those my friend called “fallen in Bangkok” type — enjoyed the life, including the sex tourism too much to leave Bangkok.
When it was already nightfall, the queue finally started to move, which was unbelievable! The supposed closing time of the visa office was long passed already. When we got inside the room, we saw two windows open, one for Thai people and one for foreigners. We were discussing if it was possible to pick up our passports from the Thai window. I went up to the window for Thai people and it worked! I shouted to people waiting for the result of my attempt:”Hi guys! This window also works for foreigners!” and left. Later I learned that this afternoon the few people in the very front of the queue were from some travel agencies and they had like hundreds of passports to pick up! That was why it took so long for the long snake to start to move an inch.
Yes, I got my Myanmar visa. With my passport in hand, I had the exciting prospect of visiting a new country soon in my mind. When I was just contemplating when I would go to Myanmar and what I could do there, the light moon slowly rose above the east horizon.
Jan 6th, 2015