Grapevine – July 19, 2019 – July 25, 2019

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Medical Insurance Again

There’s been a lot of discussion about who doesn’t need medical insurance, so who does? That would be the applicants for an O/A (annual) or O/X (up to ten years) visa at the Thai embassy in their own country. For these visas there is a long list of requirements. But one year extensions of stay granted by the Thai immigration bureau or the 5-20 year elite cards issued here by Thailand Elite do not require insurance. They are not granted by Thai embassies abroad. That’s the key point.

Is Thailand Expensive?

The latest international survey suggests more than previously. But Bangkok is still only the 63rd most expensive country for expats to live in, far cheaper than Hong Kong or Singapore. The cheapest cities in Southeast Asia are apparently Manila and Phnom Penh. But be advised that the survey is based on comparing costs in shopping baskets rather than assessing big issues such as accommodation rates or currency fluctuations.

Window of Opportunity

The requirement to report your address “every 90 days” continues to cause confusion even after all these years. It applies mainly to holders of one year visas and requires them to report if they have lived in the country for the past three months … without leaving the country. That last phrase is key. Those who do need to report have a window of discretion – up to 15 days beforehand and up to seven days after the due date. The 90 day report is neither a visa nor a permission to stay.

Vegetable Ending

Overheard in a Pattaya venue where two women were chatting. 1st woman, “My husband died on Sunday you know.” 2nd woman, “Oh I’m sorry to hear that, how did it happen”? 1st woman, “Well, he went down to the garden to cut me a cauliflower for our family dinner and had a sudden, massive heart attack.” 2nd woman, “Goodness me, what on earth did you do”? 1st woman, “Well, we had to open a tin of peas.”

Somewhat Contradictory

Some keyboard warriors are having a whale of a time claiming that Thailand has never been so quiet on the tourist front. They refer to deserted immigration offices, empty bar stools and bored taxi drivers with nothing to do. Yet the same people also talk of the irritation of huge queues at visa-issuing embassies, particularly in Laos, and enormous queues at Thai airports requiring them to stand for hours before being processed. You can’t have it both ways folks!

End of Visa Runs?

That said, there’s a current rumour that Thai authorities are working on a new system of on-line visa applications which will not require any attendance at a consulate or embassy abroad. You would download your paperwork online and, assuming you are successful, you will in due course receive your visa in your inbox to affix in your passport. Such a hi-tech system would certainly have its pluses and minuses, but is said to be several years away from an implementation date.

Trotting the Globe

Which area of the world provided the most overseas trips in 2018? Perhaps surprisingly, it was still Europeans leading the field with 713 million. Next came the Asia-Pacific guys and gals with 345 million, then the Americans with 217 million. Africans and Middle Easterners trailed the field with only 11 percent of the total. As many as 1.4 billion people went abroad last year, generating income of US$1.6 trillion worldwide. Does anyone know what a trillion looks like?

Prospects for Tourism

Thailand expects 41 million tourists in the whole of 2019. But let’s remember that growth depends on stable fuel prices and affordable air travel with good flight connectivity. The downside factors include geographical and trade tensions anywhere in the world, including any kind of trouble in the oil rich Middle East and Gulf. Of course, it’s always hard to make predictions. Especially when they are about the future.

What a Pile

It’s estimated that each person in Thailand uses eight plastic bags a day which equates to 500,000 million for the whole nation. Most end up in the sea where plastic bags account for 16 percent of total garbage there. The government recently announced a ban on all plastic by 2022 including take-away food containers as well as cups and straws. There’s much more to this problem than taking your own shopping bag with you to the supermarket.

Thoughts for the Week

On poetry. “My favourite poem is the one that begins Thirty Days Hath September because it actually tells you something,” (Groucho Marx). “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo,” (Don Marquis). “The most important thing for poets to do is to write as little as possible,” (T.S. Eliot).