Grapevine – October 04, 2019 – October 17, 2019

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Unwelcome Restriction

The much-touted elite card visa allows farang to live in Thailand for 5-20 years on payment of between 500,000 and two million baht. It also carries perks such as fast track immigration and hotel and spa discounts. But, surprisingly, holders can obtain only a two year extension driving licence rather than the five years available to those with a one year visa or extension of stay. This is because the elite card visa has to be renewed every three months either by visiting an immigration office or leaving the country.

The Eyes Have It

While on driving licences, we hear that the Land Transportation Department has toughened up its policy on eyesight when you apply for a permit, or need to renew it. Apart from a brief exam for colour blindness, there has long been a vision-depth test where you have to determine when two moving sticks are parallel by moving them around on a hand-held device. The margin of error is a mere five percent and a lot more applicants are failing these days. Or so we are told.

Early Bird Necessary

Still at the extremely busy and overcrowded Land Transportation Department near Pattaya, the office opens at 8.30 am. If you are seeking a driving licence, the advice is to get there around 7 am to ensure you are within the quota for foreigners on that particular day. You will find an official seated just outside the locked office giving out queue ticket numbers. If you don’t believe that, then try arriving mid-morning and see what reception you will get. Come back tomorrow Mister.

The New Riviera

About 10 years ago, Pattaya was designated in marketing brochures by the tourism ministry as Thailand’s Riviera. The general idea was that our fair city could compete with the real Riviera on the Mediterranean coastline as a holiday and leisure resorts. But the same ministry has now earmarked the term Riviera for an area near the Malaysian border. There will be, eventually, a new highway connecting the Chao Phraya River with the Kolok River providing a scenic route to a tourist haven. Can’t compete eh?

Unfounded Rumour

Sorry to disappoint avid viewers but it is simply untrue that the prime minister will be resuming his half-hourly fireside chats on TV which were an integral part of the communications strategy of the military government for five years following the coup of 2014. To his credit, prime minister and ex-army chief Prayut always insisted that his speech in Thai carried an English translation underneath. It was a rare example in government of an international approach. After all, English is the language of ASEAN.

Retirement versus Marriage

Some farang are switching from the extension of stay based on retirement to that based on marriage to a Thai citizen. The reason is that the income or cash qualification for the latter is half the 800,000 baht for the former. But don’t forget that they are two quite separate visa types. At the risk of slight exaggeration, the retirement option requires a few papers whereas the marriage options needs an armful, including signed statements by two neighbours that you really are living together.

Poor Brits

In answer to a query, the British embassy has confirmed that Thai widows cannot now claim any state benefits from UK unless they have a British national insurance number. Just to confirm: no state pension nor widow’s allowance nor any help with funeral expenses without that key number which proves the lady in question lived and worked in UK at some time. However, it is sometimes possible for the surviving Thai widow to apply to receive part of her husband’s occupational pension. Choose a lawyer who knows what is going on.

Certified Brits

You no longer have to visit the British embassy in Bangkok if you need a certified copy of your passport or UK driving licence. According to the embassy website the whole process can be done by post and takes about a week. Given the long waiting lists for vacant embassy slots, this is a useful option. Is it free? Of course not, you pay through the nose as usual. Incidentally, the fees for embassy services are set in London for worldwide and not in Bangkok as is often believed.

Thoughts for the Week

Concerning men and women: “A man can sleep around, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes, she’s a tramp,” (Joan Rivers). “Behind every successful man is a surprised woman,” (Maryon Pearson). “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, whereas a woman must do what he can’t,” (Rhona Hansome). “The most important thing in a marriage is that one partner is good at carrying out orders,” (Linda Festa).