THAILAND- second edition
Since my last post I had to return to Australia to sort out finances and final arrangements, after 13 months in Chiang Rai.
Lesson 1- When you are fully committed to a permanent move, settle all that stuff well in advance of departure date; I left behind a property which in retrospect had become a burden. I should have sold up before leaving, since the ensuing sale was close to being a nightmare of new rules and bureaucracy. Banks & settlement agent would find any obstruction possible, it seemed, although the selling agent made it easy. It took about 3 months.
Lesson 2- the Australian tax office. At 70 years old they sent me a tax bill for $11,000. No explanation- just pay up, or else. Still no idea what for, except maybe penalties for not jumping thru all the hoops of which I was unaware.
My daughter put me wise to an agent who'd been a tax office employee for 30 years, now retired, who took the occasional case he thought 'unfair'. He got everything sorted, no further bills would be sent but even he was unable to get any refund. This process took about 4 months. Threats to raid my bank account resulted in removing all my assets to Thailand. [Make sure the Customs Declaration is completed and signed for assets over $10,000].
Then back to Thailand, having got the permission to return beforehand. Immigration were efficient and cost was less than 2,000 Baht (about US 57 or Australian $76.)
Now to more amusing things I notice in Thailand--
- Police don't bother much with such inconsequential things as traffic control or offenses. Scooters are the main form of transport, helmets are optional except where a sign says they're compulsory. Girls are the worst offenders [not wanting the hairstyle spoilt?]. Three, four, even five on a small scooter; often the ladies ride side-saddle, tiny babes in arms. Drivers use the mobile [cell] phone whilst carrying a load and smoking simultaneously. Traffic lights- they will continue on after the light is red, so green does NOT mean 'go'. Vehicles will pass at high speed with all of a foot of clearance. Scooters amass at a red light, then take off at random; last week I was letting those in front time to get away when a Thai loon ran up my exhaust pipe! No real damage, I didn't fall off but on looking behind, he is legs-in-the-air under his scooter, abusing me for my being at fault. Not speaking Thai I can't point out his error... as on the Mexico driving story, it is first come, first served here and the white lines seem to be a way of disposing of excess paint. Roundabouts- the same; assuming priority is a death warrant!
- Getting the Thai Driver's Licence is pleasantly informal, and a very pretty thing it is. Took about an hour, no need to actually drive anything if, as most people do, you have an overseas license. Just take the documents to Traffic Dept [passport, old license, residential paper from immigration] amd follow the prompts. Cost- about 200 Baht. (US $5.72, Australian $7.66.)
- My new Honda PCX 150 scooter was 75,500 Baht (US $2,160, Australian $2,982) after negotiation, including documentation done by the retailer. Long wait for the registration plate but have been assured it is quite normal. 2 months and police have not stopped me to ask...
- Elephants [Chang] on remote country roads are an occasional hazard but it pays not to argue- specially if mum is shepherding her little one across. Stay well clear and enjoy the sight, beautiful.
So far, so good. Just one snag- going overseas is a pain; min 3 flights to Australia, total 12 hours door to door. Probably won't be doing that too often.