Deadline 19 days

The world is a huge place. Our adventure into the relative unknown is just around the corner. It is with some trepidation that I look forward to the morning of our departure, although, fully aware that once the journey begins life will be a more dynamic experience.

Our first brush with the Thai Embassy was an interesting encounter. Being organised folk we decided to put all necessaries in place well in advance and so tick them off the interminable list. So off we went to South Kensington, during half-term, the station filled with noisy home-grown and foreign school parties all eager to enhance their stale educations in schools by visiting the range of museums that are situated – IN SOUTH KENSINGTON!  After a short walk and hobble in Jo’s case without her crutches, bless her, we found the embassy in Queens Gate. Up the steps we strode, through the grand entrance, this is nice, we thought, civilised and welcoming, wrong, we were met by a Thai, brandishing a shortwave radio, asking what we wanted. We explained and he held the grand entrance door open for us and indicated the basement for visas. Oh, we thought, never mind. So into the depths of South Kensington we spiralled, spying queues through the Georgian windows and bars. This was it. From upstairs to downstairs in one swift gesture of a short-wave radio!

Our forms we completed the day before and we waited, a short time for a free counter manned by a Thai chap whose english was very stilted, and through one of those window microphones, was distorted making difficult communication somewhat more so. However, Jo’s patience and communications skills left us without passports overnight and with the instruction to return the following day between 11 and 12 to collect the required Tourist Visa to travel to Thailand. We retraced our journey to the O2 and made it home, rearranging golf for that afternoon instead of the following day because of having to return to South Ken to collect the visa.

The morning arrives to collect the visa and the opportunity of ticking off another essential on the list. Car to the O2, tube to Westminster, change to South Kensington, more museum visitors and into the basement, nice and early we thought, in and out in a flash! The system to see someone at the desk is a ticket system which ultimately means nothing because when the window opened for “collections” it became a free for all. Jo had it sussed whilst I read a layman’s guide to Buddhism – very enlightening. Jo found herself at the window, I joined her. The lady rummaged through dozens of applications and passports and found ours after a moment of frustration as ours seemed not to be there. They were, my under breath cursing had no grounds for realisation. Excellent. Our passports were emblazoned with the required visa, but wait, Jo said: This is wrong. The date is wrong. My under breath cursing was beginning to find new life. The date was incorrect, well at least as far as we were concerned, it was. Back to the line. No, I stormed out, to road level, suddenly I was seeing all the colours of the Thai flag! Well the red bits anyway. Jo was embarrassed by my ranting as we held office on a road island deciding what to do. Only one thing for it. Back to the queues. I held back and paced like caged tiger. It transpires we have to apply no more than three months in advance of our departure date – which totally contradicts all their information on the website – to be frank, their website is not one bit user-friendly – I actually think they don’t want folk, like us, to travel to their country! So suddenly our two mornings of travel to South Kensington were not at all fruitful or indeed necessary.

When in Alabama, we must apply to the embassy for our visas. Montgomery, Alabama. Jo called them and spoke with a very slow talking, Mr. Henry. We have, but he doesn’t know this, taken ownership of Mr. Henry as our temporary link with safe passage to Phuket, and look forward to meeting with him and having a couple of days in Montgomery because it is about 3 to 4 hours drive from where we are living in Point Clear.

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