Winter is Coming… Again! Well, it is getting near the end of summer in Canada which means winter is coming! Seems to happen every year. The US border showed no signs of opening up so we decided it was time to head elsewhere. Bill and Tracy had been kind enough to let us spend the summer with them, but it was time to give them back their home. Naturally, our thoughts turned to Thailand and Chiang Mai… which has really become our home away from home.
We started looking into it and Paul managed to find really good flights to Chiang Mai for early October with our Aeroplan miles. Thailand had made entry easier allowing for online visa applications and reduced quarantine for vaccinated people. We decided that we needed to look for longer stay visa options, so started investigating how that would work. We interacted with some visa and travel groups on Facebook and found out it would be very easy for us to get what’s called a Non O visa. This allows for 90 days on entry and when in Thailand you can extend for one year based on retirement. Usually this calls for opening a Thai bank account and depositing a large sum of $$ (800K THB). Lucky for us, the Canadian Consulate in Chiang Mai will complete an income verification letter which is accepted by Thai Immigration. That means we don’t have to transfer a large amount into a Thai bank. The consulate would also provide a confirmed relationship letter so that I could “trail” on Paul’s retirement extension. We can also get what’s called a re-entry permit so we can leave and return without losing our extension..
So we booked flights, arranged our quarantine… yes, Le Meridien in Bangkok again, and submitted our applications. The Thai Consulate in Vancouver was great at handling our calls and questions. The visa application system had gone down and we hadn’t received our visa’s a day or two prior to leaving but they pulled through in the end! We arranged to head to Winnipeg a couple of days in advance to get our PCR tests done. Definitely sad to say goodbye to the family and idyllic country life. It was a very special time but… winter! We parked the van by Bill and Tracy’s office, stored some items in their basement and Tracy drove us to Winnipeg. Have to say, I don’t know that we could ever truly thank them for what they have done and we appreciated the time with them so much.
When we went for our PCR test, we were lucky enough to get the flu shot as well! Yay, more needles! Highly recommend the Canadian Travel Clinic in Winnipeg. Then it was off to MEC before we headed out to the Courtyard Marriott by the Winnipeg Airport. We received our negative test results the next day, packed up and caught our flight out early the next morning.
Air Canada was a mixed bag… as per usual. We flew YWG-YVR-NRT-BKK with Air Canada and ANA. The Winnipeg lounge really didn’t have much food but did have decent coffee and really, that is good. The flight to Vancouver was nice. We had a really good breakfast and the flight was smooth. The layover wasn’t long and we were able to get into the lounge again which was ok. We did see some people in the one lounge that started the party early, hopefully they were able to sleep on the plane! Our long flight from YVR to Narita (Tokyo) was also Air Canada. The service was really good but the food… the food was bad. Well at least the gluten free food was bad. The flight attendants even asked me what it was and if it was edible… It wasn’t, but they were kind and got me something else. Our next segment was with ANA (Air Nippon Airlines) and it was great: good service and food.
Going through the health check and immigration in Bangkok went smoothly, we had everything arranged. At immigration, Paul was handled quickly but the officer looking at my documents hadn’t seen the new online visas yet so was asking a lot of questions. When another officer came to help, they noticed I was born in Belfast and started talking to me about a Navy ship called Belfast. Thankfully I got stamped in shortly after and we headed off to quarantine.
Both times we have entered Thailand during Covid, we have been first off the plane in Bangkok and first into the immigration/health check lineups. From exiting the plane to in a taxi on our way to the hotel in 20 minutes. Pretty impressive! Especially after seeing photos of some of the lineups when multiple planes land together.
Le Meridien Bangkok was great again. We were quickly met with a private luxury SUV, whisked away to the hotel basement for another PCR test, then up to our room. The food was excellent again and we were spoiled rotten with large portions, notes and treats. After day 3, we were allowed access to the gym and outdoor area which was great. The French concierge at Le Meridien was super helpful. We had booked a Grab to the airport and the driver wasn’t sure where we were, so the concierge got on the phone and gave directions. While we were waiting, he gave us his background. He traveled to Thailand from France when he was 18, and started working in hotels and had been there ever since, probably about 10 years. He was perfectly fluent in Thai… jealous! We even got little boxes of the Le Meridien chocolate “dots” dog at check out.
We had already gotten in touch with Jen from the Siri condo in Chiang Mai. We stayed there last time and it was great. So we had an apartment waiting for us. We booked our flight to Chiang Mai with Thai Vietjet 😱. Never again as they double charged us and it was a PITA to get back, taking a couple of weeks to get our money back. On day 7 we left quarantine and headed to Chiang Mai.