Nitty Gritty – Moving To Thailand
Almost There!! The countdown is on–we are moving to Thailand!
We are nearly packed and nearly ready to go. We have less than a month until our departure date, and I find myself vacillating so frequently between panicked and micromanaging to totally nonchalant that I fear I might be bi-polar. The anticipation is driving me crazy. On the one hand, I feel like we’ve been waiting ages for this move, and I want it to just happen already. On the other hand, I feel like there are still a million things that need to get done before we can leave…
The dog is moving to Thailand
Now that we’ve actually purchased our airline tickets, the reality is beginning to sink in. Attempting to find an airline that would allow our dog of eight years, Luna, to travel with us was one of many learning experiences in this adventure. I have been reading forums and researching the topic of bringing dogs into Thailand and have gotten a lot of conflicting information online (that’s never happened before on the internet!) I read on one site that someone had a great experience traveling with their dog on Delta Airlines. I got excited, found a flight to Bangkok on Delta, and was this close to purchasing the tickets. Glad I called first. The flight I wanted to book had a layover in Tokyo, but apparently animals are forbidden from entering Japan. That’s fine, can we arrange our layover in another country? No, Delta doesn’t stop anywhere else in the entire continent of Asia before continuing on to Bangkok. Really?? And Japan doesn’t allow animals to pass through, not even if the layover is less than an hour and they’re in a crate, in zero contact with other mammals, with all of their vaccination papers and health certificates?
Paul could sense the frustration and growing panic in my voice, and I’m sure the woman from Delta on the other end of the line could, too. He kindly suggested that I contact his cousin, a wonderful woman who happens to be a brilliant travel agent. I got in touch with her right after making a quick call to the Oregon Department of Agriculture Animal Exporting Office where a very informed woman named Ruth suggested I try Korean Air, as the airline regulates the temperature in its cargo holds while the aircraft is on the ground and South Korea has low restrictions for bringing animals into the country (I know, you think there’s a reason the animal restrictions are so low: poor Luna will end up on a menu in a Seoul restaurant). Paul’s cousin booked our tickets immediately, saving me from more headaches, and saving us almost $700 per ticket (everyone should use a brilliant travel agent when planning a trip!!), and I called Korean Air a couple of days later to confirm that Luna has a place on the plane. Whew, huge sigh of relief. I called Ruth again–definite bond forming between Ruth and me–just to make sure I had all the correct information regarding vaccinations, timelines and other requirements for bringing Luna into Thailand and through South Korea. We just had her vaccinations done last week: rabies, distemper, hepatitis and parvo. She’s scheduled for her leptosporosis and heartworms test tomorrow, and then right before we leave, Luna will be treated for fleas, ticks and mites and, if all goes well, granted an official health certificate (this certificate needs to be taken down to Salem personally and notarized no more than ten days prior to departure). Our vet is extremely competent, and the whole cocktail of vaccinations plus microchipping (we thought it would be a good idea) took less than two minutes to administer in his expert hands.
The next step with Luna is to obtain an Import Permit from the Department of Livestock Development in Thailand requesting to bring an animal in to the country. Paul is in charge of this task, and as far as I know, he has already contacted the office three times and has received no reply. I think you can pick up the form once you arrive at the airport in Bangkok, but I heard that it’s possible to get the form before you travel. The more organized we can be, I believe the easier time we’ll have getting Luna through customs…And the less of a panicked, micromanaging freak I will be. We still have to get Luna acquainted with a crate, but we’ve been working on it for a couple of months now, feeding her in there and slowly acclimating her to it for a few minutes every day.
As far as actually flying with Luna, we will be checking her in at the ticketing counter in Portland. Essentially, she’s considered excess luggage and will fly in the cargo hold. We’ll pick Luna up in the baggage claim in Seattle and since we’re changing airlines in Seattle, we will check her in again at Korean Air’s ticketing counter. Then we’ll meet her in Bangkok 18 grueling hours later. I’m not sure who will have the worse time, Luna or myself. I think I’ll be a nervous wreck the whole time we’re flying. We are not allowed to give Luna a sedative, since it slows down the animal’s heart rate, and if anything were to happen to her down in the cargo area, no one would have a clue. As for myself, I may need to heavily medicate (only half joking here!) There are some natural anti-anxiety options at pet stores and at some veterinarian offices, so I do plan to give Luna a little something to help chill her out.
We don’t arrive in Bangkok until 10PM, and the vet office located in customs, where each animal is supposed to be checked out before entering the country, closes at 5PM. I know enough from reading various forums that one person’s experience can vary drastically from another’s. Some people arriving late with animals can breeze on through customs without a second glance. Others, however, are required to wait until a vet can be called into the office (which can take hours, apparently) to inspect the incoming dog. All this inconvenience is at the pet owner’s expense, naturally. It sounds like a crap shoot, but we’ll hope it’s a lucky night for us (maybe an adorable and super sleepy four-year old girl will help our case).
So, besides the elements that are beyond our control, Luna is mostly taken care of. And we now have our visas, too. Paul had been hoping to get a Thai passport before we left, on account of his mom just getting hers renewed, and the fact that he was born in Thailand. Interestingly, unlike here in the US, the fact that you were born in Thailand does not automatically qualify you for Thai citizenship. There are, incredibly, many people living in Thailand (who were born there) who have no citizenship at all; they belong to no country. This fascinated me when I found out, and it’s one more thing that we take for granted here in the US. Anyway, Paul was not able to obtain a Thai passport, but because he is the son of a Thai citizen, he and his family are allowed a type-O visa. This is a non-immigrant visa good for one year, with a mandatory exit from the country every 90 days. We figure that this imposed travel will be a good excuse to visit a few nearby countries throughout the year.
Living in Portland, we have the good fortune to be located in a city with a Royal Thai Consulate. There is a special relationship with the Honorary Consul General here and the business community in Thailand, so we were able to waltz on in to the office, fill out some paperwork, show our appropriate documents and be issued our visas an hour later. Unless you live in a major city like LA, Chicago, New York or DC, you usually have to mail off your passport with all the forms, etc. and wait for your passport to come back with the visa inside. We did it all in an hour–what luck!
All but the kitchen sink is Moving to Thailand
Ok, next issue: getting all of our stuff over to Thailand. We are piggybacking on Paul’s parents’ move to ship our possessions over. P’s dad is moving to Thailand on a retirement visa, and one of the perks of this type of visa is a significantly reduced tax on bringing in a shipping container. We did a good job of unloading most of our earthly possessions already (we are nearly garage sale professionals at this point) and only have about 30 or so boxes of odds and ends (it didn’t feel like that much when packing things up), one or two pieces of furniture, and a few dearly loved paintings and pieces of art. These things we’ll stuff into P’s parents’ shipping container.
So the way it works is this: you call up a shipping company and reserve a container. They drop the container off at your house and you have approximately 48 hours to load up all your stuff. We called a moving company to come and assist with the transfer of goods–not a bad idea to get some muscly experts involved. All of this should take place next week, and then our things will set sail across the ocean and meet us a world away in Thailand. We leave in about three weeks, so this will give the shipping company a good 21 day head start (it should take about a month, give or take a few). Once it arrives in Bangkok, the container will be brought down to Hua Hin. We haven’t finalized the logistics for that yet, but if we can find a semi-permanent residence in less than a month, the shipping company will transport our belongings from Bangkok to Hua Hin, free of charge (technically not free, but included in the total invoice). The shipping company will store the container for up to a month, so there is a little pressure to find a house quickly.
It’s a lot of information to digest, and I feel overwhelmed as each day brings us a little closer to our departure. Despite all the anxiety, however, I am very excited to begin this adventure, and I can say that at least I have learned a lot about the process of moving to another country over the last few months. Actually living in Thailand will present an entirely unique set of challenges, but once the dog, the child and the parents have all made it over safely, we should be more than ready for all that life has to throw at us.