Travel

If You Ever Lose Your Passport in Bangkok

Missed me? Yea, I’ve missed my little space here too! it’s been 10 days since I last blogged!

I was away on a short getaway to Bangkok Friday – Monday, and really really really wanted to blog, but sooooo many things happened during that trip, and was quite busy at work since I went back to office yesterday, so I haven’t got a chance to pop in.

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Still haven’t sorted out my trip photos, so I can’t share that yet. But I do wanna blog about something rather ‘dramatic’ that happened during the trip, so here goes!

BFF and I had long wanted to do a mother-daughter trip, but we weren’t sure of their ‘chemistry’ and our ‘group dynamics’, so we decided on a short trip to somewhere near. BFF also brought her sister. Then one thing led to another, before we knew it, there’re like eight of us making the trip, hehe!

imageAnd… coz I didn’t sleep much at all for two continuous nights, I decided to sleep in on Sunday morning whilst my mom joined my friends to Chatuchak Market.

I was lazing in bed after brekky while BFF called me on my cellphone. She said calmly, “Hey, your mom’s bag got slashed and she lost her travel purse and her passport.” (Don’t worry, my mom’s OK, just a little grouchy…)

Thankfully, she had passed some of her her money to me the night before, and she’d forgotten her usual wallet, so no SGD, no credit cards and no IC. So it was just less than S$300 worth of Thai baht and the troublesome part was actually the loss of the passport.

You see, that was Sunday, and we were due back on the noon flight on Monday. Which means we only had those few hours on Monday morning to sort out whatever paperwork needed to fly us back.

What to Do if You Lose Your Passport

Here’s a list of the things you need to do if you ever lose or have your passport stolen in Bangkok.

1. File a police report, preferably in the area the passport was lost or stolen. Make sure you get a copy of the police report.

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2. Bring the police report to your embassy and get a Document of Identity. Be sure to prepare two passport-sized photos.

And oh, it’s best if you have your NRIC or driver’s license or a copy of your passport with you. It may help expedite the verification process with ICA.

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At the embassy, they will have to check back with ICA in Singapore on your travel records and your travel documents to ensure that all’s well.

The prescribed turnaround time is three hours, but they can usually process your case in an hour. So you can choose to wait there or come back in three hours. My mom’s was done in under an hour.

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Once the verification with ICA is completed, they will prepare a Document of Identity for you.

Be sure they give you back a copy of the police report as you will need it at immigration control at both the Bangkok and Singapore airports.

This will cost you 360 Thai baht (S$15).

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This is how the Document of Identity looks like.

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Embassy of the Republic of Singapore
129 South Sathorn Road
Bangkok 10120

(Mon to Fri) 9.00 am – 12 noon and 1.00 pm – 5.00 pm
Closed on Sat, Sun and PHs

Tel: +66-(2) 286-2111 (during office hours)
Tel: +66-(81) 844-3580 (for urgent consular assistance after office hours)
E-Mail: singemb_bkk@sgmfa.gov.sg

Click HERE for more info.

3. Next, bring your Document of Identity and police report to the Thailand Immigration Bureau to have another document drawn up so that you can clear the immigration control in Thailand. This is not near the Singapore embassy >.<

Immigration Bureau Floor,
Visa Division 4, Old Building
Te1: +66-(2) 287-3911 or 287-3101-10 Ext.22

4. Proceed to Bangkok airport armed with the police report, and documents from both Singapore embassy and also from Thailand immigration.

5. At Changi Airport, go to the Immigration Control counter instead of clearing immigration at the automated lanes or the manned counters. You will need to do some thumb-print thingy at the counter and will also need to surrender your Document of Identity. This is also to officially report the loss of your report since it is stipulated that we need to report within 14 days).

6. Go apply for a new passport at ICA. It will cost you a total of $120, being $70 for application of passport and $50 for loss of passport. Processing usually takes a week.

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OTHER TIPS
1. Always bring along a copy of your passport. Alternatively, scan it and email it to your web-based email account so that you can retrieve it anywhere so long as there’s internet.

2. Keep your passport in a safe place (e.g. safe in your hotel room) or guard it tightly when going to crowded places.

3. Cross-sling your bag to the front is probably a good idea.

4. Longchamp Le Pliage bags may not be so ‘safe’ as the material is easy to slice through. Also, there ain’t many compartments in the bag, making it easier for the thieves to steal your stuff. So be extra careful if you’re using one of these bags. My BFF”s mom was also carrying a Le Pliage and her bag got slashed in the exact same way, although the thief didn’t manage to steal anything.

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5. Don’t put all your money in one basket. I always tuck my money in two separate spots to minimize the risk of losing it all. And depending on the hotels that I’m staying in, I sometimes lock my Singapore wallet in my luggage when I go out.

6. Last tip! Remember I was saying my mom had her passport stolen on a Sunday, and we were due to fly back on a Monday noon flight? Since the embassy’s closed on Sundays, we could only go to the embassy at 9am Monday. We effectively only had an hour to settle the paperwork since we needed to be at the airport at around 11am and we needed time to travel to the airport too.

So, we actually skipped the step of going to the Thailand Immigration Bureau and went straight to the airport after the embassy. We only had the police report and the Document of Identity issued by the embassy, and were missing the document from the Thai side.

If you ask really really nicely, and explain that you really don’t have time to go get that document, the airport immigration officers MAY let you through.

And we were luckier in that the SQ counter supervisor offered to accompany us through the immigration so that she could render help if we were stuck with the immigration officer.

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The super-duper-helpful counter supervisor also told us that in the event the airport immigration officers refused to let us through and we ended up having to make that trip to the Thailand Immigration Bureau, she would do the necessary to put us on a later flight without charges. Sooooo nice!!

I was so touched and impressed by her that I emailed SQ to commend her for service excellence the night that I got back! SQ ftw!

Incidentally, BFF told me another Singaporean couple was at the police station to report the loss of their wallet too. And the lady’s canvas tote bag was also slashed. And when we were at the embassy, a Singaporean man was also there to apply for the Document of Identity. He said his passport was stolen at one of the BTS stations.

The SQ supervisor told us that these are usually syndicates and many are not Thai. She said that there’re syndicates from countries such as Vietnam and Laos who would target the tourists in Bangkok. Not that it’s her fault, but she’d apologised repeatedly for our unpleasant experience, and kept saying she hoped this wouldn’t stop us from visiting again.

I’ve been to Bangkok quite many times (four times in 2014 alone, lol!), and I do like the place and also the people. So nope, this episode won’t stop me from going again, although I can’t say the same of my mom. She did say that she’s gonna stay away for awhile. She’s been asking me… “When, Japan?” ^^

So there, not that I’d wish it on anyone, but you now know what to do if you ever lose your passport or have your passport stolen in Bangkok.

Brolly Shopping in Korea! Only in Korea!

Guess what? Am gonna be sharing yet another text convo with a friend!

C: Met A that day. She said she asked you to help buy umbrella.

Me: Ya! Am supposed to pass to you to help bring to her in KL.

C: She so funny… Said only Korea has automated umbrella.

Me: Really…!!! Only Korea has umbrellas that satisfy all her requirements!!
– Short
– Auto
– UV Protection
– Cannot be too ugly

C: The way you’re describing it, it’s like criteria for a man!! Talking about protection and length!!

Me: Oopsies!! And better yet if it’s lightweight and windproof!

C: High standards… just for an umbrella!!

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In case you didn’t know, it’s true that such brollies only exist in Korea!

It ain’t easy to find short (i.e. retractable) umbrellas that are auto! By ‘auto’, I mean you can push a button to open and close the brolly.

You will appreciate this when it’s raining dinosaurs and hippos, and you’re trying to get in and out of a vehicle. It’s great too when your hands are full with shopping bags.

And… that’s not all! The Koreans have umbrellas that are not just retractable and auto, they also have them with UV protection and are windproof! Actually even in Korea, it’s also not easy to find umbrellas that are retractable, auto and with UV protection, usually only the bigger and more ‘high-end’ shops would have it. But they’re near impossible to find in Singapore!

So the next time you go to Korea, you know what to buy, ya? Hehe, get the lightweight, retractable and windproof auto umbrella that comes with UV protection!

Now let me share some photos that I’d taken during my umbrella-buying outing in Korea back in May!

One of the shops that we’d gone to in Nampo Underground Shopping in Busan.

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Nope, not all of those shown above are what we were looking for. In fact, in most of the shops that we’d checked out, most didn’t have what we’re after. And those that did have, it probably made up less than 10% of their entire merchandise.

Here are the photos of the ‘qualified’ brollies that I’d whatsapp’ed A to choose from.

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Hee, not so easy to pick something that meets all of A’s requirements… and yet is pretty looking enough, ya? She had even asked if there’re pink princessy types. Errrr… I didn’t have many to pick from leh.

But I thought these are not bad! My fave’s gotta be the light pink one with the girl on the swing on bottom left! Not sure if you can see, but the images change from one pane to the next, as though swinging in motion! Nice!

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Anyway, here’s what Emz and I ended up buying. Yup, yup, we bought seven between us!

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So now, remember these when you’re out shopping for a brolly the next time you’re in Korea!

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Incidentally, I love how in Korea, the shops (especially convenience stores) will push out their brollies for sale! Yup, that’s where you buy those long see-through brollies!

Love those! Coz you can still see through the your brolly as you walk. Fab for street window-shopping when overseas, hee!

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Woohoo, I Tried BnBHero!

Some of you might know that I’d gone on MY 11th TRIP TO KOREA last month.

Yup, 11(!!) trip, hehe! When I first started going to Seoul, I had taken the usual route of staying in hotels. Then I discovered guesthouses and never looked back…. until this last trip. I decided to try something new!

Heard of AIRBNB?

Yea, it’s basically a community marketplace where property owners can list their properties for rental. So each property is different and there are many listings to suit all budget and requirements.

bnbhero_logo_orangeBut for my trip, I decided to try a similar setup but this one originated and is based in Korea. Am talking about BNBHERO.com. You can also check out their FB page HERE.

To be honest, I was a teeny weeny hesitant about this with all sorts of nightmarish thoughts running through my head. Stuff like what if it’s a lousy, dirty apartment, like how they ensure safety since there would be others who had stayed in the apartment before us and would know the passcode or dup the key, etc etc etc.

So…. although mine was a 16D15N trip, I only used BnBHero’s services for the last leg. I had stuck to a guesthouse in MyeongDong and a hotel in Busan before this BnBHero experience. How did it go? It went sooooo well that I was left wondering why I didn’t try it earlier!

The BNBHERO SITE’s quite easy to use. You can browse by country/city/area and of course, there are also other filters like number of guests, amenities, accommodation types, etc. I started browsing and really liked quite a number of them; unfortunately, not all were available for my period of stay. Hardly surprising, since we had decided on the trip kindda last minute…. as usual, hee!

RATES & PAYMENT

Well, the nightly rates are all clearly stated on the listing. What’s less clear are perhaps the cleaning fee and BnBHero’s service fee. Those, you will only see at the payment stage.

Yup, some properties charge cleaning fee. I can’t speak for all hosts and properties, but I think you can try negotiating for lower or waiver of the cleaning fee if, say, you’re staying for a longer period of time. But honestly, I think it’s OK to pay the cleaning fee. After all, you do want peace of mind that the apartment’s been cleaned, ya?

As for BnBHero’s service fee, they charge guests a 6-10% service fee for every reservation booked, depending on the total of the reservation. The higher the total, the lower the percentage for the fee.

In case you anyone’s interested, here’s the scale of service fees:
~ US 500 dollars : 10%
~ US 1,000 dollars : 9%
~ US 1,500 dollars : 8%
~ US 2,000 dollars : 7%
~ US 2,000 dollars ~ : 6%

There might be some additional fees involved in Paypal payments too. Click HERE to read the FAQs.

CHECK OUT ‘MY APARTMENT’!

The host of the property I’d stayed in during this last trip is SUE, and she has over a dozen listings under her name, so you can check it out.

I gotta say it’s a real pleasure dealing with her. Me so happy with my experience! She was responsive and very clear in our email exchange, so I was quite comfortable even before I left for Seoul.

Zzang! THIS WAS THE ROOM I’D BOOKED! These were some of the photos I’d seen on the BnBHero site:

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credit: BnBHero.com

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credit: BnBHero.com

Looks nice, ya?

Wondering why I’m showing you photos from the website, instead of photos I’d taken myself? Simply coz the apartment looks pretty much the same! Except that the bedsheets were different, haha! Really!

I took a rather lousy video of the room on the day we checked in though. If you promise not to laugh at my video-taking skill (or the lack of it)… here’s the ‘I-anyhow-take-so-you-anyhow-see‘ video!

The location’s a big draw. This apartment’s in Gangnam, and really near the Samseong subway station. And another big plus point is that there are escalators at the nearest subway exit! Hee, those who have been to Seoul would know how many hideous staircases there are at the subway stations!

It’s just across the road from CoEx and also the City Air Terminal, which is there’s city check-in for selected airlines, like Asiana Air, Korean Air and yes, Singapore Airlines. Even if your airline doesn’t have city check-in facility, you can still take the airport limousine (coach) from here. Super convenient!

The apartment itself is also fab. There’s actually a 24-hr convenience store within the building! Ya, like how convenient that is, right?

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There are also two Korean eateries, a coffee shop and even a pub within the building itself!

Heard of KIMBAP CHEONGUK? It’s actually a local chain of 24-hr Korean eateries; you can find one in practically every suburb. Yup, yup, there’s one in Myeong Dong too (same stretch as Macs). Good when you want a simple no-frills meal.

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We had a simple lunch at this Kimbap Cheonguk one of the days. Hee, cheese ramyeon! Did you know that the Koreans like to add a slice of cheese into their ramyeon? Yumz!

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Here’s the other eatery within the apartment building.

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Ediya coffee shop!

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You can even go to the drycleaners here!

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Hehe, just in case anyone thinks that this is some super local apartment that’s open to every Tom, Dick and Harry…. worry not. You will only walk past the convenience store when you go through the main entrance and right into the lift lobby. The eateries and small shops are sorta on the other side of the building.

Gangnam’s a good area, and this apartment’s in a good area too. It’s just off the main road, and yup, safe and all.

Here’s a shot of the apartment building.

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And this is the lift lobby.

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Back to the apartment…. it’s really like what the pics had shown! It’s very clean and well-equipped. We found the AC abit weak and therefore, the room abit hot on the first night, so we contacted Sue the next day. She sent someone over to the apartment within an hour and got it fixed rightaway. The AC was working fine, it was just some switch or something that was not turned on right. Super responsive!

And yup, yup, in case you’re wondering, towels and toiletries are provided too. There were four for the two of us when we first moved into the apartment. And Sue was worried we might not have enough, so she bought a brand new set of two bath towels and two hand towels for us. So sweet, right? We didn’t even ask! In any case, there’s also a washer in the apartment, so you can wash your clothes, towels socks, whatever. There’s also free wifi too!

Hee, it’s also super nice to be sipping coffee and reading in the late afternoon….

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It’s also nice to perhaps have a beer or some wine in the evening. Yup, got view! Of course, yours truly bought beer and drink…. I mean, the convenience store downstairs was just toooooo convenient *hic!*

If you’re wondering about check-in, the host will usually arrange to meet you either at the property itself, or the nearest subway station so as to orientate you. The host will go through the apartment and show you how to operate the electrical appliances. You can also take the chance to ask whatever questions.

As for access into the property, I believe you can arrange with the host to change the access code to some secret PIN of your own.

Gotta say as far as first experience goes, this BNBHERO experience was a fabulous one! Can’t wait to try it again!

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GOT PROMO WOR~

Psssst! If you’re visiting Korea soon and wanna give BNBHERO a try, you can use this promo code to enjoy 50% off the booking fee.

At the payment page, choose ‘Use Promotion Code‘, and then just key in the code SPGT1S13.

Recommended Reads
USER REVIEW OF AIRBNB
SAVE BIG WITH AIRBNB AND WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
MASHABLE ON WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR WHEN USING AIRBNB

Pojangmacha… Demystified!

Since I was talking about EATING SANNAKJI AT HYEHWA, thought I’ll just share this. It’s an old blog post on pojangmacha that I’d posted on another blog previously.

If you watch K-dramas, you would probably have noticed how the Koreans seem to like hanging out at those outdoor drinking tents to have some soju. Sometimes, it’s one lone man or woman drowning her sorrows in soju, and sometimes, it’s where the couple pour their hearts out, or where besties confide in each other, or one bestie will console the other. Guess you could even say pojangmacha is like a life theatre where people play out or recount their own dramas.

I remember being extremely curious about these drinking tents, wondering about the food they would eat and those steaming bowls of soup too. Haha, I reckon I ain’t the only one curious about it, ya? So today, I shall give you the skinny on these outdoor drinking tents.

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Pojangmacha | The Basics

First things first, these outdoor drinking tents are called Pojang-Macha (포장마차), which translates literally into ‘covered wagons’. If you read Chinese, it translates literally to 布帐马车, which means wagons covered with tents, keke! (some people also romanize it as Pochang-Macha)

Technically speaking, pojangmacha refers to small tented eateries on wheels, or street stalls which sell a variety of popular street foods as such hotteok, kimbap, tteokbokki, sundae, odeng and others.

These pojangmacha can be divided into two main kinds: one for snacks during the daytime and the other for drinking during the night. The night version usually serves soju (though many actually serve beer and makgeolli too these days), and they also have a variety of anju.

Anju are dishes that go well with alcoholic drinks, and are what the Chinese refer to as 下酒菜. The night version of pojangmacha typically starts popping up alongside the roads from around 7pm or so, and they usually operate till around 2-4am in the morning, although there are some that are open practically all night too. And oh, the night version of pojangmacha are sometimes called soju tents too.

pcmc-2THE ORIGINS

The pojangmacha history is actually not very long in Korea, having only sprung up after Korea was liberated from Japan in 1945. In the earlier days, they were just simple roadside stalls selling mainly food on the go as they served the busy workers near where people worked or lived. they were without chairs back then, and customers would just stand there to eat. Then later, the more improvising stall-owners started adding stools for customers to sit around their wagons.

And by the 1970s, pojangmachas started to flourish as that was also the time when Korea first started to experience economic development. Back then, the very patriotic and passionate Koreans tended to put their country and companies first, putting in long, hard hours. So the pojangmacha became more than just where they would grab a quick bite.

The pojangmacha became a place for coworkers to go and wind down after a long day’s work.
In order to cater to the increased business and also because the customers started to stay longer to eat and drink, the stall-owners started to add tables too. In the colder winter months, they even put up the (mostly orange and blue, and don’t ask me why…) tentage to keep out the cold.

Pojangmacha of Today

Today (as of 2012), there are approximately 3,100 pojangmacha in Seoul. As expected, this number has been on the decline as the Seoul city progresses. City officials tend to see pojangmachas as eyesores in the development of the city, and perceive them as illegal and unsanitary, and yes, they have sought to shut them down.

However, there are also people who belong to the school that want to preserve this little part of history. The tourists, too, are fascinated by the pojangmacha culture and seem to think of it as a colourful part of Seoul. Many foreigners see pojangmachas as something really local and while it’s intimidating for those checking it out for the first time, they are excited too, as though having been allowed a glimpse of the real Seoulite’s life.

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There’s also a quiet ‘revolution’ going on these days. Some enterprising people have brought the pojangmacha idea indoors and there are even chains! Personally, I can’t say I’m for the idea of ‘modernisation’ of this form. Anyway, you can read more HERE

sojuDrinking Etiquette

1. One unique point about the drinking culture in Korea is that the Koreans do not refill alcohol into a cup until it’s completely empty. Yup, in Korea, you should only refill someone’s glass when there’s not even a single drop left.

2. When someone is pouring you liquor, it is polite to hold the cup. If the person serving you is older, you should hold the cup with two hands when you receive the liquor. Likewise, if you are serving alcohol to someone older than you, you should use two hands when pouring. When dining amongst friends, one hand may be used.

3. When you are drinking with those whom are older than you, it is best to turn your head away when drinking.

Bonus Tips!

1. It’s cash only at pojangmachas as they do not take credit cards.

2. Try to visit the bathroom before going to the pojangmacha, since they don’t have bathrooms. However, if you really need to go, just ask the owner of the pojangmacha to direct you to the nearest public bathroom.

3. Prices vary at each pojangmacha. While the booze is relatively cheap, the food is actually not cheap, and can sometimes be at similar prices as in restaurants, costing around 8,000-12,000 won. Indicative prices: 1 bottle of soju: 2,500 to won, stir-fried chicken gizzards: 8,000 won stir-fried boneless chicken feet : 8,000 won, noodle soup: 4,000 won.

RECOMMENDED READS
MORE ON POJANGMACHA, INCLUDING ITS HISTORY
A TENT IN THE SKY
CNN’s GUIDE TO POJANGMACHA
BLOGGER POLKADOTYYANN’s POJANGMACHA OUTING

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