Your survival guide to living in Pattaya Beach

Do not ever overstay your Thailand visa.

At all cost do not overstay your visa. If you are caught by immigration even for one day overstay you will be jailed. Jails or detention centers in Thailand are horrific places. If you can imagine the worst day ever in your life, Thai jails and prisons are much worse, even for one day. Then take that worst day ever and multiply it by weeks , months or even years.

The Jails and detention centers are firstly way overcrowded, which makes the place stink to high heaven. There are no beds to sleep on you are sleeping on the floor shoulder to shoulder with the other inmates, your pillow is from what ever piece of clothing you came in with. The food is horrible at best and is not at all nutritious, so over time your health will go down hill. All inmates receive three meals a day consisting white rice and a very thin soup, very tasteless, but enough that they don't starve . Most of the time you are crowded into a room with nothing to do, the boredom makes time almost stand still .  More info here SUAN PHLU

Phillips run in with Immigration, 15 year overstay with no money!

I have recently had an acquaintance or, a friend apprehended by the Pattaya police. During an event they were holding in Pattaya, the authorities decided it would be a good time to do a sweep of people that have overstayed their visas. During this sweep they caught up with about 200 foreigners of many nationalities including my friend. My friends story with Thailand began around 1997, I became acquainted with him in 2015, about 2 years ago it is now December of 2017.   I am going to call him Phil not his real name but I will use that name here.

Phil came to Pattaya 20 years ago as a tourist and like many others came to love being here in Thailand. As luck would have it Phil met a Thai lady and for the sake of this story I am going to call her Lek. Phil and Lek hit it off pretty good and in order to stay in Thailand full time Phil got a teaching job. Pretty soon a son was born, so how could Phil leave Thailand now. Things went along pretty good for many years but after about 6 years the relationship started to deteriorate. Phil was still determined to stay in Thailand mostly to be near his son.

Phil has always been a drinker but being in Thailand seemed to make his alcohol abuse worse as with many other ex-pats that live here. Pattaya is a town with alcohol being consumed almost everywhere, a few ex-pats here literally drink them selves to death.  With Phil, because of the excessive alcohol it slowly began to impact his teaching jobs in a negative way, and over time had little to no work. At this point Phil had almost no money and most certainly not enough to purchase air fare back to his own country. Because he had no job at the time he also had no work permit, also he did not have the means to obtain a retirement visa, so he became an over stayer. His visa and passport expired about 15 years ago and how he managed to avoid the authorities for that length of time is well beyond me.

Because of Phil's low income he could frequently be found on the beach road promenade with some of his friends. The Pattaya beach road promenade is a great place to socialize not just for people on a budget but for people of all income levels. What I like about it is the ever changing atmosphere of different people coming and going and the people watching. The fact that I can go to there and choose not to drink alcohol while there is also a plus for me. In Phil's case he liked the time spent with his friends, consuming large amounts of cheap booze. Often times one of them would be low on money and the others would kick in with some alcohol. Phil was very thin and looked like he had not had a meal for days and passers by would sometimes buy food while others would throw in a little cash for the cause. He also had a few contributors that would help pay rent and help with food.

Phil had an apartment that his contributors would help pay for, it wasn't a place most of us would ever want to live. Just seeing his place would deeply depress most of us, I know, it did depress me. His apartment was located in East Pattaya almost 4 kilo meters away or about an hour walk from his spot where he would meet his friends. Being that he lived such a distance away, after a night of drinking he would sometimes just stretch out on the beach and sleep as oppose to making the trek to his apartment. During a recent immigration police sweep of illegal aliens Phil was arrested at 2AM while sleeping in the sand on the beach.

I soon became aware of Phil's incarceration and felt I could help a little. My friends and I talked about Phil and a few of us kicked in some cash and I decided to make the trip to the immigration detention center in Bangkok. It is a time consuming trip that starts by getting up at 4 AM and being at the bus station at 5 or 5:30 AM. To get to the Suan Phlu Immigration Detention Center in time for visiting hour I had to leave out by 5:30 AM or the first bus out. If you don't get there in time they may turn you away therefore wasting a big part of your day.

Here are some scenes along my short walk to the Suan Phlu Immigration Center    ::click a thumbnail to inlarge::

My journey from Pattaya began by getting up at 4 AM, I left out of my apartment at 5 AM but couldn't get the first bus out at 5:30 AM. I was able to get the 5:50 AM bus out and settled in for my 2 hour trip. Getting closer into Bangkok in the morning the traffic can slow to a crawl so I decided to jump off the bus at the first sky train station, glad i did. I mapped out my sky train route along with the motorbike taxi route I would need to take the night before. After about 25 minutes from getting on the sky train and a 10 minute motorbike ride I was at the entrance of the Suan Phlu Immigration Center. From there I walked to the back of the facility where I was to sign up to visit Phil. I was the very last person they took for that day which is why I say I was glad I got on the sky train when I did.

When you enter the meeting room there are two cross wire type fences spaced about a meter apart that separate you from the inmates. There are about 200 people on each side of the fence, all talking at the same time. Everyone is trying to be heard and trying to hear at the same time. The sound level is very high and even if you yell it is hard for the other person to hear you and vise versa. Between the two fences there is a guard that will hand notes and money between you and the inmates. I chose 100 Baht notes and folded them inside a note I had written the night before, the guard opened the note and saw the money and then passed both over to my friend without hesitation.

Phillip told me that it wasn't that bad in the immigration detention center compared to where he was being held near Pattaya. He seemed to have gained some weight also since he had been incarcerated. It is my understanding that inmates are given rice and a thin soup three times a day. Given my friends weight gain I could tell he wasn't being starved.

Visitors to the inmates can bring food and snacks for the inmates, rice and soup get pretty bland after a time. Some of the top request items are noodles, candy bars and coffee.

By the time I could make it back for another visit, Phillip had been deported. Phillip was pretty lucky to have been able to get the air fare together. Some inmates end up staying for a very long time otherwise.

to be continued 2019-12-01


Suan Phlu Immigration detention center in Bangkok, Thailand

Suan Phlu immigration detention center in Bangkok, Thailand

All photography and web design by Russ Thorne

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