I had to go to immigration the other day, and even though I had an interesting book (The Interpretation of Murder) to keep me company, I couldn’t help but peek over its open pages to people watch.

You see, I love to watch people. It’s a holly hobby of mine. Actually I consider it my job. As a writer, it’s as muy importante as reading. Although Dtum says people watching is rude in Thai culture.

My friend JP and I were having Thai lessons while construction was going on across the street. And for us to just watch them work would be disrespectful or off-putting. He also mentioned that farangs seem to do it all the time (i.e. the Sunday Walking Street).

I could see how in the States watching construction workers would really not be a Big Mac deal. But here how that could be seen as intrusive. Like, I may be brown but I’m not here for your entertainment kind of thing.

This is not to be confused with supervising. You know there is always one person who likes to β€œsupervise” a group of workers, who has nothing to do with the job at hand. Or who is the money behind the making. Anyway…

Immigration. Fascinating. Occassionally you see a Texas housewife looking/smelling resplendent in cake makeup and perfumery. But usually, normally, you just see expats that look like they just rolled out of a sleeping bag onto a songtaew or their girlfriend’s lap.

The impatient ones, the ones who go to the window boi boi or pace or thump their one good leg like it’s got fleas, are the Americans. Yes. American culture breeds impatience. I don’t know why. I’ve had to break the habit and let’s just say it’s been a multi-step program fraught with heavy drinking and Cole Trickle tears.

It’s part old folks home and Asian mis-mash too, as many Asians come to Thailand to learn English, tour around town, etc. actually, I sat next to two Chinese girls and listened to them mock the repetitive Thai and English recording for the next cue. And then the old Thai (?) woman who proudly announced that those girls were indeed from the country of China, to no one and everyone in particular.

I studied men in various stages of decomposition hobble around, several of them grabbing pillars or walls so they didn’t fall. One of them I was convinced was a vampire. His eyes. You know, didn’t look real. Lacking pupils they did.

KFC and Pizza Hut made deliveries to the Immigration staff as I continued to wait. And I saw an old friend and a familiar face from around town. Not uncommon for CM. This particular guy was with his Thai girlfriend (who knew!) but I was too busy staring at this rash he had on his neck.

They were messing around with paperwork when he just uped and walked away. His girlfriend was left behind to sort things out and that she did. Β I thought, was a useless turd. Him, not her.

Now some might think he was in a foul mood because of that purple moisture-deprived looking rash but I think it had to do with his hair. If my hair was cut like that I’d be put straighaway into a bad mood.

You might think, God, Lani, you are being xxxtremely judgemental. And I’d say, yes, yes I am. I can be. Although often when I watch, I simply explore how people dress, move and act. I like interpreting body language, or pretending to. And sometimes I see someone behave in a way that I think is crass or crazy. Maybe people look at me staring at rashes and think the same thing.

Of course to anyone else looking, they would simply see me looking at a couple next to me at the window. I mean I don’t lack all social graces.

It’s just I like to pretend I’m invisible. Shy and quiet people intrigue me for this reason. I always thought they must see and hear a lot because they aren’t busy talking like everyone else. The older I get the more I enjoy listening and talking less. Maybe I have less to say?

I’m not tied to my mobile phone or technological gadget either. I’m one of those people who likes to look up. In fact, I’m usually the one who is watching other people play with their phones. It’s not that I’m better than everyone else, it’s just not the object of my affections. People are. And that’s why I look at them.

4 replies on “Going to immigration can be fun!

  1. going to immigration can be fun! chai mai? Except when you wake up at 6 am, arrive at 7 am, get pretty much first in the queue at 8.30 am…and the lovely guy on the other side of the counter says “Oh, no, you re-entered on XX/XX/XX so you can come back in one month'I DO love the farang watching though! πŸ˜‰


  2. Or when you forget you have to go to immigration and you end up there 2 months after your visa has expired!!!


  3. Chiang Mai Immigration must have different expat clientele. When I bother to look around – I'm a hermit even in my own mind – I mostly see professional expat guys who look like they just might be wearing suits if this weren't Thailand. And it's usually only 1-3 expats if that. Are you getting the impression that I”m not very observant? Could be… could be… Heh. But… truthfully… I'm usually in the coffee shop downstairs, waiting to be summoned.Most of the expats I've seen have professional 'minders'…. I guess you could call them that. And I don't mean girlfriends but full-time employees who herd expats around Immigration when they are needed and take passports when they are not.A 'minder' is given the chore of picking up the expat first thing, driving them to Immigration, pointing them in the direction of a seat (or the coffee shop), so the minder can then run around getting the paperwork sorted. This includes having the expat sign a few papers, moving the expat to seats closer to the action (or calling them to come upstairs), and then have the expat actually go into an office to show their face. During the process an expat can disappear into a book, hardly noticing that they are even at immigration until it's time to get back into the car to be delivered home or to the office or wherever. Ok. If the minder screws up – and it happens too many times for my liking – additional visits to Immigration are needed. And if this happens, even more kowtowing is included in the standard service.


  4. Oh I have NO DOUBT that CM immigration is different than BKK πŸ˜€ We don't get the city slick business types up here, but a LOT of retired old farts, NGO types, uni students, teachers, and migrant workers…Minder, eh? So hi-so, hi-so! I have a couple of cats, do they count? (tee, hee!)


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