Since it had been closed on Sunday, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok first thing in the morning Monday. Confusingly, the entire complex of the embassy is immense. On Wireless Drive, the main road it is on north of Lumphini Park, it is on both sides of the street. It also has another section, which I believe to be housing, amongst other things on Thanon Ratchadamri, a couple blocks to the west. This made it difficult to tell where I was actually supposed to enter as a U.S. citizen.
It turned out that it was the opposite side of where I first tried. So, after crossing to the eastern side of Wireless Drive, I finally got into the embassy.
One thing that became immediately clear was that they did not seem to be interested in making a new traveler to the country comfortable, even their own citizen. Just past the door, I was asked to empty my pockets, remove my shoes, and surrender my bag. I was then asked to walk through a metal detector; I had expected that much at least.
As I began to gather my items on the other side of the conveyor they had just been scanned on, a guard handed me a bag and told me to put all my items inside it. This included my iPod touch, which has nearly all my contact numbers and information in it, and my camera, so no photos of the embassy. Sorry.
The bag was then zipped and padlocked. I was left with essentially my passport and the key to the lock. At that point, I was thankful I was allowed to have my shoes back.
Finally past the main gate the newly cleaned-out US citizen gets to walk out the doors into a finely-landscaped courtyard which he or she is then not allowed to enter by way of a locked and gated fence. Instead, following a cement pathway, a small drink stand is passed on the way to doors so massive they feel like even an explosion couldn’t blast them open, much less a random person pull them open.
Once inside the doors, you walk into a waiting room akin to a DMV or Secretary of State’s office. And that is essentially how their process works as well.
In the waiting room were maybe a dozen people there for various reasons. To apply for a new passport. To apply for a US visa. To update their contact information.
I was just there to check in. The first step was to present my passport, at which point they had me full out a form. I had to leave much of it blank, albeit mostly at my fault.
- What would my contact address be? I didn’t have one.
- Where would I be going and for how long? I didn’t know yet.
- Contact numbers back home? I’d know if you actually let me keep the stuff I brought with me for those kinds of questions.
After filling in the form, they took it and my passport and told me to sit down. A few minutes later, I was called back to the counter, given my passport back and told I was all set. They then moved on to the next person.
None if this is to say they aren’t good at getting things done. I got to do what I came there for, and easily enough I guess. They certainly are good at getting the jobs done quickly and orderly. And I can even understand the security, even if it is one of their own citizens they are dealing with.
Still it would have been nice if they had at least offered to have someone sit down with me for a couple minutes and answered some questions that I might have had.
Leaving the waiting room and back past the American garden that Americans were not allowed in, I unlocked my bag, checked to make sure all my things were still there, and was gladly on my way.