New Year’s Vacay 2019

thailand

From Bangkok to Pattaya to Koh Chang

Sweet little dog at the hostel
Bangkok, Thailand

Since New Year is coming around the corner again, I thought I’d write a throwback about better times and a fun New Year.

The long 5 day weekend started off in the capital on the 27th of December. Christina and I took a train from Mahachai to Bangkok. Taking the train was always great- it was 10 Baht and took about an hour. It stopped at Wonwian Yai. The BTS skytrain (not the band) was about a ten minute walk. So convenient.

Christina and I got to Bangkok before the others. We stayed at Phobphan Hostel in Bangkok. There was this sweet little dog there. We stopped at EmQuartier to do some shopping. Christina finally got me to shop at Zara. I got a cute shirt and skirt and she got a dress. We had dinner and waited for Jules and Indria to get to the hostel and then we were on our way. First, we stopped at Havana Social and met some cool peeps. We ended up hanging out with some people from New York. We got free shots and bottles. That’s always nice, Then this dude took us to Levels and we got more free drinks. Yay.

Havana Social
Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand is great cause they have 7s on every corner. Indria and I went to the closest one and I waited outside for her while smoking and talking to some cool Thais. We got Christina food but she was passed out by the time we got back.

We ended the night late and started the next morning early. Christina realized that she left her purse in the Grab (that’s just a fancy word for taxi that they use in Thailand) that we took back to our hostel. Luckily she was able to contact the guy and get it back. This was the start of an unforgettable New Years.

We stopped at a random spot to get a song taew to the bus station
Trat, Thailand

Jules and I had to get food in our stomachs so Indria and Christina stayed behind to get her purse. Jules and I ended up finding a Pizza Hut that was in the middle. Then, we had to take a Grab from there to the bus terminal. We had no idea where we were going so that’s always fun. Christina already bought all of our tickets and the bus was about to leave. Indria ended up coming to the bus terminal but Jules and I were already on the bus. She ended up taking the next bus. Soooo, two of us were on the same bus and then the other two were on separate buses.

The streets of Pattaya

Once we got to Pattaya Jules and I took motorbikes to our Air BnB. That was amusing because we had our big bags with us. We got to the apartment complex and waited outside. Since Christina booked the Air BnB, the lady that was supposed to collect us came out a bunch of times looking for her. We realized this about 20 minutes later?? Eventually we showed them a picture of Christina and got let into the apartment. Soon after, Christina and Indria arrived. We got settled and went out for a night walk.

The impeccable rooftop view.
Pattaya, Thailand

We had a chill night. We went to a Mexican restaurant close to our apartment and I got some tacos. There was a rooftop pool that had lovely views. The sunset was amazing. We walked the beach and saw a bunch of farangs. The next day we were on the move.

💗

We were off to our destination: Koh Chang. We went from Pattaya to Rayong and made an adorable tiny friend. From Rayong we took another bus to Trat. From Trat we hopped on the ferry and were almost to the island!!! After hopping on a curving and swerving and almost falling off of the road, we made it to our Sleepyowl Hostel.

Got a little carried away

Sunday was our first night on the island. We found this packed bar and danced, sang, and drank a lot. Indria and I found some face paint that was glow in the dark so that was entertaining. I ended up covering my whole face. LOL.

Also we saw a few fake 7-elevens on the island which was humorous.

The next day Jules, Indria and myself went to a beach and that was nice n refreshing. Christina wasn’t feeling too good lolol. The beach was hot but beautiful. The weather was perfect and the water was warm. I’m used to freezing cold water up near Boston so it was a nice change.

For some reason I think that I’m a professional photographer heheh

After the beach we went to a Greek restaurant. We were obsessed with Aesops in Bangkok so we had to compare.

Our 7/11 gear 😃

That night we strutted through the town in our 7 gear, met this bartender (picture below) that could spin his bottle opener, and met some more farangs. OH and we decided to get buckets and split them between two people. WHY? Idk. But we did it and we survived.

Rasta View, Koh Chang

Andddd the night after was NYE. We went to this Jamaican bar and witnessed another memorable view. After sweating A TON (cause that’s what my body does), we made our way back to our hostel and went to the bar that we became regulars at 😂 LUCKILY, we all made it out for NYE. They played Sorry by J Biebs (MY ALLLLL TIME FAVORITE SONG. EVER.) and played some other exciting throwbacks and we screamed in the new year. I also found some balloons so I had some accessories.

Our voyage to the mainland.
From Koh Chang to Trat

We left Koh Chang on New Years Day. That was rough. Jules had to leave earlier than us cause she was going back to southern Thailand.

Koh Chang, Thailand

Me, Indria, and Christina took the song taew back to the ferry. It was a loooong and rough ride. We struggled all the way. We all agreed it would just be easier on ourselves to take a taxi…..who wants to take a taxi then bus then van to their destination?? Especially on New Years Day. Yeah, no one. We were able to get a taxi back from Trat to Mahachai. It was worth every penny/Baht. The driver stopped at 7s on the way. We played categories, sang, and took naps. It only took a few hours.

Safe to say our New Years vacay was memorable. We all laugh about it now because of all of the complications that we faced. From Christina losing her purse to all of us being on separate buses to being complete disasters in our 7-eleven shirts. New Years is coming around the corner again so reminiscing on our NYE from last year has been great. Ahhhh, Covid-free times, it’s always fun looking back on those memories.

From top left: tacos from Mexican restaurant, fake 7/11, picture with some farangs, hummus from the Greek restaurant, FaceTime with my friends from back home, our hostel in Koh Chang, the city life in Pattaya, beautiful view from the Greek restaurant, our bartender friend, this crazy cat that bit Indria (no rabies though), and the Rasta View restaurant with their sweet little doggie.

The Whooooole Process

south korea

Although the process was long, it was 100% worth it.

Fortunately, I live about 15 minutes from downtown Boston, so these steps were pretty simple for me.

Boston, MA

To get the FBI background check, you need your fingerprints scanned. Now, I knew that I could go to my local police station to get them before I went to Identogo, but Identogo had faster results. For those who have never heard of Identogo, like me, it is a place where you can go to get identity checks. You can get a TSA Precheck, FBI background check, and so on. The first time I went to Identogo, I got the results the same day. Then, I sent it as a PDF to Monument Visa along with my degree and received both by mail within a week. Monument Visa is another cool website. You can get your documents authenticated or get an apostille.

Fun Fact: An Apostille is a type of authentication that is recognized by foreign countries that are members of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty. To get a document authenticated, you need to go through a few steps that are different than the Apostille process. You have to get documents authenticated when they are not part of the 1961 Hague Convention Treaty.

I got both of my documents by late July and I was ready…. Or, so I thought. It wasn’t until I was told by a different agency that I needed my full middle name on my FBI background check. Your name HAS to match your passport. I went back to Identogo and asked them to put my full middle name. They said yes. A few hours later, I open the email and it was just the initial again. So, if you want to save some money, just go to your local police station (make sure you call first), fill out the forms online from the FBI website, and send it out to the FBI. I think that’s option 2 on the FBI website. The policeman that scanned my fingerprints was so very genial and did not charge me the $25 that was mentioned. It only cost $4.20 to send my fingerprints and the forms to the FBI from the post office. I then got an email from the FBI within a week and I also got a hard copy sent to me that FINALLY had my full name. It was a relief.

Then, I sent my degree that already had an apostille and the FBI PDF to the recruiting agency based in California. I also had to get my degree verified through National Student Clearinghouse for $15. I’m not sure if that is a Korea requirement or just the agency’s. That was a PDF though so I didn’t have to send the physical copy to CA. The agency in CA were amiable and were able to get my FBI check apostilled much faster than I would’ve been able to on my own. To send all of my documents to CA, it was around $5. I obviously had to pay another $55 to get the FBI apostilled. **sigh.

During this time, around mid-September, it was taking people 10-11 weeks to get their background checks. It took mine about a week thanks to the agency. Once I decided to go with the original recruiter, the agency was able to send my documents to their office in Korea and then from their office in Korea, they sent it to the recruiter’s office that I was going to sign with.

In order to get your visa, you have to send a bunch of documents to South Korea first (you will be told what they are) and then the recruiter or whoever you are working with will give you a visa number. You will also need a bunch of passport photos for the whole process.

My recruiter was super disorganized with everything so they wanted me to send my physical documents to Korea. My friend’s recruiter had her send the documents as PDFs to speed up the process.**Be careful and do research if you decide to go through a recruiter. Some don’t care about you and just want the money, which confuses me cause if you don’t get to Korea then they don’t get paid so I’m not sure how it works in their favor. My recruiter always tried to rush things which made me anxious. I didn’t want to move slowly but I also wanted to make sure everything was done correctly. Thankfully, I was in contact with my head teacher as well so they were the ones that actually helped me more throughout the process. And also be cautious with the recruiters that you give your resume to. My resume ended up at a school twice which is a bad look so the school didn’t want me. I was talking to multiple recruiters so that’s what caused the whole resume problem. The recruiters hand out your resume like it’s their job. Because it is, haha. So they will send it to anyone and anywhere they can.

If you want a specific location and have all of the time in the world, don’t settle for the first job that you are offered. I got such a great feeling when I interviewed with my school, I knew it was the one, even though the location was not my first pick.

I also had to get a Covid test by an MD. Make sure you check you consulate’s website to see what their requirements are. My town does Covid tests daily because the numbers are so high and it was free, so it was trouble-free getting a negative Covid test.

USA Passport

I drove to the Boston consulate (it was actually in Newton, MA) that’s about twenty minutes from my house, handed them my papers, my passport and $45 and was told I could print out my visa 15 days from then. 14 days later I got a phone call saying that I was missing a form. The “Agreement to Facility Quarantine” form was needed. When I called before driving there, I was told that since it says “short-term visa holders” that I did not need it. Luckily, it was an easy fix. I printed it out, signed it, and then emailed it to them as a PDF. PDFs are a life saver. My visa was ready the day after. Finally, I printed it out (which is still weird to me. But hey, it worked) and it was official! ****Make sure to type your name exactly how it is on your passport: last name, first name, middle name.

Check the requirements for YOUR consulate. My friends went through the New York consulate and we had different forms.

If you’re from the US or Canada, AAA comes in handy at time like this. I was able to get 8 passport photos for $25, whereas at CVS I’ve paid $12 for 2 before. At AAA it’s $10 for the first set and then $5 per set after that. Pretty good deal if you ask me. AAA also offers an IDP (International Drivers Permit) for the low price of $20 (Obviously you need a valid drivers license in order to get your IDP. I got my IDP before canceling my AAA membership and I’m hoping I get to use it. It expires one year after the date that’s printed (you can postdate it up to 3 months, if I remember correctly).

Here’s the price breakdown:

  • $100 ($50 each) for fingerprints- Identogo (locations in the US)
  • $165 ($55 each) for apostille degree & FBI
  • $14.95 for degree verification- National Student Clearinghouse
  • $25 for 8 passport photos from AAA
  • $4.75 to send documents from MA to CA
  • $4.20 to send fingerprints to the FBI
  • $20 for IDP at AAA
  • $45 for visa fee

I haven’t added it all up yet because I really don’t want to know how much I spent LOL. I am just fortunate enough and ecstatic to be here! So everything took about 3 months total but it would’ve taken probably 1-1.5 months in total if I had gone to the police station from the start.

This all happened during Covid too so I am sure once Covid slows down, it will be an easier process??? Not sure though. I do feel like even for getting all of this done during Covid, it was pretty fast. Buttttt, that’s also because I went with an agency at first and I am assuming they pay to have priority over people that just send their documents into Monument Visa.