Andaman Club in Ranong
The Andaman Club originated as a Hotel Complex in Phuket. While this still thrives on the island it has branched out to include the lucrative Visa Run market in Ranong.
Located just outside Ranong City to the north-west it operates two Catamaran's that ferry passengers, Farang, Thai and Burmese to and from the Burmese Border.
Instead of going to Victoria Point like most services do at Sangla Pier in Ranong City, Andaman Club operate their own pier that goes to an island (Andaman Island?) in Burmese Waters.
The Island is not just for getting your visa stamped but also hosts a casino and hotel. The procedure for the Andaman Club Visa Run is as follows:
Andaman Club Visa Run
On arriving at the Andaman Club you'll find there's plenty of car parking. If you're on a bike there's bike spaces near the main entrance, alternatively just use a car-space.
Once inside you'll see a reception on your right and two immigration booths at the end of the lobby with two queuing alleys. As you've just arrived you want the right-hand booth which is departures.
Hint: It's handy if you've already filled out your departure card prior to arriving. That way you don't have to be filling it out at the last minute...
Hand over your passport with completed departure card to the right-hand booth official. Assuming all is well you'll be stamped out of Thailand and told when the next boat to Burma is. The Andaman Club charges 850 baht. This is all inclusive and covers the return boat-trip to Burma and any fee's you'd normally pay in US $. You pay the service fee at the Reception area you passed at the entrance.
It can take up to an hour between boats to get on the next one so you've usually plenty of time to get to the pier, which is sheltered with water-machines and observation windows.
The boat you'll be going on is a far cry from the rough and tumble longtail's of Sangla Pier. The Andaman Club really has it's act together for transport. Two coastal catamaran's run the circuit between Andaman Pier and the Casino Island. Once it arrives you'll have to wait for the passengers on board to disembark. Then, if you are a farang, you may have to wait until the casino personnel board (assuming it's shift change). Then it's your turn. Hand in your ticket and show your passport. You ought to tell the boat captain / attendant who takes your ticket if you are going to the casino or if you are coming straight back.
Note: A sign is up in the Pier Building stating no drugs, weapons or contraband are allowed on the boat. We weren't searched when entering the boat though but one of the 'wand' type detectors was to hand.
On board there's enough capacity for about 35 - 40 passengers. All the seats were leather and air-conditioning is standard. The boats engines are a bit noisy but nothing ear-deafening. The crossing takes about 10-15 minutes and is typically a pleasant experience unless sea conditions are rough.
Once you get to the island you follow a set of covered jetty's to a connected building. Here you show your passport for it to be stamped in at the first desk, then you move past some metal detectors / baggage scanners to a final desk near the exit. A coach is waiting here which will ferry you to the casino if you wish. If you are last of the big spenders then there's a hotel for over-nighting it if you want to seriously play at rolling the dice in the casino.
Once back across the water safely and into the main lobby again it's time to get stamped into Thailand. This time you queue at the left-hand lane.
This done you're ready to leave the Andaman Club, until your visa-stamp need's renewing once more that is!
Founded: 1800s A.D
Population: 25,000 (Approx)
Size (Metropolitan): 5 Sq. Miles
Seasons and Weather.
The southerly located Hua Hin is, like many of its neighbors, one which is hot and humid. However the coastal geography means it benefits both from easterly and westerly winds that blow in from the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand respectively. The city see's considerably more rain during the wet season and flooding can be a problem. It is somewhat hotter than the northern Thai cities.
Cool Season - October to February. Avg Temp - 27 C
Hot Season - March to May. Avg Temp - 33.5 C
Wet Season - June to September. Avg Temp - 31 C.
Getting to Ranong