Southeast Asia’s northern border bumps into China, but Southeast Asia doesn’t really stop there. Take one look at the food, architecture, and language of people living in Yunnan or Guangxi and you’ll see reflections of their southern neighbors. But you will need a Chinese visa to do that, and here's how.
In a fantastic departure from the way that nationalism (as a concept of nationhood, not a political system) was traditionally explained, Benedict Anderson posited that nations are nations because we, collectively, decided to believe in them as nations. It’s easy to see the logic in that as you travel around Southeast Asia. While the ethnic differences between the Karen people from Burma and eastern Indonesian islanders are easy to spot, what exactly makes northeastern Thais and Laotians separate people? Or Malays and Sumatrans? The difference is that it was decided they were one or the other, and so they are.
Southeast Asia’s northern border bumps into China, but Southeast Asia doesn’t really stop there. Take one look at the food, architecture, and language of people living in Yunnan or Guangxi and you’ll see reflections of their southern neighbors. It’s also a good opportunity to read Benedict Anderson’s book, Imagined Communities, as many of his examples are about the region.
To explore the “imagined” China part of Southeast Asia from Bangkok, you’ll need to sort out your visa. The Chinese embassy in Bangkok is on Ratchadaphisek Soi 3, at MRT Phra Ram 9 Station. The visa office is across the soi from the embassy itself in the AA Building. Use Exit 1 from Phra Ram 9 MRT Station and turn left down Soi 3. The entrance is on your right a short distance into the soi.
The visa office is open for applications from 09:00-11:30 and for collection from 15:00-16:00. Visa forms are available upon arrival, or can be downloaded beforehand. The application requires one passport-sized photo (two if you are American). Normal processing takes four business days and costs 1,000 baht for Thai citizens, 1,100 baht for non-Thais, and a hefty 4,560 baht for Americans. Double-entry and multiple-entry visas are also available (double entry +1,350 baht, multiple entry +2,000 baht) as is expedited visa processing (two days +800 baht, one day +1,200 baht).
Other requirements include: A copy of your passport photo page; copy of latest stamp from Thai immigration; and proof of onward travel (flight or bus/train ticket). If marking unemployed , you will need to show a recent bank statement; if marking "company employee," you may need to show a letter of employment from your company. Proof of hotel reservation may also be requested (hint: make a reservation that can be easily cancelled if you don't know exactly what your plans are). Reports suggest that experiences vary depending on the individual Chinese official encountered.
If you are American, you might want to consider applying for a year-long multiple-entry visa, as all visas are the same price for American citizens due to reciprocal visa pricing, no matter how many entries or the length of validity. Application and pick up is efficient and quick, but you might want to get there when the office opens as it gets increasingly busy as 11:30 approaches.