Not often I get too tripped up in the travelling game but today was definitely a trip, stumble and fall!
So a quick travel update: a brilliant 3 weeks in Europe covering the grounds ofEast Germany,Poland,Czech Republic and West Germany(catch up blogs to come…). All with the extremely lovely Rach and a congee mix of new places, new people, old places, old friends, hospitality, conversations and a walk here and there!
Fast forward toSingaporewhere I arrived last Thursday and a wonderful few days in this highly conservative, consumerist and cluttered climate and culture. However I made it work for my world (again another catch up blog to happen here and luckily I have a lot of catch up time at the moment…). So finally onto this blog!
I left Singapore with reduced bag packed, a ticket to Hanoi and a plan to stay there a week or so, then onto Laos, China, Taiwan and back to Singapore in 5 weeks time. At the airport nice and early as I was flying with Tiger Airways and I have learnt about being late with them before! On the plane and a very pleasant 3 hour flight toHanoi- writing a few things, having a chat with the guy next door who was fuelling me with great info and things to do inHanoiand learning my handful of Vietnamese – all grand.
The wobbles appear from here on as I enter the customs and immigration building and a quick moment of oh crap do I need to do anything for a Vietnamese visa…?
I ponder… then think – no worries this is Vietnamthe development success story of the region and issuer of visas like free tooth bushes to bad oral hygiene clubs in the 15th century! This thought is confirmed as I see the booth placarded with VISA UPON ARRIVAL above it. I step up get my sheet and fill it out – oops need a passport photo, didn’t think that would be needed but luckily have one in the passport sleeve next to my passport (which is there – not a forgotten passport story), hand it in and told to wait 5 minute next to the booth.
By this stage I can almost smell with anticipation the fresh Vietnamese cold rolls and the coffee which I only want to smell… 5 minutes passes, and not a 5 minutes that equals 20 hours like it did for me in Peru but a woman asking if I had any checked baggage on the flight – ‘Yes, backpack with bright yellow raincover and a lion head finger puppet sticking out the top on one of my hiking poles’. The next minute I see my bag – thinking nice personal service and I’m told…
‘You need to come with us now as the plane is waiting for you’
Interesting, but I have been through a few strange immigration procedures before so I enquire ‘plane?’.
‘Yes you need to get on the plane back toSingaporeas it is waiting for you.’, in beautifully accented Vietnamese English, but hard to understand.
‘But I’m not booked on that flight, I’m here inHanoi, I just arrived…’
‘Your visa has been rejected as you don’t have an invitation.’
I had noticed everyone else in the line with one more piece of paper with them than me. Whilst I still don’t know exactly (because I’m on the plane and no one told me why) it looks like you need to have an invitation with you, probably easily obtained, to enter Vietnam.
Denial – What!? This can’t be true… not me… you’ve got it wrong, etc. etc.
Plead – but I’m here to volunteer and help you people and working with a local NGO
Desperation – Think of the poor street kids who now won’t be educated by me (lucky for them), they are waiting for me, think of the kids!!!
Defeat – bags are packed and gotta turn around…
So now on the plane heading back to Singapore and soaked up the experience, prepared the story (this blog) and have to accept on my own stupidity that I didn’t do the old ‘check the visa regulations before you go’ trick and have to suck it up.
Only slight drama is that I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for 8 hours since waking up, as I am on a budget airline, but luckily the air lady took pity on me, or realises I’m too stupid to organise my own food and served me some hot water and left over cereal from the morning!
So after a lovely $90 6 hour from-the-air view of SE Asia I head back to Singapore to see where I will go next, obviously Vietnam wasn’t ready for me today (or vice-versa)…
See where I get, and hopefully today, but I’ll just see what the visa requirements are before going. (update – got the going over in Singapore customs [hour] and looks like Bangkok on Thurs and take it from there…?)
And you know what… these things happen – we drop computers or crash cars or forget documents and the sooner we see the bright side of life the better it is for all – where to now!
PS got the most amazing case of hives – itchy buggers and probably from that 30+km walk around Singapore in heat… anyone know a good cure?