Sunday, January 12, 2014

Vietnamese Visa Snaffu

Thursday afternoon, Bangkok

Protests of the government growing--

Maybe leaving the BKK isn’t such a bad idea. Head to the Vietnamese embassy. I hand over paperwork, a wallet sized photo of myself, my treasured passport, and an exorbitant fee of nearly a $100 for next day service.
Poorly spoken English from the guy helping me. “Come back, tomorrow (Friday) 4:30,” the man states as he makes a note of it on my receipt.
“Tomorrow 4:30?”
“4:30 tomorrow,” he verifies.

I walk from the counter and look at my receipt. Crossed out is 4 PM as the time the passport will be ready, and in its place is hand written the 4:30 PM time. I know enough about government efficiency not to arrive beforehand.

Restaurant with WIFI, sitting on my computer, looking at flights to Vietnam. I should wait til I have my passport, I think to myself. I close my computer and concentrate on my tasty meal.

Friday, 4:30 PM
I walk down Ploen Chit Rd back to the embassy. Gazing up at the barbed wire protecting its high walls, I push the door open; or rather try to. It doesn’t budge. Stuck? I apply more force, to no avail. Time to look at the sign. My eyes linger, the embassy closes at 4:30!
So I paid for extra for one day service, and my passport isn’t going to be ready until the moment the embassy closes for the weekend. Fuck. I look around in frustration and see another man staring blankly at the wall.
“You too?” I inquire knowingly.
He turns towards me, “The guy told me 4:30,” he responds.
We shake our heads. A third person approaches, we say nothing, watching her baffled face read the same sign we did, as it slowly dons on her what happened.

Suddenly I’m glad I listened to my instinct not to book a flight. Unfortunately, as I hadn’t planned to spend beyond Saturday morning in Bangkok, I hadn’t booked any lodging for the weekend either, and with Monday the earliest possibility of getting back my passport, I’m in a bit of trouble; as a foreigner you need your passport to check into any hotel or hostel.
I race to find internet access and discover my hotel is filled for the weekend. Scratch going to the gym.
Hurry back. “I’d like to extend my stay until Monday,” I tell the clerk at the desk as non-chalantly as possible, as if I have much choice considering they’re the only ones who don’t need my passport as they’ve already checked it.

I’m in luck, they have one room left. “But we took hotel off Agoda (internet reservation service) so we can sell last room at higher price.” I’m forced to agree to their terms. Gouged, my wallet lighter, I hobble back to my room. 
I hope Vietnam is worth it. 

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