2 May 2003 - Ho Chi Minh airport
Visas make things easier

The good thing about being Malaysian is the number of countries that you can visit without having to get a visa beforehand. The bad thing is that having a visa is sometimes a good thing.

Let's take getting in and out of Vietnam, for example. I didn't need a visa to get into Vietnam. I came in through the land border and Moc Bai.

The immigration officer took my passport, disappeared for five minutes and then came back and waved me through.

The problems started when I booked a room at a hotel. By law all hotels have to record passport and visa numbers of all guests and pass them over to the police. If you do have a visa, then it's all straight-forward, but if you don't have one... well, then people start asking you, "where's your visa?", and you have to explain that you don't need one, and then people start flicking through your passport to find some sort of evidence that you really came into the country.

You see, not only did I not need a visa, but it seemed that the nice gentleman at immigration didn't stamp my passport in the right place or something. People kept flicking through the passport, looking for a non-existent visa and a very-hard-to-find entry stamp.

The worst was saved for last. I spent fifteen minutes at the immigration desk when leaving Vietnam. I had to explain that I was flying to Ulan Batar and after that travelling to Russia. That I was going to go to Beijing, except that SARS changed my plans.

Thank god for visas. My Chinese and Russian visas pretty much backed up my story, I'm sure. If I didn't have them, I think I would have had to recall my bag from the plane and produce the letters from the Russian tourist agency.


posted on Thursday, May 08, 2003 - permalink
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