Stupid %#$& tourist!

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October 25th 2008
Published: November 21st 2008
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Some of you readers may have heard that there is a wee bit of corruption in Nepal. Well, that would be an exaggeration. There is a great deal of corruption there. The most I was exposed to this was when I was leaving Nepal to go to Delhi. The international terminal at Tribhuvan Airport is a chaotic jumble and noisy snarl at the best of times. Passengers are required to go through a security-scheck on entering the building and that's where my problems began.

On patting me down, the security-person noticed my money-belt. "What was it?"

I told him. Then he asked to see inside. Now, this sort of thing has happened to me before so alarm-bells went off in my head. And, dear reader, if the same thing happens to you, your spidey-sense better be tingling at this stage.
I showed him the money I had; some US dollars, Canadian dollars and Indian rupees. Normally, Indian rupees of smaller denominations can be exchanged in Nepal. But in recent times, there have been issues with counterfeit 500 and 1000 rupee notes from India. And guess what I had? Yup, about 15, 000 rupees worth. In 500's and 1000's.

The security-type asks me to follow him outside the building where he points at a very large sign right by the door which says that it is forbidden to exchange 500 and 1000 rupee notes in Nepal. Now, I am unsure whether it was illegal to just have them, or illegal to try and change or spend them.

"This is a security problem. Very serious. Come with me, sir." So I follow him back into the terminal. Now we're met by another concerned security-type who has my suitcase which has since been X-rayed. The two of them confer and then tell me that there is a problem. I pretend to not understand. I am now a stupid tourist in a foreign land.
They repeatedly tell me there is a problem. I have Indian rupees. After a couple minutes discussion, they wave me on. I re-fasten my money-belt and join the queue to pay the the departure tax. On completion of this minor task, another security-person approaches me. "Is everything OK, sir?"

I assure him everything is fine.

"Your Indian rupees, sir. It is a problem." He nods solicitously. Again I feign confusion. Again he tells me it is a problem, leaning closer to me and speaking quietly. The intent is obvious to me now.

I answer in a loud voice, "I don't understand. What do you want?"

He walks away and I proceed to the airline check-in counter. There are about 4 or 5 other passengers in front of me waiting to check-in for the flight to Delhi. After about five minutes, another security-person comes over to me.
"You have 500, 000 rupees, sir. This is a big, big problem," he says quietly.

"What do you mean? I don't know what you are talking about?"

I think his poor English helped me because he couldn't say exactly what he meant, even though I had an excellent idea what was going on. For about another five minutes he kept talking quietly about money and problems and security until I was the next person to check-in at which point he quickly left.

The actual check-in process went very smoothly. Next, customs and immigration. As I got off the escalator I saw the same official!
I was filling out the form with the usual details(name, passport number, etc) and again he approached me and whispered that the money I had was a problem. Again I pretended to be a stupid tourist. I quickly completed the form and left him and joined the line for the departure lounge. The next official checked my immigration form and I walked into the departure lounge. I was a bit concerned that I would be accosted again so I sat at a table next to a group of English tourists. When the boarding-call came we all trooped towards the plane together and I was not bothered further.


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