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Published: February 18th 2008
Noodles for Sale
This is just a short entry to share my unforgettable experience at the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. It reminded me how much I hate dealing with government sectors no matter which country I am in. This was also the one time I was not my savvy well-behaved traveler and instead became the loud American that I often try to hide. I am sure that other travelers have great consulate stories that could top mine. Always the least-fun parts of trips, yet this one was definitely one of my most memorable. Author's Note
I'm getting a lot of mean comments on this post. I have nothing but great things to say about Vietnam and love the country. This is just a very candid experience of what happened. If you took the time to read my other posts I think you'd see how fond I am of Vietnamese people.
Ildy and I arrived at 4 am (their train departures and arrivals are at such bad times) at the Hanoi train station from Sapa and squeezed into one cyclo with our huge backpacks- the poor man had no idea what he was getting himself into. I went back to Hanoi
Beans and Rice for Sale
Backpackers and just as I was getting comfortable on the computer and talking to my dear friend Adam on Skype, I heard 2 Brits saying they were leaving now for the Chinese consulate to get in line for visas. I myself was planning to head over 2 hours later and get in line to get my visa. It was 6 am and the consulate didn’t open until 8! They told me the lines were long and hardly anyone gets through. It was their second day attempting to get one. I feared I was not going to be able to get my Chinese visa so I sped off shortly after them to get in line.
At the consulate I was sixth in line, with the British couple, a fairly odd English man, and 2 Vietnamese. I was safe! For sure I was in a good position to get my visa application in on time. Then, all these other Vietnamese people came and started a second line next to ours and then said screw the line and just started crowding the gate. The British are just too nice and didn’t say anything. I, on the other hand, went up to the
Veggies for everyone
Vietnamese and told them to get back in line, accompanied with an evil glare. Once they were called out most of them listened. Then all of a sudden they were standing next to me.
T-30 minutes until the gate was open and it was a zoo. There were quite a few foreigners there and we somewhat banded together, again I posed as the obnoxious American girl taking charge against the rude Vietnamese. In my past entries I rave about the people and beautiful places I have been in Vietnam. Culturally as a whole, Vietnamese people can be rude, mean, pushy, and cold. I somewhat respect this aggressive behavior - especially presented towards foreigners - because they are standing up for who they are and what they want. In a lot of other Asian countries people are so passive and overly nice to foreigners that are happy to take advantage of their kindness. I am not afraid to stand up to Vietnamese to stand my ground, hence why I think I enjoyed Vietnamese people more so than other travelers. We each find each other challenging.
Today was a different scenario. I wished that the Vietnamese around me could politely
Any part of the pig you want is yours
form a line and respect the fact that we were there first. Since they weren’t, no more Ms. Nice Casey. I used my elbows, glared, and raised my voice at people who tried to step in front of us. The British couldn’t bring themselves to do it. These people, who I had just met, must have thought I was the craziest person alive. I was totally living up to the typical American stereotype and I hated it.
When the official opened the gate it was a huge rush to stand in another “waiting area” marked off by standing metal gates. With the Brits in front of me, I grabbed the metal gates on either side of me and spread my legs so no one could get by. A young Vietnamese student followed my lead and together we swatted, yelled and pushed back snarky pests who tried to sneak past us. It was a very intense 20 seconds. Ladies even tried to crawl in between my legs. As we battled to stand in line, tourist agencies just walked right in with about 20 passports to get Chinese Visas. Since they pay off the embassy, they get to go before us,
hence why they hardly get any individual visas done. Again, I was reminded how corrupt government organizations can be.
Once I was finally inside and at the counter there was more bad news. Because I was an American I had to pay twice as much as any other nationality and I was only allowed a 30 day visa. These communist countries have it out for us Americans (in some respects, rightfully so). I was hoping to get a 60 day visa and wanted to bargain my way out of the exorbitant cost ($100) but it wasn’t going to take me anywhere. Begrudgingly I forked over the money and my visa application. I had to come back a few days later to pick it up.
I had no problem spending a few extra days in Hanoi. I absolutely fell in love with the city. I loved wandering the chaotic streets, getting a fruitshake on fruitshake-street, drinking bia hoi late into the night, meeting some other crazy travelers, catching up on emails, getting clothes made, skyping, and learning about the intricacies of the city. I learned that in order to appreciate a big city you have to spend time there
to get below the surface. Then it really comes alive. I used to hate going to big cities when traveling, now I love it. I spent a day doing a cooking course which was not only educational but quite delicious. Ildy, Steph and I met up a few nights for dinner. I loved Hanoi Backpackers and hanging out with Mic and Max all day was a blast. I heard their Halong Bay tour so many times that I even helped them sell some tours! When it was time for me to leave, I was joking that I should come work for them, and they actually considered it. They told me to contact them in February. I am not going to lie, it would be a pretty sweet gig.
Two days later I found myself back at the Chinese Consulate and I had this gut instinct that something was going to go wrong. Fortunately nothing did and I was the proud owner of a Chinese visa!!!! Yipee!
So here ends round 2 of my time in Vietnam. I couldn’t tell you if I liked the north or south better. Each was soooo wonderful. I didn’t even make it to
the middle because I decided to spend time diving in Malaysia instead. Vietnam has definitely won my heart and I can’t wait to return. Sapa was easily my favorite place due to the culture, scenery and people I met there. And just for fun, one last time taught to me my first night in Vietnam in December 2006, Mot Hai Ba Yo!
Next stop: long awaited LAOS!!!!!
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