Stuck in HK

I have spent the past days trying to assemble everything for the visa application to China.

If you followed the story for India, or lived through it with me like Renato did in SF, you know this stuff makes me lose patience quickly. Different instructions on websites, unclear procedures, all for a paranoid government protecting… what?

So I tried to get information on what is needed – a hotel reservation? An invitation letter if I am seeing friends? Return tickets? Or is my flight to Thailand enough…?

Questions over questions, no definite answers… I have no infrastructure here, but my hosts were so kind to let me use their printer so I could print everything I needed..

I booked a hotel in Jiangmen, planning to cancel it once I would have the visa… because it was not clear if they wanted an invitation letter from Will if I mention him in the application.

And it was all in vain.

After spending hours in the Chinese consulate downtown this morning, taking pictures and making photo copies, and buying a return ferry trip beforehand, and waiting with the 97 other people before me…

The woman behind the counter looked at my passport with disgust and said it was damaged, and could not be accepted. Bitch.

It’s the passport I accidentally  washed and tumble-dried back in San Francisco. Ok, it is falling a bit apart, but the chip works, and the machine-readable plastic part is in perfect condition. Only the paper was obviously wet, but you can read all the earlier stamps from this trip though…

She did not accept this passport. But, I have a second one, the one I sent to Berlin to get the Indian visa.

Fair enough, she consulted with colleagues, but then flatly denied my visa, saying I could not use the other passport, as my entry ticket into Hong Kong was done with the washed one!

I would have to leave Hong Kong and come back with a new entry paper in the new passport. Well, where to go?

Macau, she proposed, a reasonable solution as it is an hour away by ferry and the whole thing could potentially be done in a day.

But I am running out of time to get the visa, so I asked for the express procedure that everybody refers to and that is actually in the form I filled out and that the Consulate has in its price list.

No, she said, it will take four days to process. And I would be lacking all the information (hotel reservations, tickets, even if I waved those in her face…)

By that time I lost it, and basically told her that there were other places to go in the world and that I would not go to China then, that simple.

I’ve had it. I mean, ok, my passport is worn. But Mexico and Hong Kong, and even the otherwise over-paranoid United States had no problem, and smiled when I told them about the washing incident. But not Miss bureaucratic concrete head behind the counter…

In the afternoon, I considered my options. Give up the planned and partially paid trip with Will from Melbourne would be really sad. No high speed train, no Beijing, no factory visit….

So I was ready to go to Macau, and also found a Japanese travel agency that would organize this visa in the express time, just for a different fee, 1500 Hong Kong Dollars (150 Euro). Ok, what the heck, let’s go.

Just that one last problem: cash: the agency only takes cash, no credit card.

Credit cards aren’t accepted much here, the travel agency that sold me the ferry tickets also only wanted cash. Restaurants usually do, but not all…

So I went to the cash machine… but I had hit my limit. No 1000$, no 500$… nada… So here I am, at a dead end, and all the plans just unravel… no cash, no ferry, no stamp, no over-night visa, no trip to Beijing…

I’m in a bar now with a cocktail. After this day, I need a drink. Or two.

It sucks. It would have been fantastic to travel with Will.

And it sucks, as I probably lose quite some money on the hotel or train tickets… we’ll see.

And by now, with two thirds down, I see my savings melt like ice in the sun…

The worst though is the lost time, the days I have wasted on this crappy procedure to get a visa, with info that everybody just fakes anyway, from hotel bookings that are reserved and cancelled, to air fare that is bought and cancelled…

Because no one plans it all in advance and in that painstaking detail that the Chinese government wants you to. If they want control, why not force everyone into a group and accompanied by a trusted employee, like in North Corea…?

Sorry, I’m venting again. I just need to get over this. It sucks. China and me, not a good start. And not happening. At all.

Well, so be it. It’ll be ok. I’m stuck in HK, Not really. there will be plenty to do and see.

I need to start booking a room.