Redundancy Is The Key To Clarity
Recently I went to Laos for my dreaded visa run. It always feels that I'm one bad choice away from a scene out of the movie Deer Hunter. It started at the border with the Thai official who pointed out that I had 5 months and 3 weeks left on my passport
before it expired and I probably wouldn't be allowed into Laos because they need 6 months and up. There was a few moments there where I just couldn't wrap my head around what he was trying to tell me…it must be some kind of mistake
or a ploy to extract more money from me. He saw my Canadian passport and his mouth started to water (Canadians pay $42 USD, the most in the world to enter Laos, bar none) <I believe this is because Canada charges the Laotians more than other countries for a visa to enter Canada – Stick> . I played dumb and just continued to look shocked at his request that I should just turn back and go to my embassy in BKK and sort things out. The thing is I only had 28 days left before I fly home, I just wanted
a 30 day extension and why was this guy messing with me? Oh yeah, because he could. Anyways, he finally let me pass and take my chances with the less intense Laotian officials and I paid the 1800 baht gladly (although I thought it unfair I wasn't
about to debate the bias against my countrymen).
This trip I decided to travel very light and only had one small knapsack with a change of clothes and toiletries to worry about. If I needed a clean shirt, I'd buy it, and I've learned over the years that I always take too much stuff. I wanted to be able to find anything I needed in a heartbeat instead of emptying out a suitcase if someone needed to borrow a pen.
Arrived at the Thai embassy around 11 AM, took a ticket for the queue and shuffled upstairs to shuffle paperwork and do the other hoop jumping procedures. I had this strong need to go to the toilet so I decided to pay a man there double the going rate to do my photocopying and photo chopping and pasting, while I ran to relieve myself. When I came back I gathered my things and went down to position myself in the seating gallery and chat with some of the other farangs. After about 10 minutes I just decided to look everything over again…redundancy is the key to clarity, after all.
Oh my dear god, where is my passport? This can't be happening.
I ran back up the stairs only partially freaking out and asked the guy if he had seen my passport. Look of indifference on his face. It wasn't his problem now. Did he forget to give me back my passport or did I forget to pick it up from the photocopier? No use in arguing about it now, I triple checked all my pockets, everything from the bag was dumped on the table without worry to saving face. I was not my usual calm and collected self.
Visions of a Chuck Norris escape across the Mekong on a rubber inner tube during the cover of darkness entered my brain. Okay, keep your poop in a group I said to myself, think this one out. Okay, I checked the toilet, in and under the photocopier, all the desk drawers, in the garbage pail (which happened to contain 2 bogus Russian passports) and then questioned the man who had helped me again.. not wanting him to think that I was blaming him for anything…after all I needed all the friends on the inside I could get.
I did have photocopies of my passport, and perhaps that might be enough. At least it wasn't my wallet missing, all hope was not lost. Maybe a trip to the ATM god would solve my problems.
So I'd lost my passport, or someone had picked my pockets or this Laotian guy had some kind of extortion plan in the works. What now? I was already stressed from earlier and now it had multiplied about 1000%…the typical why me? questions. So without my passport in a communist country I wasn't about to be shy about anyone knowing it, the squeaky wheel often gets the grease.
I ran back down stairs to the gallery of about 200 waiting for their turn at the visa lottery and announced in my big boy voice projecting all the way to the front gates of the embassy….DID ANYONE HAPPEN TO FIND A CANADIAN PASSPORT? and then in a much smaller voice, I seem to have lost it (eyes looking at my shoes in embarrassment for my rookie play).
After a few moments of silence and blank stares and a few, "No mate, sorry". I pushed my way to the front of the line and leaned in the window and asked if anyone had returned a passport.
Oh thank Christ, he had been expecting me, and handed me my precious as if giving change at 7 Eleven. I've never kissed a boy (knowingly and sober) before but I sure would have planted one on him if he requested it and wasn't behind glass. It's the least I could do,
All of a sudden I was the popular new kid and people were waiting in line to chat with me and discuss their visa run woes and offering advice on what to do if I couldn't find my passport. It is truly amazing how often people do misplace their passports and it isn't really a rarity at all. Perhaps some kind of self sabotage thing just goes off in peoples heads to spice up their boring trips with a little heart pounding adventure, I'll never understand it. But if I ever travel to Laos or any other country to do a visa run again, I'll be sure to chain my winning lottery ticket around my neck.
Cheers for Laos beers.
Great story! It sure would be a real nightmare to lose your passport whilst abroad – and even worse if you did so in a country where your homeland did not have an embassy.