Vietnam cannot

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  • It’s just before 7am as my awful overnight ‘disco bus‘ arrived at the border between Laos and Vietnam. The torment of piercingly loud Laos pop relented for a mere 58 minutes on the ride here from Vientiane. Those 58 blissful minutes of pop-free air might have been restful had it not been for the perilous condition of the track from Savannakhet to the border and the drivers apparent fascination with the internal lights that he constantly turned on and off for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

    I’ve experienced some less than pleasant journeys in my life, but as we rolled to a stop at the Laos Vietnam border it’s fair to say that I was over the ‘romance’ of this particular journey. However, despite the fact I’d been on the bus for some 13 hours already, there were still at least another ten hours to go once we cleared immigration.

    At the Vietnamese passport control office I stepped up to the window and handed my passport and visa to the immigration officer through the small opening in the window. Like all immigration officers he looked at my passport and visa with that glazed expression they all manage to perfect. Opening the passport at my photograph he looked at my picture, looked at me, then looked back at the picture, then back at me. I stood there as he continued to examine my passport and the various stamps. I thought he was perhaps interested in where I had been, but it soon became clear that wasn’t the case.

    “Cannot.” He said without a trace of any expression on his face.

    “Cannot?” I replied. “Cannot what?”

    “Vietnam cannot.” He said, pushing my passport back to me through the opening in the glass.

    Pointing at my visa I began asking what the problem was, but he just cut me off and waved the next person forward. It was a pointless exercise anyway because nobody at the border spoke a word of English. ‘Cannot’ wasn’t helpful, but nonetheless it was clear that I wasn’t going to enter Vietnam today.

    I walked back across no-mans-land to Laos where, after waking up the immigration officer, I explained that I needed to re-enter the country. The problem was that my single entry visa had been stamped as used when I left the country a little while earlier. That didn’t seem to worry the officer though. He simply wrote a note and stapled it into my passport with my expired Visa. I have no idea what it says, but with that he waved me passed his rope barrier then reclined back in his chair and closed his eyes.

    After a while I found a local bus that could take me back to Savannakhet, some 180 miles (290 Km’s) and more than 7 hours away. I’ll fix my visa issue there tomorrow then return to the border by bus to hopefully find dramaless passage into Vietnam.

    See where I am on the map. Simply click the ‘About Simon Jones’ link at the top of the website then click the ‘Find me on a map‘ link.

  • 8 comments on “Vietnam cannot

    1. ok thats it
      I’m writing to the vietnam govt to protest at your treatment
      and I’m sending a helicopter to bring you home
      enough of this tom foolery, its time you came back and got a proper job
      at THOR
      we have a spare room ready for you

      • I love helicopters! 🙂

        And come now, why would I want a proper job when I can sit on fume filled rusty old buses full of sleeping asians and clucking chickens!

    2. Love your sense of adventure Simon! Even in the midst of seeming disaster (or at least a major hiccup), you’re still humourous and laid back! Does ANYTHING ever phase you??

      • Oh believe me there are many things that get me riled up Sharon. Car and computer failures really tend to frazzle my otherwise laid back demeanour. They frustrate me the most because often times, when I can’t fix them it means that it’s going to be a very expensive day.

        My mood in this situation was pretty relaxed because I had nowhere that I HAD to be. Yes it wasn’t convinient, but truthfully it wasn’t really that much or a pain, or even that expensive to fix it (and it makes for good story material).

        However, had I been scheduled to catch a flight or meet someone then I would have been very pissed off.

        However, as I always say, anger is a reaction not an action, and in moments of disaster stomping your feet and throwing your toys out of the pram don’t actually move the situation forward. At some point you have to make a plan and move forward 🙂

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