Vietnam Immigration. Stolen Identity.

11 Dec

It’s 7:45 am.

I’ve been in the hotel lobby since 6:30 am. Emailing the bank. Travel insurance companies. And, contacting the travel agency I’m working with in Cambodia.

Yes, there ARE travel agencies in Cambodia. I went ape-crazy on them the night before. I got an email saying they did not receive payment for my flights OUT of Vietnman to Cambodia or anything else. My credit card told me differently. I pulled out my “this is unaccepable” card. And, put a PS in there that my whole life has been stolen in Vientman. So, this is NOT a good time to try and rip me off.

Yea, got a response on that one. I felt bad. Of course, they found the money. The company actually is amazing. I mean superb too. It was all bad timing. They are so traumatized by my situation, that they are meeting me at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to take me to dinner. I email Vo, my travel agent contact, that I need my confirmed flight information that says I’m officially scheduled to leave Vietnam on the 23rd. This is a MUST for immigration. She sends it to me in a matter of minutes.

Ha walks in. It’s maybe 70-degrees and she’s buried in a red, ski jacket and a new pair of jeans with rhinestones. She smiles, grabs my arm and off we go on her motor-bike. She brings me a better helmet today. One that fits. And, one I can get off. I think I embarrassed her yesterday walking around the bank and immigration with my motor-bike helmet on.

We pull up at the former French prison – aka V-nam immigration. And, sprint to the Visa for foreigners desk. Our girl is there. She smiles at us. We sit. Feeling confident. We’re next. Ha shows her our paper work. She touches the paper. And, starts chatting up a storm. Ha looks upset. Annoyed. None of this is good. I just wait. Trying to ready body language and expressions. Other people walk up to the desk to look at my paper work. I wonder what they are saying. I just stand there. Reminding myself that I’m not in control. Ha still is holding on to my arm, reminding me to be still and silent. She huffs. Grabs my paper work and sits down. I follow. Sit down next to her in the plastic chair.

Me: “What? What happened?”

Ha: “She said need 3 to 5 day for Visa. Business days. Today is Friday. Not good. I make call…”

Me: “Wait. If I need to change flights, I can. I mean..there is a solution here?”

Ha: “I make call. Not good. Not happy. You stay here. Don’t move.”

She walks out. Walks back in. Opens her purse. Grabs $200,000 VND (Vietnamese dollars). Then, shoves the money and my passport into an envelop. Stands up and walk to the V-nam immigration agent.

NO. NO. We’re NOT bribing the communist… Not worth it. I want to get out of Vietnam, legally, not through prison time. I grab Ha’s arm and whisper, “Not good. No. I don’t do this…I will change flight..”

She shakes her head. Motions to me to shut up. And, continues to talk to immigration lady. I can tell immigration lady is not budging. Ha’s hand is on the envelop. I’m starring at the envelop. If she moves it, I’m grabbing it from her. I don’t do this. No way. I can tell Ha is exasperated. Her voice sounds annoyed. But, she is smiling. Her hand never leaves the envelop. She waiting to play her card – or not. She decides to fold, grab my paper work and walks out of the office – leading me by the arm.

She whispers, “I have a friend. Take care of this. May cost you $$. Like $100 US dollar for Visa. Ok? You Ok?”

Me: “Ha, not a problem. As long as it is legal. In US we have companies that are in business to expedite passports and visas. That is all they do – if this company is legit, that is good. My country just charged me $135 for an emergency passport..ok? It’s ok…I have travel insurance. Money not a problem. It must be legal..”

Ha: “I make phone call. It’s legal. Ok. Don’t move.. OK?” She assumes I have some great place to go…

She returns a few minutes later. “Ok. Let’s go. They get you Visa in one day. I negotiated. You only pay $80.” Her smile returned. Yep, she is my travel angel.

On with the helmet. And, onto the motor-bike. We speed through the streets in search of a random office. We pull up. I wait outside. She’s gone for a while. I wait. Find a curb. I’m turing into a Vietnmese. Love curb sitting. This time, I’m not wearing my bike-helement.

She walks out – smiling. “Ok. We good. Get Visa in one day.  Now, you go to Halong Bay to Kayak with Ang. I get you there. Bus pick you up in 2 hours. Take ferry. A bus. A motorbike. And, another boat. Spend one full day at Bay. Ok?”

I respond, “ROCK ON Super star! I did NOT think I would see Halong Bay. I’m so grateful that my heart hurts…

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