So its time for my last breakfast at the Vaishali hotel in Kathmandu, I am all packed and ready to go. Achut comes to see me off and provides a driver to take me to the airport. I quickly get to the check-in area, I hand over my passport and the information about my ticket and the guy starts flicking through my passport. And then the question I dreaded, where is your visa… ?? what ?? I don’t need one I am from the UK so can use the 72hr transit visa. After a bit of discussion it becomes clear that the transit visa doesn’t apply in this instance and based on the way my flights have been booked I need an actual Chinese travel visa.
To say my heart sank is an understatement… I can not believe it, all this planning and I am scuppered at the airport due to the China visa (notoriously difficult to get sorted quickly!). I hate to say it but Nora and Achut both thought I would need it, and I checked online and thought I was clear, plus the travel agent also said it wasn’t necessary!!! Gutted.
So the rules are you need an international flight in and out of China, there are different rules based on each city you may or may not fly into, but Beijing is international in and out and my flight goes via Gangzhou. Nightmare. The next few moments are spent getting money so I can get a cab from the airport, getting on the phone to Achut to see what visa options I may have and getting on to flight centres 24×7 hotline to discuss what to do now as my flights are blown!
I get a cab to the china embassy, Achut was a total super star he called and they advised they might be able to get me a visa for tomorrow morning if I can sort out flights. At the same time flight centre are investigating options for alternative flights that would mean I don’t need to wait for the visa. Sadly this is where lack of 3G, Wifi and other luxuries leaves you a bit stuck when dealing with emergencies and I am glad I have my trusty power pack fully charged and ready to keep my mobile going as long as I can to sort things out.
I get to the embassy and check a few things, but looks like I will be pushing it now to get a visa before my flight tomorrow. So moving the existing flights out a day goes out the window. I check other information, like if I get an international flight into Beijing am I ok flying to Hong Kong, after all that is China too so I don’t want to be stuffed again. The Hong Kong bit is unclear, but I am assured and reading and re-reading the online information I think yes Hong Kong is ok. We start to plan heading to Mumbai then Beijing which basically gets me in late 1st Dec, but I have to go to the airport now, as the flight is in just over 2 hrs.
By the time I have discussed with flight centre and got to the embassy its clear that getting a visa is going to be tricky before a flight tomorrow and with it only being 2 days, those precious hours leave less and less time in Beijing if I were to make it. A compromise comes in a possible via India option, and soon I am winging it back in a car to the airport only to then have that options knocked off again by the need for a visa based on the transit needed in India, and the inability to secure the tickets…. a quick accidental charge on my visa for the flights I now can’t have and its back to the hotel! At this point I am wondering where all the good luck from the pigeon shitting on me in the temple went…. !! Beijing is slipping away with every minute….
Anyway, back to the hotel and Thamel for now. I think its time for a stiff drink, and by now I am resigned to not actually making it to Beijing anymore. I go to an nice outdoor cafe to relax soak up the sun for a bit and calm down, after a string of phone calls and messages to various people finally a course of action is agreed. Option 1 was get to Beijing, this relies on no delays, which when I have a 100% consistent delay rate at Kathmandu airport think is a highly unlikely scenario… and I still only get in with 24hrs before leaving. Option 2 is go directly to Perth, sadly that involves a long layover (7hrs) in Hong Kong… but gives me a bit of time to sort things out before Christian and Emma join me for our road trip.
So after a little thought, I settle on going straight to Perth… I am really gutted that I miss my trip to China but I have had an awesome time so far and will not let this get me down. Life too short really, and so I just need to move on and look forward to getting back to Australia. After all, its freezing in China and basically all my warm clothes are filthy or covered in pigeon shit so time to get the nice clean warm weather clothing out!! These things happen when you travel so the lesson learned here is that there are certain places where you need guidance on visa’s so as not to have this sort of issue and China is one of them. I have learned this now and definitely will not be making this mistake in the future.
Flight secured to Hong Kong for tomorrow, arrival in Perth evening 2nd so a full day before the road trip. It works out better because at least now I don’t step off a long overnight flight and then drive for 7hrs to Esperance! I will be nice and refreshed and ready to go.
The rest of my day is spent relaxing basically, a bit of food, a few drinks and for the first time since getting to the Vaishali Hotel the TV works, so I just spend some time doing a bit of admin, updating my blog, editing my photo’s and watching crappy TV films! Sometimes (especially after days and days of constant travel), its nice to just ‘be’! Onward and Upward.
I also spot on the news information on the accident yesterday, really tragic local bus plummets to river, 8 dead and 31 injured and not sure if there is anymore! And then also local democrat politician has explosive thrown at him by communist extremists, Achut is saying a family member of his was caught up in this and injured. With the elections in a few days, things are starting to get a bit tense in Kathmandu, Thamel is pretty safe really as its all for tourists but extra time here is not a good idea, its time to leave!! I think myself lucky that I made it back to Kathmandu in one piece from Pokhara on that road, and look forward to the rest of my trip which has plenty of amazing things. China… I can keep that on my list for next time and instead of a quick trip I can hike the whole wall… 5 days, sounds like a plan for the future to me!
A big thank you to Achut (Manakamana Treks), he got me free room and board for the night and drove me around, helped with the embassy, without him the whole situation would have been so much worse! I cannot thank him enough and he refused to let me give him anything for his trouble. THANK YOU!