Sat in my kitchen with piles of Chinese visa torture to fill in, (once in English and once in French) the realisation suddenly hit me that my passport didn’t have the required two clear pages.
Only one thing for it, send off for new passport and hope it arrives in time.
Six days before the holiday starts, my new shiny passport arrives, but with nowhere near enough time to get a visa from Paris.
Hmmm, what to do? A quick search on the web on travellers websites showed me that getting one in Vietnam was not so easy, but in Phnom Penh it might be possible. I put the forms into the suitcase, ready for our visa attempt in Cambodia.
After a few days in Ho Chi Minh, we arrived in Phnom Penh with flights booked to Beijing in five days. FIVE DAYS???
First thing on arrival at the hotel, I asked if there was any way they could help.
“Hmm its Friday afternoon Sir, nobody now open until Monday, if you are here Monday morning at 7 am we can start the process.”
Sunday was spent by the pool, filling in the Chinese visa application forms. Pages and pages, wanting to know everything about our trip. I dont remember putting down my inside leg measurement, nor what I’d had for breakfast on 16 March 2004, but I feel fairly sure I was asked.
We’re now three days away, I’ve already looked at other options for flights, and delaying for a day or two if necessary.
7am, I’m in the lobby of the hotel, with all my necessary paperwork.
“Hello sir, we have two options. There is a 1 day turnaround or a 3 days, I think 1 day is too expensive so we can do 3.”
A brief discussion showed that the one day turnaround was going to be cheaper than changing my flights, so we took it.
“Can I have your passports, a photo and some money please?’
They were all handed over, I then started to pull out reams and reams of neatly written Chinese visa documentation.
“Not necessary Sir, just passports, a photo and some money please.”
“But, but, I’ve read the webpage, I spent all day yesterday preparing these as they’re vitally important.”
The smile now becoming slightly forced. “Passports, a photo and some money please Sir.’
I handed them over with a sense of dread. Everything I’d read told me the Chinese were sticklers for their paperwork, but the concierge, reading my facial expression said “Don’t worry Sir, your visas will be here by 4PM.
I wasn’t convinced but resigned myself to a tense wait.
At 3.25pm the phone in my room rang. Reception.
“Your passports are here Sir.” Hmm, passports he said. Passports. Not visas. I knew it!!
Quit my jibba jabba. Visa duly delivered and in the passports. I don’t know how they did it, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask. All I can tell you is, if you want a Chinese visa in your passport, in one day, go to Phnom Penh and ask at your hotel.