11/6/18 Visa Struggles and First Night in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I got to the Chiang Mai airport more than 3 hours before my flight was scheduled. I got to the check-in counter and the lady asked me where my Visa papers were. I was like, “Visa?” She said that I could order an application online and it might be approved in time for the flight. I am a dumb dumb idiot boy. Someone had mentioned to me that I would need a Visa, but I thought I wouldn’t because I was only going there for 5 days. I was incorrect.

I got hooked up to the WiFi at the airport and started frantically searching online how to get an expedited Visa application done. I finally figured it out and submitted the application. It cost $37 to have it done within 4 hours. I was stressed out as hell, but knew there was nothing I could do except eat something and try to chill out. The clock kept ticking and I kept checking my email for confirmation that I was approved. I finally got approved at 2:50pm and my flight was boarding at 3:45pm. I couldn’t believe I made it.

The Visa approval process was a fucking nightmare once I landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. I had to fill out some paperwork, which took a good 15 minutes after waiting in line. Then, after waiting in a different line, I had to get my Visa application approval scanned image printed from my email using their computer, which was all in Vietnamese wording. Then, I needed to get my picture taken and posted to the form I filled out. So, this guy said he could take my picture for $10. I said I didn’t have enough USD and that I had THB. He said, “400 THB for picture.” I gave him the money and then instantly felt like I got ripped off. The guy took my picture against the wall and then had me sit down. I was like, “Wow, this dude just stole my money. And, it should have only been 300 THB.”

I waited in my seat nervously, waiting for my name to be called. Finally, I was called and the lady asked for $25. I barely had any money and said I needed to use an ATM. She said, “Take a seat. We will help you.” I was freaking out. More people started arriving from another flight to go through the same process. I thought I was never going to get out of this damn airport. She finally came outside from behind the glass and guided me to the exit of the airport so I could get money. They already had my passport, so there was nowhere I could go.

I used the ATM and had to figure out what the currency rate Vietnamese Dong was against USD. Also, the ATM used HKD as a comparison currency, so had no idea how much I had in my account. I took out the money in Dong and went to the currency exchange desk, where they exchanged $14 for me. They totally ripped me off for about $5 once I calculated everything later. I didn’t care too much at the time. I needed to get my fucking passport back and get the hell out of there.

At the desk, when they called me up again, the lady asked me for the money and I gave her the $25. She said, “No, it’s $35!”

I said, “I thought it was just $25.”

She goes, “$25 plus you have to pay for the picture $10.”

I told her, “I already gave this guy 400 THB for the picture.”

He happened to be walking by and she questioned him, and he made a dishonest face because he was probably trying to steal the money for himself. She saw he was full of shit, and said, “He must have seen that you were alone. Here you go.”

I finally got through the passport checkpoint and tried getting a taxi. The bus wasn’t running at that time, at least that’s what they said. And also, the taxi was now more expensive because it was after 8pm. I was furious because I would have been there before 8pm if this whole Visa process was organized in any way. I was defeated and agreed to pay the extra 40,000 Dong, which is about $1.70.

At this point, I had been scammed $5 by the currency exchange, $3 by the guy taking my picture, and $1.70 for the taxi. I also had to pay the $37 for the expedited Visa approval, which was actually my fault. I had had enough at this point. I finally got to the hostel and everything was alright. I had some beers and shots with the owner of the place and then he took me outside around the corner to the busy street with this French guy.

We sat down on the street on plastic chairs. The lady working at the bar gave me and the French guy double-stacked chairs because we weighed too much and would probably break the chairs if we got too drunk. We saw a group of people next to us who sat down and were totally wasted. This white girl ordered a big ass balloon of laughing gas. She took a huge hit and started seeing stars and completely fell out of her chair sideways onto the ground and her arms were twitching. She almost got run over by a car and a motor scooter. Luckily, nobody was driving too fast and they were able to stop in time; the motor scooter was probably within 1 foot of her head. Otherwise, she was about to be toast. She kept drinking and seemed fine afterwards. “Party on, Wayne!”

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