My friends and I really wanted to visit Vietnam but we heard that the visa process can be a bit of a nuisance. We had a day to spare in Bangkok before our night train left for Laos, so we decided to be prepared and use that day to get our visa’s from the Vietnamese embassy.
We took a taxi to the embassy, a fellow Canadian friend and a Kiwi. We all applied for visas and handed over our passports. We paid extra for the express visas and were told that it would take a few hours to process and so we decided to check out the neighbourhood while we waited. Before we left, we asked what time they closed at and they said 10:30. Perfect- this gave us plenty of time.
So we went wandering around Bangkok. We ate some of the spiciest food that I have ever had in my life, and wandered around a park that had Komodo dragons walking around. We rented some paddle boats -and got in trouble for getting too much water in them. Then we then headed back towards the embassy. We still had some time to spare before our visa’s would be ready and so we went to a dessert cafe and relaxed.
Eventually we decided that we would go and see if our visas were ready. Our New Zealand friend stayed behind and Cam and I headed back to the embassy. We got a little caught up in conversation and completely walked past it the first time. The door is in a very sneaky location and easy to miss. We realized our mistake and backtracked until we found it again. Something was different this time.
The building was dark inside. We walked up and pulled on the door handle. The door was locked. The embassy was closed!
We had a ticket for our night train leaving Thailand in a few hours but our passports were locked inside of the embassy! Cam and I stood there for a moment in shock. What could we possibly do now? We couldn’t get on that train. We had planned to be in Vang Vieng to celebrate my birthday but now we would probably spend it traveling.
I wasn’t ready to give up though- I wanted to have a fun birthday and I wanted my passport back. I noticed a gate next to the embassy and I peeked underneath it. I saw a woman there watering the garden. “S̄wạs̄dīka!” I hollered at her. She looked at me curiously and I waved our visa receipts under the fence hoping that this would help her understand what we wanted.
She looked a little apprehensive- but can you blame her when there were two crazy foreigners shouting under the embassy’s gate. Hesitantly she walked over and I tried to communicate with here that our passports were inside. She seemed to have understood. She walked around the back of the building. But then we lost sight of her.
Eventually by peeking through the front door we saw her inside. “She’s behind the counter!” I exclaimed at Cam excitedly – hoping that she was looking for our passports. Cam and I stared anxiously through the glass into the dark embassy. The woman was doing some shuffling around and then she came up…and started washing the windows.
It looked like her job was to clean and take care of the embassy grounds so I doubt that she would have the authority to access important documents. Nevertheless, Cam and I stuck it out- watching her every move as she cleaned the windows. She was on the phone for a little bit which gave us hope that she was calling someone who could help us. But she just kept cleaning and never came over to us.
After a while of sitting and watching the woman clean a man walked in. Cam and I quickly jumped up and peered through the doors again. The man went behind the counters and did some ruffling around. I was hoping that it wasn’t for some more window cleaner.
The man was on his cell phone as he opened the front doors to where Cam and I were waiting. In his hand he held 3 passports. He didn’t even look at us he just kept talking on his phone as he held our precious passports in his hand. As he was talking on the phone Cam and I eyed up our passports and tried to scheme up a plan of how to steal our passports and run.
He hung up the phone before we came up with our genius plan. He looked at our desperate little faces. He opened the first passport; “Cameron?”. “That’s me!” exclaimed Cam as the man handed him his passport. Then, instead of opening the next passport he just continued talking on the phone. Was he going to give me my passport? Was he going to change his mind?
Finally, he opened the next passport. It was mine! he handed it to me and then, once again, he started up his phone conversation. It was at that moment that we realized the third passport in his hand was Karli’s- who was still at the dessert cafe and we had no way of contacting her. To make matters worse, Cam and I both had Canadian passports but Karli’s was New Zealand. Would he really give us someone elses passport- someone who clearly wasn’t even from the same country?
He opened the last passport in his hand. “Karli,” he said as he looked up at just the two of us standing there like idiots.
“She’s just outside!” we both suddenly exclaimed. Without questioning us he handed over the New Zealand passport. I couldn’t believe it! Cam and I thanked him profusely over and over again- then quickly ran away before he could change his mind.