Friday, February 22, 2008

One Rude Surprise - Myanmar A No Go, Hanoi Welcomes

I have been prepping myself up for Myanmar. I bought tickets for my Bangkok-Yangon flight as well as the Yangon-Bagan trip. I have booked a hotel as well as arranged a pick-up from a hotel.

Woke up at 4 am just to catch my
Air Asia flight to Yangon which leaves at 7:05. New World Lodge Hotel's in-house taxi sped through Bangkok's impeccably maintained highways to Suvarnabhumi. On time and all prepped up, as I queued at the ticket counter. Then I was told that I needed a visa to get to Yangon. What?!

I have been reading so much discussion groups that I had the impression that like the ASEAN citizens, Filipinos enjoy a visa-free status! With a volatile political situation, Myanmar must have changed their policy towards ASEAN citizens. I am losing a lot of money and they have wasted my TIME. I checked the DFA website, and yes, Filipinos are given 21-day visa-free stays in Myanmar.

This was playing out like a nightmare. I had to think fast since
Air Asia tickets are non-refundable, BUT I can change flights/destinations.

Hanoi was flashing on the flight board. I was there last November (and
loved it), so why not Hanoi again? Better than staying in Bangkok. I paid an additional 1,500 baht for my Hanoi flight which departs at 6:55am. It was 6:10 and the queue to the immigration counter is a hundred kms long!!!! I was pins and needles. Oh gawd! I'm gonna miss this flight anyway! I was 3 persons behind at the counter and the agents were taking their time taking the passenger's photos. It was already 6:55!!! Once my photo was taken, I dashed off Gate G which was a considerable distance. I eventually got to my seat at 7:10 AM. They waited. Turns out there were half a dozen more who were running late.

Two hours later, my plane arrived in Hanoi. It was 7 deg C. I had a summer shirt on. I was shivering as I filled up my immigration card. 21 days once again. I changed my dollar to dong ($1=16,000 dong). A driver was hovering over me as I asked for directions to Tung Trang Hotel, where I stayed last time. I had my brother (back in Manila) text me the address. I made deals with a "taxi driver". HUGE MISTAKE! (Read more on
"Hanoi: A Not So Pleasant Return".)

It was such a relief to finally find Tung Trang.
Luongthom has apparently married a month ago and is now in Saigon. Her assistant, Teyet, now mans the counter. Got a room for $15 and paid $10 for my departure later in the week.

Situations like this happen, and it's best to just make the most out of a bad thing.


I've finally found my way to Myanmar last March-April 2008 - with my visa. Please check out my real-time blogs posted here during those travels.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

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