My $85 Mistake...
Making it on the plane to Vietnam.
December 15, 2007

When will I ever learn?

I know not to assume things – yet I always do. Why haven’t I learned my lesson?

Case #274 in a long list of ‘Jen’s Assumptions While on the Road’ occurred just a few minutes ago. It consisted of me, my
passport and checking in for my flight to Hanoi, Vietnam from the Luang Prabang airport.

The ticket agent was taking longer than usual to check out my passport. He asked me to point out my Vietnam visa – which I
did with all the confidence in the world. After all, I know how it works – no visa, no getting on the flight.

Now here was the problem – it turned out this would be the moment that I would learn my Vietnam visa was a
single entry
and not a
multiple entry visa (I should have thought there was a reason to the ‘USED’ stamp that Vietnam stamped onto my
visa – but why do something as obvious as that?). Sooo…it was now pointed out to me that I didn’t, in fact, have a visa to
arrive in Vietnam.


I asked if there was anything at all that could be done and said that I
had to get on the flight (truth be told, I didn’t really
‘have’ to – but it always sounds good for effect). He told me there was. He had a man take me to the Vietnam Airlines office in
the airport where I filled out the form for an emergency visa, gave him a photo (that I luckily always have on hand – see, I can
one thing right) and eighty-five U.S. dollars in cold-hard cash (lucky I always keep a cash supply on hand - I guess that
would make it
two things I managed to do right). The form was faxed and my passport was tuk-tuked over to the Vietnam
Consulate. I waited in the office for about a half-hour and my passport was tuk-tuked back to the airport. I could now go to the
ticket agent to show him I was ready to go.

Except for one thing.

When I double-checked my passport, I noticed something that could possibly lead to a problem upon arriving into Hanoi. The
wrong passport number was typed on my visa. They placed calls and my passport was once again tuk-tuked away to the
Consulate. While waiting, the ticket agent told me that they would hold the flight (if necessary) until my passport came back.
Because the airport and Luang Prabang itself are so small, this whole situation was more funny than stressful to me.

Elisa waited with me. While we were waiting, there was an announcement being made. It started off:

“Miss Lisa and…” At this point I was about to turn to Elisa (who’s official name is ‘Lisa’) to tell her that they might be paging
her (and of course, I would be making a little joke of it). But then the announcement continued:

“Miss Lisa and Miss Jennifer, please report to…” Elisa and I looked at each other and kind of laughed. And then I turned to my
sweet Laotian passport liaison, who was already on the case. He let the woman know about my passport and she was now
prepared to wait. Five minutes later my passport was tuk-tuked back and in a relay-like fashion, my passport was like a baton
being handed from the tuk-tuk driver to my passport liaison to me.

And now I was able to get my departure stamp out of Laos so that I could get onto my flight to Hanoi (where I am writing this
from). I was just thinking about it and I realized that when I filled out the form for my visa, I didn’t realize at that point that I
was going to be traveling with friends and didn’t even consider bouncing around to and from the country. It didn’t even dawn
on me that my visa was a ‘single entry’ while I was here with my friends as I got it so long ago. I guess the moral of the story is
always, ALWAYS sign up for the multiple-entry option!
Back to Laos.