Monday, January 02, 2006

Transit Visa This!

Aah, Singapore, such great shopping to be had in such a compact place. Usually the shopping is reserved for my wife, but on this trip I actually spent a little money on myself. Shoes, shirts, and one really expensive thing.

So what could I have needed so much that I just had to get it while in Singapore? What else but a transit visa, of course! Not for Singapore or Malaysia; American citizens, along with citizens of most countries are given short visit visas on the spot while entering the country. But little did I know, my layover in Beijing would require a Chinese transit visa. How Stupid!

I actually didn't even know about the visa requirement until a very nice Singapore Airlines employees wondered aloud whether I would need a visa. She spent about 15 minutes looking it up but could find nothing specific to Beijing. She could find an exception for Shanghai, but nothing for Beijing. So she recommended I check with the Chinese embassy just to be sure. So I checked both the Chinese & US Embassy websites along with some other travel sites. All of them stated that American citizens need visas. On top of the that, the Chinese Embassy website went to the lengths to specifically state that citizens of every country EXCEPT the USA and UK are not required to have transit visas, but that Americans and Britons are required to obtain visas even when just transitting through the airport, EVEN when not leaving the plane!!!

Alas, I had to get a Visa from the Chinese Embassy in Singapore. But I mentioned how I spent a ton of money on the visa right? Well, in addition to sticking it to Americans and Britons, China shoves that stick further up our asses by requiring Americans to pay waaaay more for all visas than citizens of any other country in the world! There's no special transit visa, just a general visa. And the cost? 140 Singapore dollars! Now, being nice, the Chinese government would have let me stay in the country up to 90 days, but what the hell am I going to do with that? My layover is 7 hours and I just want to get home! So not only do I have to go the damned embassy at the last minute, I have to wait in line (thankfully not very long), come back again to pick up my updated passport. So with the S$140 visa, plus cab fares (since the Embassy isn't easily reachable from our place), I'm out almost US$100!

And here's proof of all this:

Yeah, stick it to me!A receipt

Purty Stickered Chinese VisaA cool looking Visa sticker, which is completely useless now since my one entry was used when I transited through the Beijing.

So anyways, I hoped to at least have a chance to take a quick touristy tour of Beijing while stuck there. Afterall, many countries understand the huge influx of cash that tourists can bring into the country even if they're just there for a few hours. Heck, that's one of the reasons Singapore is such a huge airline hub. The country wants every tourist dollar it can get. It's basically free money. But nope, not China. There's nothing like a tour offered. Besides, it was foggy beyond belief while we were there, so a tour would have been useless. We couldn't even see the 747 outside of the gate window, I doubt we could have seen anything of interest on a tour bus.

So we made the best of it and walked around the airport terminal a few times. And here's what I came away with:

Terra Cotta WarriorsSome really real looking, yet fake terra cotta warriors.

Colorful cigarettesApparently colorful cigarettes are popular in China.

Orange CigarettesAnd so are orange flavored cigarettes. Of course, both of these types of cigs look to be foreign, so I'm guessing that some other country besides China likes such cigarettes.

Abercrombie and TITCHTypos occur often enough, but here's a case where the typo got through after 2 layers of checks while the t-shirt was made and while the ice cream poster wad made. So anyways, here's an ice cream freezer with a very happy chick wearing an Abercrombie and TITCH t-shirt.

StarbucksAnd yes, there's even Starbucks in China. Of course, it's been in the news lately since they won a lawsuit against a local coffee brewer. I didn't know about the case at the time, so finding a Starbucks in the airport was sort of surprising, but not really. Anyways, we got some sleep at the gate for a while, but got tired of it all so we hung out in Starbucks for a couple of hours. BTW, the Starbucks was the only place where all of the employees spoke pretty good english.

Oh, I should mention that I don't expect everyone in the world to speak Englsh, just the typical languages they would expect to hear. So in the US, English is a must. In Singapore, at least 2 of the 4 official languages should be a must. In India, Hindi (in the north), Tamil (in the south), and English (in the major cities) is a must.

Anyways, my useless "trip" to China yielded a few photos and one long blog posting. Hope you enjoyed.

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