Leaving China:

It's not that easy


Magun's Compass
Learn from the Travel Experiences of Others


The British Embassy in Peking, Beijing if you like, was very efficient.

The checks with London had been completed over the weekend, and money, obtained from a darling of a sister, was waiting for me on Monday morning..

With two passport photos, courtesy of Guangzhou police, an application form to complete, and the briefest of waits, I had a full ten-year passport again. A new number to enter in memory, and then another round on the visa trail.

For twenty-five dollars, the Vietnamese Embassy -- still open after the 11:30 closing-time -- issued me with a replacement visa, the following day.


All going well.... it's16:00, Christmas Eve, and off to the Chinese Immigration.

Bureaucracy and unfriendly roadblocks, almost made it the worst Christmas in memory.

"You wait one week!" the immigration woman shouted.


One Week?

We had already purchased the flight tickets to Vietnam with naive optimism; all I wanted was an exit permit; permission to leave the country for Hanoi in two days time.

"No possible two day."

I was handed a colourful leaflet:

"Company speak English."


To a little alley on the other side of the Forbidden City.....

"Five Hundred Yuan?"

That was twice the price I paid for a next day visa in Hong Kong. I only wanted to leave the country; the Chinese economy had already benefited greatly from my misfortune.

"How much you pay?"

We could even bargain with the entry-exit bureau. The young lad, with the walkman earphones around his neck, might have been sympathetic, but the robbery sob-story wouldn't wear with the short, old lady who had the final say.

After being shouted at by her, the young man threw my gleaming new passport, and various other grubby papers, back at me.

"Go to the police... One Hundred Thirty Yuan."

"I have no money to stay in China another week," I pleaded.


It was a Chinese sit-off. No-one was going to loose face. This wasn't a market, the smiles had been erased. The People's Company wanted my money, if I wanted to leave in two days.


Finally, a 'student' price of 300 was agreed upon. Still more expensive than a 3-month visa from a tout in the Former British Colony.



[China in '88]

[To Vietnam]

Asia Index.

Nomadic Gatherings - Travels in Asia and Australia

Travel on trains and buses in Asia, then jump into cars with complete strangers in Australia and New Zealand as Michel introduces you to a collection of characters that bring Nomadic Gatherings to life.

If you can't afford to buy a copy of Nomadic Gatherings, the chapters are slowly being made available online - for free.

You may even decide that it really is worth having a hard copy in your hands; a useful read for those long bus journeys being written about, and for endless waits at ferry ports.

Nomadic Gatherings - Online Chapters.

Find out more about Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, The Middle East, and The Americas.
Magun's Compass

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