Vietnam Visa Extension Ordeal
Trip Start Jun 05, 2011
196Trip End Feb 28, 2013
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7:40am to 1:30pm
Little Home #2 Hotel
Into the Frying Pan
Our bus again turned out to be a van, a Mercedes this time from Mai Linh Company. We were cramped further in the back this time. The driver left on time and proceeded cautiously. We stopped only for other passengers who had reserved seats in advance. No trolling on Mai Linh.
The Rong house area ended and we came to miles and milse of cemeteries lining the bluff along the highway. There must have been thousands of the above ground cement graves. We dropped lower in altitude and the temps shot up dramatically. We began sweating bullets. We were not in the cool highlands any longer. After the lunch stop, our driver had a change in personality. Mr. Cautious became Mr. Speedy but a far cry from the madman driver we had before.
We rolled into Da Nang bus station and caught a taxi to the center having him drop us at Little Home # 2 Hotel. We thought the room price would have dropped after the holiday but is was still high at 500000 Dong ($24). It was probably the nicest room for us so far, it included breakfast, and the girls on the front desk were sweet. What the heck, lets splurge!
5/2 Danang -Visa Extension Ordeal
We decided to get an early start today with it being the first business day after a 4 day holiday. There may be a long line at the immigration office.
We stubbornly refused to buy into the notion that the only way you could get a Vietnamese Visa extension was through a major city travel-agent, at an extra cost of course. A local guy eating next to us at "Bread for Life" cafe had tried to discourage us too, "I deal with guys working on the off-shore oil rigs who need extensions regularly. Those guys at immigration office are rude, really rude. You will not be able to communicate with them" he asserted. We figured he may have been a travel agent or working for one. He had not deterred us.
Armed with the map and address of the Immigration office the nice girls at the front desk had highlighted for us, we walked the km or so to the Vietnam Immigration Office at: #7 Tran Qui Cap
Surprisingly it was not busy at all and the nice fellow behind the window explained to us, in English, that we needed to go to the other Immigration Office a few streets over on: #78 Le Loi.
15 minutes later, we walked in that office to find it was not busy either. We even received a half-hearted smile from the guy behind the window taking our passports. He leafed through my passport while calling someone on the phone. A few minutes later another officer came over to us who apparently was in charge. He pulled out some forms for us to fill out and told us we needed to talk to Mr Trung at Da Nang Tourist 0914001044. "He will help you fill out form", he said. "They will provide a stamp here", he said as he pointed to the form. He dialed his number and talked to him briefly before handing the cell phone to Dave. Dave questioned why we needed him since we were already at the immigration office and the form was in English. Mr. Trung said we didn't need him. Dave relayed that info to the Immigration Officer. The Officer called them back and this time connected us to a Ms. Hoa at 0935552982. She asked us to come over and kept repeating "It is the Rule." Dave asked Ms.Hoa to come to the immigration office since we were already there and that is where the bilingual form needs to be signed. But that logic didn't get us anywhere. In the end, we hopped in a taxi and were surprised to find that Ms. Hoa’s office is that of Danatours. DanaTours is the company we had emailed for information a week ago. We never received a reply from them. They are also recommended in LP for extensions.
We challenged Ms. Hoa to provide anything with the 'rule’ written down, even if it was in Vietnamese. She said it is not a written rule. But that is how we have to do things if we wanted a visa extension. The poor girl in the office was dealing with some very unhappy customers and could not justify the rule except to say her company basically vouches for the tourist. We said we were in Vietnam for 30 days already without anybody vouching for us, so it cannot be the law. We had gotten our original visa without going through an agent. She couldn't explain what they would be liable for or anything else pertaining to the "rule".
We felt pretty defeated by now and to be honest pretty pissed off. What a racket. Who gets the kickbacks?, we asked. How does it work? She didn’t deny or defend it and just shrugged. Then she told us that it takes 8 days to process our passports; 2 x $50, And, if you pay an additional $20 per passport expedition fee, she may be able to do it in 4 or 5 days.
We had had enough and gave in to the conspiracy. We decided to head to Hoi An, 20km down the coast, and come back when the Visa Extensions were ready. A photocopy of our passports is all we will need to check into hotels, we were told. Ms. Hoa kindly made photocopies for us.