Nothing is worth risking when a government official denies you entry and you are stuck at the border for over 16 hours.
First of all, let me start by saying this girl did it right. She purchased her visa AND did her research. Unlike her, our small group had to learn the hard way while stuck in Dien Bien Phu.
We took a bus across the norther border from Laos and approached the station on the Vietnamese border by early morning. We were shocked when everyone passed customs and we were held back by our “no good” phone visas. Apparently one cannot simply flash their phone with legal documents…whoops.
Our Norwegian friend got through easily (Norway has the best passport restrictions) and the three of us, (other two were from Iceland) were left to figure it out. The bus just dumped our bags outside and drove off, without getting the chance to say goodbye!
While the border patrol said we had to pay for the next bus (14 hours away) back to Laos, we were stubborn and determined to get into Vietnam. We needed to print our visas.
Walked around the isolated building looking for wifi spots. Couldn’t find a signal so out of desperation we crossed the border where there was food and hopefully wifi and printers. Seriously confused why the guards were not running after us..I realize we were stranded in the middle of nowhere, but come on, WE CROSSED! However our money was no good there and they ignored us.
We walked back toward the customs building in search of a signal. It was no midday and everyone was gone. They must have been on their lunch breaks. With an empty room and no one in sight, I decided to make a bold, risky move. I was going to go across the counter, remove the ethernet cord from their computer and temporarily plug into my laptop until we could download the visa documents. The other girls thought I was mad, but decided to help be my look-outs and cough should anyone approach.
After I got the ethernet cord in, it didn’t actually connect to wifi. WHAT ON EARTH WERE THESE PEOPLE RUNNING ON IF NOT INTERNET?!
So waited another hour until lunch ended and 3 officers returned. We followed one younger officer toward his desk. So odd how the other rows and rows of offices were empty…I imagine this is what North Korea must feel like. After lots of convincing the three of us girls managed to bat our eyelashes just enough to print. Hopefully he did not get in trouble afterwards.
Excited we approached the counter with three printed documents, all including that so called “official stamp” they were looking for. The old man with three hairs growing out of a single facial mole took one look and said “stamp wrong color”. Of course it wasn’t that easy.
We lost hope of getting into the country after that. To think I risked some serious jail time over what, a black printed stamp? Lesson learned. Nothing is worth risking when a government official denies you entry.
We watched movies and rationed our peanut butter crackers for the next 10 hours until another bus approached. We may have left Katrine for now, but we promised to meet up in Bangkok and later bought friendship bracelets.