To Perth

Fri, 30 May 2008 13:23:09 +0000

Ho Chi Minh City Day 3 Index Taking a Break in Perth

Disappointingly, I didn't have a chance to have one more of the hotel's rather nice breakfasts this morning. Just not enough time, since I had to catch a bus and the Ho Chi Minh City traffic is so terrible. Once you know what you're doing, though, the buses are reasonably sensible, with their destinations written on the side along with the bus number, so they're easy to spot. There's a separate uniformed conductor on the bus, and she has change, so no fiddling with putting together the correct money either.

Ho Chi Minh City Airport is fairly modern and sensible, although not exactly a palace. (The airport code is still "SGN"; if I was a Vietnamese communist official that would piss me off every time I flew out of the place.) There were only two cafes for me to spend my remaining dong. I had quite a lot left over, but that only bought me a roll and a coke. I kept thinking how much beer and baguettes that would fund out on the street. But it was an uneventful flight to Singapore.

At Singapore airport I went to the transfer desk to get my Qantas boarding pass. The guy asked me, "Do you have any other passport." I really have to learn, when I'm trying to commit immigration fraud, that I should keep my mouth shut. I was supposed to be trying to get in on my British passport, because my Australian one is with the Syrian embassy. But this is illegal, Australian citizens have to use their Australian passport. So as soon as I said "yes", I realised that I had completely screwed myself.

I explained where my passport was, and the guy said he'd have to get in touch with Canberra. He wanted details of my Australian passport. It turns out that I have stupidly not scanned it, not photographed it, and not even written down the passport number. It's brand new, you see, only turned up a few weeks before I left Germany. The best I could give him was my old expired passport number. But he put together a message for Canberra. And after about an hour, the reply came back that I was granted permission to enter on my British passport. Crisis averted.

I was lucky that I'd given myself no less than six hours to transfer in Singapore airport, so I had plenty of time for all of this. But there was a fallback position, which was to buy a visa for my British passport, so it was never looking like a complete disaster. The fun part was that the guy behind the desk is clearly a total immigration regulations geek who was absolutely loving getting his teeth into an interesting problem. He kept chatting about the technical details, even showing me pages from his Big Book Of Immigration Rules. Which, by the way, should be put online somewhere, it would help a lot.

That still left me with three or four hours to kill in Changi airport, which I did mainly by watching TV and drinking coffee. And then onto the Qantas flight to Perth. I'd forgotten the nice thing about Qantas: not only do you get a choice of red or white, but which variety of red as well. I got a rather nice shiraz to go with my "morroccan lamb", which is good since Qantas food is still pretty mediocre.

"They" were waiting for me at passport control in Perth airport, having flagged my passport as belonging to a trouble-maker. I had to "go and talk to immigration". In fact I was amazed that they didn't punish me for screwing with their system, and they let me in quite happily. They even seemed not to care which passport I used when leaving, but I've already figured out that this has to be my Australian one, so it should be no drama.

As always it's great to be met at the airport, although this time only by Mum, because Dad's having an operation to fix a torn ligament in his shoulder. But I'm back in Perth. It's great to be home. It's also great to finally be finally out of the tropical heat.

Ho Chi Minh City Day 3 Index Taking a Break in Perth