jeudi 29 novembre 2007

Friends, Food and Far East

FRIENDS, FOOD AND FAR EAST
TRAVELS OF DR SUDAH YEHUDA KOVESH SHAHEB
DECEMBER 2007
Shuttling between La Habana, Cuba; Miami, Florida and Paris, France, in addition to participating at professional conferences, this year 2007 had been full of travel. But the travel times did not include visits to Friends in far flung places. In these modern times, our friends are scattered around the globe, we maintain contact with them with email and VOIP and video/message/messenger, it brings their voices, and their presence into our lives. Yet it is not the same as breathing the same ambience and sharing a meal together. I am too busy for my friends have never been my excuse, so I planned a short trip, short in time but large in distance, to visit some special friends, leaving Paris and arriving back in Miami ( my two affections and residences, the third is Havana, of course ) in a matter of just 11 days. Little did I realize that all stopovers would be to meet friends brought closer after 2003, friendships made during my other trips to their countries.
I am writing this on 28th November 2007 in Miami, Florida. The first leg of this journey is not part of the Friends tour, since I am going form one home to the other, eventhough special friends wait for me in Paris. And not to mention, special food.
Called the Vietnamese Embassy in Paris, only to be told that the tourist visa takes one week to process ( you wonder why?) and that an express visa could be issued in just three days for 90 Euros. This made me think of the various places and expediency of obtaining Vietnam Visas.
Singapore, same day service, through travel agents (Burmese Chinese who run a travel agency in Singapore). Cost 60 sgd
Over the counter service, done within one hour, in PnomPenh, Cambodia. Cost 20 usd
Embassy of Vietnam in Havana, Cuba. One day service. Cost 25 usd
Embassy of Vietnam in Buenos Aires, Argentina. One day service. Cost 25 usd.
I have on three different occasions received visa on arrival which involves sending your details ahead of time to a travel agent in Vietnam and within a few days you get a letter clearing you to board the plane and when you arrive at HCMC or Danang or Hanoi, you stand in a separate line and get the visa stamped on your passport. The cost of the visa is the same 25 usd but the travel agency may charge 25 usd additional. They demand payment before they would request the visa on your behalf. Friends in Vietnam usually advance the cash and I repay them when I get there.
I contacted this time, my dear friend Pham Thi Nga, as I was going to HCMC just to see her. Received an immediate reply saying that she would wait for my passport details scanned and emailed to her and that a friend of hers would get me visa on arrival at HCMC in four days. Since I do have four working days before I leave Paris to Cennai on my first leg of the journey, I will scan and email her my passport details today. Hopefully I will get the e-visa. Cambodia now issues e-visas on line, so there is no problem. I do not visas for Singapore and I have a five year tourist visa to India in my passport. If I decide to go to Malaysia, I don’t need a visa either.
Why do countries require visas? Cant be security reasons. If it is just financial reasons why not just issue them electronically? In Asia, I need visa now for DPRK, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Bhutan, India but not Hongkong or Macau. I don’t need a visa for Sri Lanka and I have not travelled to Bangladesh or Pakistan, so I don’t know the current situation.
Sister Jacqueline in Miami has promised Jamaican Curried Chicken for tonight, so it is a promising start of a trip.