You Thought LEAVING China was Tough

(Ed. note: You may have noticed that the last post was mostly photos with a little prose interspersed. There are no photos to accompany this entry, however.)

Our pal Ken. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ken Haycock, let me introduce him. I have known Ken for almost 34 years. He is successful, educated, urbane, witty, well regarded and respected by friends and peers but mostly he is incredibly well-travelled with a wealth of travel experiences. In fact, I have often tired of reading his yearly Christmas letter describing all the places he had visited in the previous year. All of this is to say that he is quite unflappable.

Saturday we discussed how Sunday would look. It was a fifteen minute taxi ride from our hotel to the ferry terminal where we would catch the 7:30am ferry back to the Hong Kong International Airport. I said I wanted to leave no later than 6:15 – Terry and Ken were all for getting there around 7. I won – we got there at 6:25. There was already a 15 minute wait to check in as you check in for your flight at the same time. At about 6:45 we finally get to the counter and the agent goes through all our documents, issues boarding passes to Terry and I, checks our luggage and sends it through. He then goes through Ken’s passport several times. Now, because Ken travels a lot, I figure he is just looking at all the stamps. Finally, he says “Sir, where is your visa to get in to China?” Ken takes the passport back and says “It is right here” “No, sir, this has already been used.” Now, I am beginning to get a little twitchy. Ken says, “No, this is the one which I got in Vancouver and I told them I was going to Macau and they said, no problem, Macau is part of China.” The agent says “No, Macau is not part of China. I cannot let this person on the ferry to China since he does not have a valid visa.” (Ed. note: This is really what he said – ‘this person” not ‘you’ and continued this throughout the rest of the dialogue). By now I am getting really twitchy and people in the line are starting to look at us. Ken says “What do I have to do?” “This person has to go to the Chinese consulate and get a visa” “Are they open today – it is Sunday” asks Ken. “No” the agent says. We discuss how this is going to work. He can go back to the hotel, wait until Monday, see how long it will take to get a visa etc. etc. Finally, he says to the agent “But I have a flight out of Shanghai back to Vancouver on Tuesday – how will I make it?”. By now it is well past 7 am and Terry has gone to MacDonalds to get us breakfast. The agent then has to reissue our baggage claim stuff since he put it through under Ken’s name. Ken recites his mantra “There is no problem a little time, money or initiative can’t solve, so just relax”. (Ed. note: I’m thinking he recited it several hundred times.)

The agent then asks to see Ken’s itinerary and calls Cathay Pacific. He spends 5 minutes talking to the agent there and then says that “this person” can travel to China and has 72 hours to transit China without a visa to Shanghai. Ah, thank God, since it is now 7:20. We all get on the ferry and off we go on the 55 minute crossing.

At the airport we are in line to get on the plane and, once again, they are checking our passports. The woman looks at Ken and after being asked, says “Oh yes, your visa is perfectly good”. So much for the ferry agent!

We arrive in Shanghai and get in the line for checking documents. There is a special line for “People in Transit without a Visa” and Ken gets in it. There are about 6 people in the line and we have about 60 in front of us. “I’ll meet you at the luggage carousel.” We get through, wait about 10 minutes for our bags and look around – no Ken so we figure he has gone through the exit and is waiting on the other side. Wrong – we go through and no Ken. Behind us we hear him calling “I’ll be out in 5 minutes”.

Now we wait and wait and wait. No Ken. After about 15 minutes (Ed. note: seemed a LOT longer), out he comes. Now, I wasn’t there so the following is all hearsay, but his little adventure went something like this. He got to the counter and the agent was young and inexperienced (Ed. note: Why was she on that counter, one wonders). Because he had no visa, (Ed. note: Remember, this is the line for people with no visa) she calls over a supervisor, who calls over another one who then takes him into a back room. Eventually there are five of them questioning him – the first four in either Chinese or broken English. They want to know his itinerary. He tells them he is flying on Air Canada flight 26 “There is no such flight number” they say. “Yes there is”. Then they tell him to go sit in a corner. They phone Air Canada and confirm there is such a flight and that he is booked on it. Now he is called back and told that they will issue him a temporary visa. The officer holds it up (it is about 3″ square) and tells him to read it out loud . “Seriously, you want me to read it out loud?” “Yes” the officer yells. “But it is in Chinese” “Oh, so sorry” the officer sheepishly replies and turns it over to the English side. The visa says he is not to leave the environs of Shanghai. “But I am going to Jiaxing with my friends.” The officer points to the line that says he is to present himself to the local police station to verify his residence. (Ed. note: Dr. Haycock also shows remarkable restraint at times. For example, despite wanting to, he did not say “Do you think I want to sneak into rural China and disappear?” to the immigration officer. Good choice Kenny!) With that he is off and out to meet us. Apparently you do need a visa to transit 72 hours through China without a visa. Either that or these guys missed the memo – the January 2013 memo .Click here.

We have a long discussion about whether he should just stay in Shanghai until Tuesday, until Terry points out he has a whack o’ stuff at our place, so off to the train station we go, hoping that there is nothing on his passport which will come up when we buy the tickets home. (Ed. note: You need your passport to buy train tickets). Luckily he is okay and we get home that night okay.

After more discussion about him being in Shanghai by himself the next two days and going to the fabric market by himself to pick up his new overcoat, I decide to trust him on his own. I put him on the train from Jiaxing to Shanghai late on Monday morning – it was like sending your child off to school for the first day. The amazing thing was that with only getting taken to the wrong market by the taxi driver and then being laughed at by a police officer, he did just fine. At least, I think he did. I haven’t heard how he did as he went passed the “bars” (Ed. note: “Where you go mister? You want to come in and buy me a drink?”) on his way back from the restaurant to the hotel last night – and I don’t think I want to know!

Thanks for coming to visit, Ken. Next up: the boys in Vietnam and Lynne and Martin in March (and they are going off to Beijing by themselves!)

2 thoughts on “You Thought LEAVING China was Tough

  1. kenrhaycock

    There were a few side adventures in Shanghai (yet another police officer yelling at me, jeez) but otherwise fine. Poor wireless at the hotel so went to the airport. Could not check in. So… massage! Easy flight home. More in a private email! Thanks for a great time — you only have six months to make it over people — unless you are waiting for next year to see the new school!

  2. lois marsden

    Loved the comment…you want me to sneek into China and live in the country..or something like that…Too funny. They likely would not see the humour. Sounds like they could win an award for inefficiency! You sound like a wonderful person, Ken… Keep smiling Teri and Geoff…it fools people and makes them nervous. 🙂


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