The art of getting lost

Gift at the corner of every street in Saigon

"if you keep your heart and your eyes open, there is a gift waiting for you at the corner of every street" (if you are curious about the quote.. its from Edouard Boubat, a French photojournalist)

Jakarta's little Tokyo

Jakarta's Japan town may not be as large as Bangkok's or Saigon's but it is more gritty.

What website to use for Vietnamese online visa and some tips

You need one of the online agencies to process the visa for you. It is tedious to figure out a reliable agency.  I will recommend the following two agencies that I have tried. 

1. - this is my current agency of choice. 

2. - I use to buy the visa from them from 2007 to 2011. 

Note that you can only use this online visa when you arrive by air (Hanoi, Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), DaNang, Haiphong, Can Tho and Phu Quoc). If you are coming in by land, contact a travel agent in Thailand, Cambodia or Lao for the visa. 

The procedure

1. You fill in the online form and make the payment via their online payment link. 

2. Look out for their email that acknowledges your submission and payment. This should arrive within an hour. Check your spam folder. If you don't see the email, just email them back. 

3. The agency will send you an email in a day or two with the invitation letter. Usually the first page is a text acknowledging that the persons listed in the following pages have been granted the arrival visa. The following pages have a list of names, including your name. Print all the pages, even the pages that do not have your name.  Most agencies will also include a link to an arrival form. You can print and fill this beforehand to save time. This form is also available at their Visa on Arrival counters. You will need to attach a photograph to the arrival form.

This is how the immigration area looks like at Saigon's (Ho Chi Minh City) Than Son Nhat Airport. Walk over to the visa stamping counters. They are marked as A in the illustration above. Submit the passport, invitation letter, filled arrival form, photo and the visa fee. They take about 10 to 20 minutes depending on the volume. You can rest at the waiting area (B). They will then call out your name and return the passport and a receipt for your visa fee payment. Walk over to the immigration counters (C) in the figure. The officer here with make an entry stamp on your passport.  You can then go down the escalators (D) to pick up your bags and walk out after a customs inspection. 

The procedure is similar at other airports where this facility is available. 

Just after the immigration counters there is a currency exchange counter. I have found their rates to be better than the counters elsewhere in the airport. They will also sell you a SIM card. Though it is easy to find WI FI in Vietnam, I would recommend getting a data SIM card - they are inexpensive. 

Takoyaki laments

Your are born of flour and octopus bits. Born as a shapeless dollop, the woman keep prodding you, turning you and shaping you. You are so happy to have such a lovely mom. But just when your heart swells and you turn brown, the mom packs you in a box and off you go.

The cutest bookseller in the world

A part of my heart is lost in Rangoon, somewhere between street 27 and 28, across the Scotts market on Montgomery Street. This is where I met the world's cutest bookseller. Every visit to her bookshop ended up in me finding a book on Burmese history, and trying to negotiate the price down, and the cutest bookseller always winning. Don't tell her that I let her win, just to see that victorious smile. One more week, and I would have ended up as the leading authority on the nation's history.  You can travel half the world but there is no point, if you can't make a little girl smile.