Friday, October 9, 2009

Plans and Preparations

On October 15th we fly out of YVR for Beijing. The plan is to spend a few days in Beijing, then travel overland down to Xi'an (draft route here). We'll stay in Xi'an for one to two months, then move to Chengdu for another one to two months, to a total of three months in China. During our time in China we also have a week booked off that we hope to use to go see Yunnan, tiered rice paddies (amazing picture here), and all that good stuff. We then have ~5 weeks vacation, which we aspire to use to visit Thailand, India, and England. We've started working on a list of attractions for areas we'll be in; it is posted here.

Shooting Up
In preparation we had to take care of a couple of things, including travel shots. Travel shots are immensely fun. First we went to a doctor and got a couple of basic ones. Then we went to a travel clinic and got a three or four more. Then we went to another doctor and got a couple more. Supposedly these shots are all harmless but one had Rod's arm twitching uncontrollably for an afternoon. If we don't get bitten by a dozen super-malaria mosquito's and maybe eat some moldy meat it will be terribly disappointing as we'll have endured it all for naught.

Bag It and Tag It
In the past we've typically traveled with either luggage or small backpacks. This time we figured we'd switch things up a little so we're taking gargantuan MEC Brio bags. The bag is surrounded by a web of ropes, cords, straps, and so on. These are presumably tremendously important to someone but for us they looked more or less like a great way to get your bag jammed in the baggage carousel. Luckily MEC also carries a travel carrier that fits over it and dramatically reduces the number of protruding bits.

visa's, terribly formal ... or not!
The China visa was easy. We got an invitation letter (in Mandarin - we were a bit worried there might be fields to transcribe onto the application form):

This was setup in China, stamped by the Chinese government and included in our application. Unfortunately only single entry but we have 120 days so we can't complain too much. We dropped off our application info and passports at China Travel Services (102-1245 Broadway West, (604) 872-8787) and they couriered them back to us a few days later.

Buoyed by our success, we naively thought to obtain our own visa for India. The torrential downpour that commenced the moment we got out of the car was the first hint that all was not well. We eventually made it into a small room filled to about five times it's legal capacity with confused, wet, grumpy people. There was a take a number system that the four clerks may or may not have been obeying. Half the people in the room had numbers, the rest were evidently unaware the number system existed. A small riot ensued when Rod asked a neighbor what number they were, thus causing a series of people to become aware of the number system.. Curiously, the numbers issued were only superficially in an upward counting sequence. A bit of asking around determined that some people who had arrived earlier had higher numbers. Others did not. The number display on the wall appeared to be counting upward so this was mildly alarming.

After seven minutes of discussion with neighbors - none of whom had any idea what was going on, but were evidently determined if they waited long enough something good had to happen - amidst the pushing and shoving in this room we looked up a nearby service ( that would obtain the visa for you and left. They assured us the visa would be couriered to us within a few days.

All seemed well until our passports were returned and Pavan's visa for India turned out to have a typo in the name. Embassylink took it back for us and the Indian embassy helpfully corrected it. Not, as a naive person might expect, by issuing a corrected visa, but by correcting the problem in pen. With any luck the guy who signed it is known to whoever checks passports for entry into India

A Very Official Document ... corrected in pen!

And Away!
Tomorrow the movers come to take our worldly possessions away. After that, just a few days before we leave!!!

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