Passport juggling

Russian passport can be useful sometimes. Apart from making traveling in Russia a lot easier, no visa is required for short stays in countries like Laos or Vietnam (both are officially communist countries). So equipped with two passports I left Chiang Khong in Northern Thailand and crossed Mekong to the Laos side. Problems started right away. The immigration official went through all the pages in my Russian passport looking for a Thai departure stamp. After not finding one, he told me to get back to Thailand for the stamp. I explained my dual citizenship situation and demonstrated the stamp in the Finnish passport. Not possible. The departure stamp must be in the same passport used for leaving Thailand. We argued for a bit through a language barrier, until they fetched a woman, who spoke better English. She told me either to get back to Thailand for a departure stamp in my Russian passport or stop being so extravagant and get a visa as everybody else. A boat to Thailand and back is only two bucks and half an hour, compared to 35 bucks for a Laos visa (plus one extra buck for a weekend fee). So I took a boat back to Thailand, filled an arrival card and handed my Russian passport. Almost immediately I realized that this trick would not fly as I did not have a Laos departure stamp. It indeed proved to be the case – in order to enter the country using my Russian passport, I would need a departure stamp from Laos. Catch 22 in action. One supervisor and a lot of effort spent social engineering my situation after, they a) denied me to enter the country using the Russian passport b) refused to give me a departure stamp in my Russian passport to take my life easier c) told to get back to Laos. Back on the boat to Laos. Some more arguing and explaining here, but all in vain. One visa application, one photo and 35 bucks later I got a 30 days Laos visa. Lesson learnt here, use the Russian passport to enter South-East Asia in the future.

Ironically enough that completely ruined my plans. I had planned to spend two weeks in Laos, go to Vietnam and then go back to Laos for some finale chill-out action. Now it looks like it is going to be only one visit to Laos and then probably Vietnam and Cambodia. By 10AM I already had an adventure involving immigration officials of two countries and a complete change of plans. Not a bad start for the day.

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