It's getting painfully close to my departure date for my three month trip through Asia. 27 November is the date that I'm on my way, jetsetting to Sydney, then Bangkok and beyond, and there's plenty to do before leaving.
Last week was spent gathering all the information needed for visa applications. Dealing with government bureacracy is frustating at the best of times, but when dealing with six bureaucracies, where English is not the first language and the government of the day operates with a high degree of paranoia, the challenge is just about insurmountable.
In a strange way, though, the process is a bit of fun. Filling in the various forms is a bit like filling in a cryptic crossword, except that the answers aren't published in the paper the next day. The visa applications start with a familiar pattern, asking all the usual questions. Then they get a little personal - "What date will you be arriving in the country?", "Where will you be staying during your visit?", "Are you intending to work whilst in the Lao Democratic People's Republic?" - and that's when the real challenge kicks in. Never reveal that you're a student, since they only wanted cashed up visitors. Never reveal that you don't really know how long you'll be there for, or where the hell you'll stay. As far as the authorities are concerned, every minute of every day is perfectly planned, as well as every meal, every dodgy hostel, every cheesy photo and every smart arse remark.
Nonetheless, the on Friday the visa applications for Thailand (double entry), Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and China (double entry) were lodged, along with eleven passport photos and about as many small fibs.
Next step: immunisations and vaccinations and all sort of things to protect me from just about everything except some dodgy Chinese takeaway.