I realize that I haven’t really shared what our upcoming travel plans were, so here it goes!
The initial plan for the next leg of our journey was to fly into Myanmar (you cannot enter overland passed the border towns), then continue overland all the way to Turkey. This would take us through Bangladesh (or not, depending on the border crossing), Pakistan, Iran to Turkey. The goal was to use our time in Bangkok to sort out our necessary visas (as all of these countries require one, except Turkey), enter Myanmar in February and arrive in Turkey in May to meet my mom.
As it turns out, plans change. The first major change to the itinerary was Myanmar. Myanmar is a really complicated country to include in our travels: you cannot leave the country overland (as we had hoped) and there are no flights to India or Bangladesh from there (that we could find, or book). There are also not ATM, and they only accept impeccable, crisp $100 USA notes with specific serial numbers. We would of had to fly back to either Thailand or Malaysia before moving forward, and it just seemed like too much work. It’s too bad, because I would have truly loved to visit Myanmar. We decided to fly straight into Bangladesh instead.
The next thing to get modified was our obtention of a Pakistani visa. Rumor has it that most request from foreigners get denied in Bangkok, but not in Delhi. We decided to wait until we get there to get our visa.
The first visa we obtained then was the one for Bangladesh. This was the easiest visa to get, and we obtained 2 months starting from the date of issue. Clearly they want travelers to go to Bangladesh, and making it easy to get a generous visa is certainly a step in the right direction.
Next came the Indian visa. It was more time consuming that the previous one to obtain: it took more days to process and the huge waiting room was filled to the gills with other travelers wanting to go there. I was relieved though that there were no bureaucratic nightmares, and that aside from having to wait longer than planned on the day of pickup, everything was very straight forward. We have a 3-month visa, which also started from the day of issue.
The very first visa we applied for though was the one for Iran. This has proven to be the most difficult visa to obtain, and the most frustrating as well. As it turns out, one must first apply for a reference number online – you cannot simply go to the embassy and have someone help you and answer your questions. Once you’ve filled out the form and hit send: nothing. You do not get a receipt confirmation, or anything at all to reassure you that indeed, someone will look at your application. You do not get any timeline estimate. You are in the total darkness. And you just have to wait, because your reference number is valid for the country from which it was applied for only. A phone call to the embassy here in Bangkok answered some questions, but left many more unanswered. We were told it would take up to 10 business days, but were confused as to what that was, if in fact the processing office was open only 3 days a week. Needless to say, we’ve been here in Bangkok, waiting. Checking our inbox constantly, hoping for the magic email with the reference number. Hoping to be able to go to the embassy, get our visa, and leave Bangkok.
We have spent 7 days since the last visa came in, doing nothing but waiting, growing more and more impatient. We had to extend out Thai visa in order to stay. Staying here has been expensive. And we are restless. We don’t want to be here. I already don’t really like Bangkok, and feeling handcuffed to it does not make anything easier. I’ve also been feeling that I am sacrificing other countries for Iran, and it isn’t fair. We don’t know if we’ll get a yes or a no. We don’t even know that they’ve received our application.
With our Thai visa expiring today, it just didn’t make sense to continue waiting blindly for ever. We had to make a decision, and so we have booked our flight to Bangladesh. As much as I really, really want to visit Iran, we have decided to leave Bangkok tomorrow. It was the logical thing to do.
I have not given up on Iran though, and as irony usually works, we should hear something back once we’re in Bangladesh. We’ll try to work it out, and see if we can’t pick up the visa somewhere along the way, or reapply if we don’t hear back “soon”.
In the meantime, this is our last day in Bangkok. Our last night in this quiet, comfortable hostel. I will be certain to make the most of the clean sheet, great mattress and pillow, sit-down toilet seat, noise-insulating windows, air-con and hot water. And WiFi, no matter how slow it is. We are also making a special trip out for pizza, because Western food is about the be scarce.
Tomorrow night, we will be in Bangladesh. I am nervous, excited, and scared. I’m not sure what to expect, but I anticipate madness and major culture shock. We are entering the land of the scarce electricity, and even scarcer tourists. I am entering a Muslim world, and my first country where I will have to cover myself. If I thought it was hot outside, I don’t want to know what it will be like dressed in long sleeves, long pants and scarf.
PS. We will try to internet as often as possible. I know internet is everywhere in Bangladesh, but I have no idea about WiFi. And then there’s the power issue… Please be patient, blog posts and photos will come when they can!