Friday, November 14, 2008

A worldwide tour of Russian embasseys and still no Russian Visa

Ahhh! Still haven't got a visa for Russia. The console in Bangkok when we first applied told us that he didn't want to issue us a Visa because it was two and a half months before our date of entry, which was too early. He recommended that we apply at a different Russian embassy in one of the other countries we were travelling to.
When we got to Phnomn Penh we took got up at 8AM and took a moto across town to the Russian embassy and were let into the consular section. The receptionist told us that the Console was busy and that we should come back at 9Am on Monday morning, it being Thursday at that point. We headed back to the hotel and spent the next four days killing time in Phnomn Pehn waiting for the embassy to open on Monday.
Monday morning came and we again drove across a gridlocked Phnomn Penh to the embassy. We went in and say down to await the console. As waited for about 20 minutes in the lobby until the Russian consul came out from an office at the back, smoking a cigarette and looking most displeased that he had to waste his time.
"What can I do for you?" he barked putting as he crushed the butt of his cigarette.
"We would like to apply for a Russian Visa please"
We passed across all the necessary documents for the application process; our passports, a letter of invitation by a hotel in Moscow stamped by the embassy in Russia, A copy of our insurance policy, a full itinerary, again endorsed by the Russians, passport photos and an application form that we had brought with us from the first attempt in Bangkok.
He took one look at the application form.
"Wrong colour pen"
"Oh, Sorry about that, do you have a new copy, we can fill out?"
"Documents, original?"
"No, they were scanned and e-mailed to us from Russia."
"Copy no good in Cambodia"
"Really, well we are travelling and thus have no address to obtain the originals, we were also told that copies would be OK"
"Not in Cambodia, too much counterfeit, cannot give here"
"Do you know what the rules are in Vietnam, or Laos?"
"OK, thanks so much for your time"
And with that we had completed our second attempt at obtaining a Russian visa.
The next attempt was to be Vietnam, although we found out that they only issue Russian visas to residents of Vietnam!
And the Russian embassy in Vientiane was our next port of call. Again we got up early, put on some decent cloths and headed across town to the embassy quarter.
We were let in by the guards and took a seat in the visa office. The Russian woman behind the desk looked at us and motioned to her watch. We checked the time, it was 8.58, the office didn't open till 9!
After a short wait the consul appeared, speaking excellent English and shook our hands. He took a look at our paperwork and was genuinely happy to help us. He went off to get some pens and application forms and we duly began filling them out whilst he looked through our paperwork.
"Are you guys citizens here in Laos"
"No, we are just travelling through"
"Ah! I cannot issue you a visa I'm afraid, only those with resident status in Laos"
"Oh, Really, where can we get a visa?"
"Only London."
"well, unfortunately we won't be in London any time soon, and thus cant get a visa from there, anywhere else?"
"No, only London, its the same for Russians, they can only obtain a UK visa in Moscow"
"The Bangkok office seemed happy to issue them, they were just unsure due to the time scale"
"well, I don't know how the enforce the rules but I cannot give you a Visa here in Laos. Sorry."
so, next stop Bangkok again, which will hopefully conclude our tour of worldwide Russian embassies. Failing that we will have to try posting it to Hong Kong from inside China, but with only two weeks in the country and no address, it could be a problem!

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