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An Unexpected Bangkok flight – Denied entry at Myanmar Airport

Posted: September 7th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Experience | No Comments »

I attended Oxbridge Alumni Dinner (South East Asia version) in Yangon, Myanmar last Saturday night. I planned to arrive 2 days earlier on Thursday so that I can visit the city (as I had never been to Yangon before), and it had only recently opened in 2011, making it easier for tourists to enter the country. A little bit background about me: I’m holding a Malaysian passport, and I have travelled to ASEAN countries like Thailand, Singapore (currently I’m working here), Indonesia, Brunei, and Asian countries like Taiwan and Hong Kong. I have to confess that I have taken for granted that I don’t have to apply for a visa to any ASEAN country. Little did I know, I was wrong. It was an embarrassment, but I decided to share it as I see it as a challenge and, ultimately, an adventure.

My flight was at 1:35 pm (Singapore time). At Singapore Changi Airport on Thursday afternoon, I showed all my documents, including the invitation letter from Oxbridge Alumni for the dinner to the officials before boarding. Everything seemed OK. I thought that I would be qualified for Visa on Arrival, too. Three hours later, I reached Yangon International Airport. I was then denied entry as I didn’t qualify for Visa on Arrival. The officials were actually quite helpful; they called their managers to deal this issue, and I explained to them that I had an invitation letter. We called the organiser of the Oxbridge alumni dinner, and the person in charge, Suriya, tried his best to explain to the officials, as well. Thirty minutes had gone by, and it was a fruitless attempt. I had to get a visa. The officials wanted to fly me back to Singapore or Malaysia (as I’m holding Malaysian Passport). It was a devastating moment, but I stayed calm and started to think of a strategy. It was roughly 5:30 pm (Singapore time), or 4:00 pm (Myanmar time).

I remembered having a conversation with someone who mentioned that I can get a visa in the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand in one day. I also remembered that I will have to wait for another day to collect my passport if were to do it in Singapore. Singapore is 3 hours away from Myanmar, whereas Thailand is about an hour away from Myanmar. I have never been to Bangkok in my life before, but I decided to fly to Bangkok instead of Singapore or Malaysia. The officials agreed, and within 15 minutes, I was already escorted to the boarding gate. The flight will take off in 30 minutes, at 4.50pm. I have about 30 minutes.

I have a good friend in Bangkok–someone that I knew from Afest 2 months ago. With the slightly unstable wireless at the airport, I quickly send him a message. We couldn’t talk on the phone as it was quite unclear, so I told him about the whole situation. I arranged my accommodation, somewhere nearby Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok. I also asked about transport from the airport to the hotel. Thanks to my friend Jop, the good friend of mine in Bangkok, we found a place near Silom. I had my hotel address ready and had the timing from airport to the hotel ready. We decided to meet up in Bangkok. Before I departed from Yangon Airport, I had already sorted out my accommodation and transportation, thanks largely to Jop who was so helpful. I believe that it was his office hours that time.

At 4: 50 pm, 1 hour and 20 minutes after I had arrived at Yangon immigration, I was in a plane heading to Bangkok, a place I have never stepped foot on before, a place in which I was there only for a purpose: to get a Myanmar visa.

There is a Chinese saying: Once you are here, just be comfortable with yourself in a new place. I decided to visit Bangkok that night (Thursday night) and the day after (Friday, the whole day). I will blog about my Bangkok (really unplanned and unexpected!) trip in another post.

 


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