*This is going to be a very long read so grab yourself a cuppa something and sip from it while reading. Leggo! *
As I hailed a taxi, I realized that there was going to be a problem. As I had thought I was leaving Thailand, I had tried to use up all my Thai baht so I didn’t have much money left. I decided to negotiate the price of the journey before getting into any taxi.
An elderly driver came to me, checked the paper given to me by the customer support lady in the airport with presumably the name and address of where I was going to and asked me something in Thai. I had absolutely no idea of what his question was. In English, he said “Malaysia” and I responded “Malaysian embassy”. He nodded, loaded my suitcases in the boot and I got in at the back. Some minutes later, he asked “highway?” Thinking that it would be much faster by avoiding Bangkok traffic and only one tollgate, I said “yes”. The driver continued to the highway, drove through one toll gate, I paid; went through another, I paid; Doubled back and returned through the other side of the toll gate, turned to me to ask for the toll fare, I paid somewhat angry realizing that I wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the fare. Throughout the ride, he kept bugging me about something, winking at me and tapping the seat next to him. I just sat at the back completely ignoring me praying that he would actually take me to my destination. After like an hour, the driver turned to ask me how to get to “Malaysia”. By then, I had started losing it! I replied “Malaysian embassy? I don’t know. Look at your GPS”. He continued to drive around and then into somewhere with a Malaysian flag. He came down, offloaded my suitcases and said “Malaysia” gesturing towards the entrance of the building. The sign on the building read “Welcome to Malaysia Hotel”. I got upset and reminded him that I was going to the embassy stressing the word EMBASSY. I started to wonder what the girl in the airport had written on the paper. The guy too got angry and started saying lots of things I did not understand. I found a man who agreed to help with translations. He finally agreed to take me to the embassy and got the directions from the hotel. 30 minutes later, I was dropped in front of the embassy by an angry man who practically threw my suitcases out in the rain. Oh! Did I forget to mention that it was raining heavily then! I told him thanks in Thai and gave him all the money I had left. He smiled, counted it and started to frown saying something about the money. I guessed he was referring to that fact that the taxi fare was short by 50 baht. Being a Naija girl, I held on to my bags tightly and said In English not caring if he understood or not “When you were busy going back and forth through toll gates, you did not know abi!” and then shook my wallet for him to see that there was no money in it. He entered his vehicle, spewing insulting-sounding words at me and drove off.
PHASE 2: Getting the visa
There was a long queue inside the embassy. By the time it got to my turn, it was about a quarter to 11. The lady offhandedly told me that I could apply for a visa to Malaysia, that they might approve it or not and that I would get the answer in 2 days. I started pleading with her, telling her how I needed the visa for that day. She asked me to read the “no express visa” sign and even insisted that I read it aloud for her to hear. I wanted to slap her but I stayed calm and read out the words. I continued to plead and told her how I had to be in Poland the day after for an important meeting I could not miss. At that point, I was just saying anything to show how badly I needed a visa that day. She asked for the proof that I had booked a flight to France from Malaysia. I showed her my tickets. She asked for the tickets from Paris to Warsaw, I showed her. After letting me speak (for what seemed like eternity), she told me to try my luck and that she was sure that it would not be approved and how next time, I should check and crosscheck my papers 100 times before entering a plane. She gave me the form and asked me to write a letter to the consulate stating my case.
I had no Thai baht to pay for the visa application fee and she said they only accepted baht. By this time, she looked quite irritated with me. I also needed to take a passport photograph as I had none with me. I asked the security guard for where I could take a passport photograph and change money. He nicely agreed that I could leave me suitcases his him and borrowed me an umbrella. I walked to the bank and changed money at a terrible rate. At the bank, it seemed like they had never seen pound notes before. I had to keep repeating over and over again that they were “pounds”. They kept verifying the notes again and again. At one point, like 10 ladies were staring at the notes I had given them. They asked if I was from England, I said “no” and the verification process started all over again.
I finally left the bank and headed to where they said I could take passport photographs. In the rain, the ten minutes’ walk they described to me took about 20 minutes. I had to keep asking for the way. I got to where the passport photograph was to be taken. I looked angry in the picture! I couldn’t care less. As the downpour had reduced to a drizzle, I decided to take a motorcycle ride back to the embassy. I had less than 30 minutes to apply for the visa. I ran in, hurriedly wrote a letter, shooed off a guy who was asking everyone if they knew “Ramadan” and asking that they help him write an official letter that he was going to Malaysia for Ramadan. At 12, the embassy was closed for break and we were all asked to leave.
Phase 3: the wait
I walked into the nearest hotel, a posh one and walked into the reception area. I asked for an electrical socket to charge my phone. I ordered sausages, green vegetables and water (it was the cheapest on the menu) and proceeded to wait till 1:30 when the embassy was to be reopened after the break. In the meantime, I checked for flights to Warsaw for the day after (in case I would have to miss my flight), saw the flight prices, almost got a heart attack and quickly closed the pages. I called Air France and asked if they could move my flight. The guy said “no and explained how my ticket had the no refund/change policy on it. He asked why I couldn’t take my flight. I proceeded to explain the whole visa situation to him and he then agreed to change my flight for 250 euros. This option seemed like the best one I had. I unfortunately really couldn’t confirm when I wanted the date to be changed to as I needed to get a feedback from the embassy first. He said I should call him before 5 PM to let him know.
Phase 4: The turn to God
I started to pray hard that I would get the visa that day as I walked back to the embassy. When I got there, I asked the receptionist if there was any feedback for me. She coldly told me to come back at 3PM to check. I walked to the waiting area and sat down, feeling very miserable. She went like “Madam, you don’t have to wait here, please leave and come back by 3. Maybe it would have been approved or rejected by then”. I just remained seated and said nothing. After about 15 minutes of me staring at her and her pointedly ignoring me and some other people, she left her window stand. 5 minutes later, she beckoned to me. I walked to the reception point and she smiled at me and said how lucky I was and how my visa was approved and how the consulate general felt sorry for me and blah blah blah. I was sooooo happy, collected my passport and was about to run out when she called me back and said that the consular wanted to meet me. A nice woman in hijab came out, asked how I was, asked where I lived in Poland and told me that she had been to Warsaw before and told me to always double-check things and said that I should make sure I had at least 50 dollars or its equivalent in any currency with me. I told her I did and thanked her profusely. I got a taxi and it took me about 35 minutes to get to the airport. We passed through only one toll gate. Shame on the morning driver!
Phase 5: the new Malaysian flight policies
I had to buy another flight ticket for Malaysia but I had been told that I could transfer my paid luggage to the new ticket. The cashier spent eternity staring at my passport, visa, other flight tickets and residence permit. Next thing, a call was placed to Abuja to verify something. I kept asking her what was going on and I was told to wait. I waited for 25 minutes! I got the ticket and then proceeded to check in. The guy at the counter asked how I got a visa that same day. I replied that the consular general was nice. He did not seem to believe me and then a call was placed presumably to the Malaysian embassy. Satisfied, he asked if I was carrying any money and how much I had on me. I replied “Yes, 100 dollars”. He walked over to his supervisor and came back saying “Sorry Madam, you cannot fly to Malaysia. One of the requirements to enter Malaysia is that the passenger needs to have 1000 dollars cash”. I completely lost it and told him that he clearly did not know what he was saying. I showed him a letter that came with the visa that read that it was 50 dollars per day and as I was only going to be in Malaysia for 2 hours, that meant, I needed to have only 50 dollars. He looked confused walked to his supervisor and then came back. He said “Madam, we just checked with Malaysia, they say as a Nigerian, you need to have 1000 US Dollars on you”. I angrily told him that they were all confused and that as a Nigerian, you needed to have a yellow fever card with you (knowing fully well that I didn’t even have the card with me). This annoying guy refused to answer me and still managed to smile whenever he looked at me. I was so mad. I asked him if I could show him my bank account instead. He smiled and said “no Madam. Cash only”. I started producing all the money I had on me – Euros, Pounds, Malaysian ringgits, Polish zlotys, Thai baht. The guy calmly did the conversions and told me that I needed to produce more money and that he would be satisfied with 500 dollars more. I told him how I did not want to withdraw any money because of the terrible rate at the airport. He smiled at me and said that I had no choice. There was an American that they were giving hell to too and both of us joined forces to tell the guy how all of them were completely confused and just saying anything they liked and trying to pass them off as rules. My flight was at 5 PM. At 4:30, seeing that the guy won’t bulge, I asked him if I could withdraw foreign currency from the ATMS. He smiled and told me to go and check. I went and came back to tell him that I could only withdraw in baht. He glared at me and said “This is Thailand!” I got sooo angry and started saying how I did not want any more useless Thai baht and blah blah bah. Yes, I called their money useless; I was extremely upset. He just acted like I wasn’t there. Mind you, there were two other people with issues saying all sorts of things too. He just sat there ignoring us all. At quarter to 5, he calmly told me that the gates were about to close for boarding and that he would move me to the 7PM flight. “That isn’t possible!” I thought, “I would most likely miss my flight to France!” I ran to the ATM, withdrew the money and ran to show him. He counted it ever so slowly, stamped my ticket, checked in my bag and asked an attendant to go with me through the gates so that I would be allowed through.
Phase 6: Malaysia at last
We landed in Malaysia and absolutely no one asked me for proof of money! Shame on Thailand! Malaysia, however, started its own check processes. A Nigerian who spends a few days in Malaysia, goes to Thailand and is going to Poland seemed very suspect to them. I was asked a billion times what I was doing in Malaysia and Thailand and why I was not returning to Nigeria. I explained that I lived in Poland and showed my residence card. Each time, they would ask what the card I was showing them was. Lights were shown through the card and at one point, the guy bent the card in two like he was going to break it. I shouted “hey! What do you think you are doing?” He ignored me and placed the card on the table, it lay flat. He looked satisfied and stamped my ticket.
Boarding the plane, each passenger just showed their blue or black passports and were ushered in with a smile and wished a safe flight. Me with my green passport, not so lucky! I was pulled aside for final check with passengers with their “annoying” blue passports passing by staring at me and one Chinese guy quizzically. We were finally ushered through.
In the flight, I kept asking for more food as I was practically starving. It seemed like the longest flight I had ever flown (actually, it was). I had never been so happy to land in Paris. I smiled happily at the taste of freedom and looked forward eagerly to the flight to Poland. Yes, for the first time in my life, I was super happy to arrive in Poland!