Upon leaving Japan, something I had prepared for but still shocking occurred.
I had booked a business class flight with Air China from Japan to Ho Chi Minh City, and I was pretty excited about my flight. I arrived at Narita Airport and checked in at the counter. I gave the lady at the counter my passport, and she asked where I was going, I informed her that I was going to Ho Chi Minh, at this point I had not told her for how long. She asked me for my visa, note that, for British Citizens entering Vietnam up for 15 days we do not require a visa. I informed the lady, if I am going for up to 15 days, a visa is not required. Therefore, I didn’t understand why she was asking for one. You can also obtain a visa on arrival which is common and to be frank, and she should have known about this option.
Nevertheless, as I would be in Vietnam for five weeks, I had applied for a letter of invitation which I gave her. She gave the letter of invitation to two of her colleagues whom then inspected the letter for 20 minutes, they brought an iPad out and discussed the letter. I admit that I did not understand what they were saying but the constant picking up and looking at the letter made it very apparent what was happening.
While this was happening the check-in clerk asked me how long I would be staying in Vietnam, I informed her 2.5 weeks in Ho Chi Minh and 2.5 weeks in Hanoi. She asked me how would I be getting from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, and I was perplexed by this, I was tempted to say to her I plan to walk, but that would not have gotten me anywhere. She also wanted to know when I would be leaving Vietnam, and I informed her of the date. While I was providing her with this information, she wrote it all down, and I thought that was the end. However, I was wrong.
After she had finished noting all the information I had provided, she asked to see my flight details for my journey to Vietnam, and to Thailand which would be my next stop. At this point, I was getting very annoyed by her behaviour as I could see what her colleagues were doing with my letter of invitation.
I provided her copies of my flight details which I had in an email, and she checked the flight information to make sure this was accurate. If you could see the look on my face, it was clear I was angry, however, in these situations being angry and vocalising my frustration could easily stop me getting on the flight which I did not want.
The check-in clerk then dared to ask for my addresses in Vietnam, and now, I felt that she had gone too far with her questions. I declined to answer and informed her she does not need my addresses while in Vietnam as she is not the immigration officer and has enough information to know when I will be leaving Vietnam. She kept quiet! In hindsight, I should have said something sooner and this situation all of this would have ended. However, at the time all I wanted to do was get on my flight and move onto warmer climates.
I will be honest I felt there was a hint of racism in what had occurred. As I looked around me, none of the other passengers were going through the same questioning process as myself. Moreover, the checking in process does not take almost 40 minutes to complete when there are no issues! It left a slightly sour taste in my mouth, but I had to remind myself not everyone behaves in this way.