Saturday, February 7, 2015

Corrupt Customs and Travelling While Ill

I've sort of been putting off this post. Don't get me wrong, I've really wanted to rip Indonesia a new one for their airport. I've never actually berated anyone on this blog before though. Even if they deserved it.

Indonesia customs deserves it. So here is the story of  my flight back from Malaysia to Indonesia, the worst trip ever.

The last picture before I got horribly ill.

On our last day in Malaysia we ate at this kind of scuzzy looking outdoor food market. Now, I have no idea if this is what actually made me sick, but it definitely began here. We were eating noodle soup when I started to feel very hot and sweaty, even though it a fine temperature. On the car ride back to the hotel my stomach started to churn and hurt.

What followed was some of the worst food poisoning I've ever had. I ended up being sick for around three days. Not a good time. Poor YC and his family took great care of me though. Especially YC, I tend to cry when I'm ill. I cried a lot this time. I even skyped my mom to cry.

Before those parts though, was the trip back to Indonesia. Of course I started my death-by-food poisoning about an hour before we had to take a flight.

So I rode a 40 minute train to the airport, while feeling like I was going to puke my guts out any second. We got to the airport and while YC and his family ate some food, I curled up with my head on the table and tried not to die.

I swear I had to run to the bathroom at least five times in the hour or so we were at the airport, it may have been more. I was too miserable and half delirious to even feel embarrassed about the whole thing. (Though I'm embarrassed when I think about it now).

Luckily a combination of chewing gum constantly and dozing helped me survive the flight with only one bathroom run. Fun fact: In my experience chewing mint gum helps with nausea more than anything else I've tried. I get carsick easily, so I always bring a bunch of gum on car rides.

I survived the flight, and actually felt a bit better (that didn't last very long before I was back to being super ill). Then came the trials of the Indonesian airport.

Our first time coming to Indonesia was not too bad, since we flew late at night and no one was there. So we managed customs fairly quickly with no hassles. Of course the day I felt like death did not run smoothly.

It started with huge lines to go through customs, and only two people working. Plus, there is nor warning for people who need visas that there is a seperate line to get your visa before going through customs. So quite a few people made it through the line, only to find out  they needed to go into another line to get their visa first. Luckily we had figured this out last time, and I wasn't one of those people.
Still, the line took around an hour, and there weren't even that many people coming in. (Compared to say, Singapore, where the lines were just as long but moved very quickly.  Plus there were more than two customs agents working.)
When I first was travelling to Indonesia, YC's dad warned me to always check my passport to make sure everything was correct when I got it stamped. He cautioned that sometimes Indonesian officials will stamp incorrectly, causing you to technically be in the country illegally. It is some sort of awful money making scheme. I'm glad he warned me, because every country I had been in before was trustworthy with immigration.

Thank god I'd been warned. On my second time into Indonesia, the official attempted to steal my visa. Granted, it could have been some sort of mistake on his part, but it definitely appeared purposeful. After he handed my passport back, I check for all my stamps, which were correct, but I had no visa. I flipped through a couple times quickly to check, but it was nowhere. I hadn't walked more than two steps away, so it was easy to go back and demand it. I waited until the people behind me were finished, then slid back up to the window and pointed to my visa. I informed the official that the ripped off part of my visa he was supposed to give back was not inside.
The man glared at me and literally threw the visa to me. His reaction, and how quickly he found the visa to give back, made me believe he had purposefully kept it. He even had a small pile of them beside him. I wouldn't be surprised to find out some other travelers coming in that day had a hard time departing Indonesia.

The seemingly corrupt customs worker was just the cherry on top of a horrible trip. I've never been so pissed and miserable travelling before.

The moral of this story is twofold:
1. Travelling while sick is one of the worst experiences ever, and will probably lead to tears.
2. Please, if you ever visit Indonesia, check your passport before you exit customs. I would hate for any of you to end up without your visa.

Part of me never wants to go back to Indonesia after everything, but I have heard Bali is lovely. So, maybe one day I will forgive them and give it a second try.
But you can be sure I will check my passport thoroughly.

Can you tell I still have mild food poisoning in this picture? Haha.

Have you ever had trouble with customs? Anything shady ever happen to you with officials in another country? Ever had to travel while ill? I'd love to hear your stories.

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