Days 578-582: A Passage To India

02.08.10-06.08.10:

Monday morning bright and early, the wonderful Pamela drove me to the Bur Dubai area of town and I headed over to the CMA-CGM offices to meet Barry Dinnadge, the fine chap I had met over a game of pool in Rock Bottom all those weeks ago.  As luck would have it, he’s the CMA-CGM agent who was responsible for chucking my ass on the CMA-CGM Jade.

After a cup of tea and a natter, I headed out for my last two errands of Dubai – post my tapes and old Dell Boy back to the UK and buy myself a spare battery for Sony Jim here.  Tasks done, I waved goodbye to the old place (whose culture stretches back decades) and was whisked, courtesy of Mr. Dinnadge, over to Jebel Ali port for boarding.  Of course The Odyssey wouldn’t be The Odyssey without some shenaniganing at border control.

I had gone one day over my visa.  I knew this and had called up immigration a few days ago and asked what I should do.  The nice Indian lady explained that I had a “10 day period of grace” that comes with having a UK passport.  Of course, the guys at the border control had never heard of such a thing.  Neither had they heard of an English guy coming from Saudi Arabia overland only to leave on a ship.  Unfortunately for me, neither had their computer.  As I was obviously a deranged serial killer intent on sneaking into countries with my repertoire of cleverly-faked visas, I was made to wait for an hour or so.  Wouldn’t have been so bad if the other security guards hadn’t recognised me off the telly and spent most of the time posing for photos with me.  If you know who I am, then surely you know…?

Oh —- it.  Let’s just wait, shall we?

So (eventually) I clambered aboard the good ship Jade and after introducing myself to the captain and crew, all of whom (save Vladimir the Russian) hailed from Burma, I decided to nurse my monumental headache (self imposed, I’m sure) in my cabin.

A couple of days later and we had arrived in Pakistan.  My 162nd nation of The Odyssey Grand Tour Du Monde, and one that I thought would never come.  But here I was on an overcast Wednesday in port in the Land of the Pure.

Little note about Lands of the Pures: they NEVER work.  Never in a month of Sundays.  Of course there have been many attempts in history: the British expulsion of the Jews in the 14th century, the crackdown on the Huguenots under Louis XIV, the burning of Protestants at the stake by the good queen Mary, the Nazi’s nightmarish dream of world dominated by the so-called ‘Aryan’ race, and here in Pakistan we have the case study to blow all the other case studies out of the water.

A demented dream formulated in an Oxford Common Room in the 1930s (the decade of demented dreams) of a land where Muslims can live in peace and harmony and… HA!  Yeah.  Right.  To wit: The Partition of India: 1,000,000 dead.  Two wars with India (both lost).  Hundreds of thousands dead.  A war with East Pakistan (lost!) resulting in the birth of Bangladesh.  Al Qaeda, The Taliban, suicide bombers blowing up mosques, the Massacre in Mumbai, the Kashmir conflict, nuclear proliferation, a billion coup d’etats, the assassination of Benazir Bhutto… damnit, Pakistan.  You FAIL.  You FAIL on a grand scale.  You even fail on an African scale.

You see what the problem is?  Any Land of the Pure™ will by its very nature activate and encourage the crazies.  Look at those weirdos with the curly sideburns running around Palestinian territory clutching a gun and a copy of the Bible, building settlements and, (one would assume) howling at the moon.  No other country would tolerate such nonsense from the loony fringe, but a Land of the Pure™ must, because although these are seriously unhinged individuals (who are about as in touch with reality as a coma patient with a Napoleon complex) they are members of the ‘Pure’.  Oh joy.

Anyway, I’m with Ghandi on this one (actually I’m with Ghandi on a LOT of stuff, moreso than the Indians, although to be fair, it was them who shot him), Partition was a bad, bad, bad idea.

INT. CONGRESS PARTY HQ, CLOUD CITY, 1947 – DAY

Old friends JAWALHARLAL NERHU and MOHANDAS GHANDI walk down a corridor towards a conference room, deep in conversation.

NERHU: …but I’ve just cut a deal that will keep The Empire out of here for good.

Nerhu activates a door.  It slides open to reveal… DARTH JINNAH!!

Ghandi SHOOTS his PASSIVE RESISTANCE at Jinnah, who just crumples it IN HIS FIST!

JINNAH: I would be honoured if you would join us.

NERHU (to Ghandi): He arrived just before you did. I’m sorry.

GHANDI: I bet you are.  Friend.

But here we are.  We can’t change the past, we’re kinda stuck with it.  I just don’t like places founded on religious principles – Pakistan, Israel, Vatican City, Saudi Arabia – they are all deeply silly regions which only encourage deeply silly children who have not (and will never) grow up.  I prefer places founded because people lived there and they all got along and decided it would all be in their best interests if they didn’t run about (usually, might I add, in a dress) screaming about what an invisible man who lives in the sky may or may not have said.  And blowing stuff up.

Oh, it’s nice to have got the Middle East out of the way so I can say stuff like that without fear of having my head chopped off.  No, seriously.

Anyway, as we were hitting Pakistan, it was a Security Level 2 situation on board, which pretty much meant lockdown for us passengers (that would be just me, then).  The crew did allow me to scoot down the gangplank at run about in circles in the port going w00t w00t, but only for about 30 seconds and then I had to run back onboard and hide in my cabin LIKE A COWARDLY FISH.

And that was my ‘visit’ to Pakistan.  I’m glad.  It would have been a LOT of messing to get a visa for the place and, lets face it, it’s one of the seven active warzones left on the planet (according to Wikipedia) and ginger boys with neat hats are high on the list of know-your-enemy silhouettes.

We were in Karachi Port for about a day.  On Thursday we set off towards the swirling monsoon storms that heralded our passage towards India, the great sub-continent.  One of the crew was getting promoted, so I was invited to join the chaps on a barbecue on deck.  It was like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party and I was the only one wearing a hat.  Sheltered from the wind on the port side of the ship, the vessel leered menacingly in the choppy waters and the containers (hundreds of ‘em) creaked and moaned like somebody was going a little overboard on the old ghost ship sound effects.

Meanwhile we stuffed our faces with beef and chicken and pork (YES!), drank copious amounts of Becks beer and Johnnie Walker and sang to the sirens with a yo-ho-ho and a (literal) bottle of rum.  Before long I was DJing the crew aftershow and rocking out with my air guitar while the officers sung Burmese karaoke on the deck below.

Nice!

The next day the combination of the booze and the waves made me a little worse for wear, but on the Saturday we had arrived.

I had made it to India.  Country 163.  At bloomin’ last.  It’s frickkin’ AUGUST!!  I better get my skates on.

Cheap Flights to India

THE ODYSSEY WORLD VISA GUIDE

One of the things that holds back many people from travelling is the prospect of wasting time and effort attempting to get into countries that would quite prefer it if you didn’t bother.  However, it is a false presumption.  In more than 150 countries worldwide you can turn up without shelling out $$$ for an invitation first.

So here’s a comprehensive list of the visa requirements for British Passport Holders for every country in the world, although it may come in useful for other nationalities as well.

I’ve split the world into four main categories: No Visa Required, Visa On Arrival, Prior Visa Required and Letter of Invitation (LOI) Required.

No Visa Required: You beauties!! Note the (very) high prevalence of prosperous, confident and democratic countries in this list.

Visa on Arrival: Not quite as good as no visa at all, but much, much less hassle than:

Prior Visa/LOI required: Crikey. What a bitch. Don’t turn up without a visa to any of the countries on this (mercifully short) list of grubby and inhospitable nations.  They will fly you straight back home again at your expense because you didn’t ask their f—ing permission first.  So go queue outside their ostentatious embassies in the pouring rain for hours, pay them a bundle of fivers and then wait and wait and wait for the privilege of visiting their stupid godforsaken country.

I find the whole process quite demeaning – it’s like having to write to someone to ask if you can attend their wedding – take the hint man, take the hint – these countries are obviously not much interested in you, or tourism in general.

Many of these countries hilariously require an onward ticket, some want you to write a begging letter to come in, others want a letter off your employer or even copies of your bank statements… remember this is not to LIVE THERE, this is just to VISIT FOR A FEW DAYS.

The worst of the worst require a Letter of Invitation (LOI) – I’ve cast these down into the very lowest rungs of hell.  Not only do you have to pay extortionate amounts of money to Ambassador Ratbag for the stamp, you also have to pay someone in the country to ‘vouch’ for you.

I would actually like a list of all of the illegal refugees and economic migrants pouring out of our rich democratic nations and claiming asylum in… Nigeria? Papua New Guinea? TURKMENISTAN?? Seriously? WHAT?

I hold Australia in particular contempt for this policy – it is the ONLY rich westernised power on an otherwise quite hellish list of paranoid basketcases.

Oh, and by the way, Aussie tourists are granted a SIX MONTH stay in the UK, upon arrival, for free.  So, Australia, when you ask me in your rasping nasal tones where the bloody hell am I – I guess I’m in a country that welcomes me with open arms rather than a punch in the face and a bill of sale.

But look on the bright side, there are 150 (other, better) countries which don’t make you beg for permission to pop in for a visit…

Here’s your at-a-glance VISA MAP OF THE WORLD:

World Visa Requirement Map
World Visa Requirement Map For British Passport Holders

NO VISA REQUIRED (WOO!)

AMERICAS
Antigua & Barbuda
Argentina
Bahamas
Barbados
Belize
Bolivia
Brazil
Canada
Chile
Colombia
Costa Rica
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
El Salvador
Grenada
Guatemala
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Mexico
Nicaragua
Panama
Paraguay
Peru
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and The Grenadines
Trinidad & Tobago
Uruguay
USA (but you do need a prior visa if you arrive on private boat or plane)
Venezuela

EUROPE
Albania
Andorra
Austria
Belgium
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bulgaria
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Georgia
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Kosovo
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands
Norway
Poland
Portugal
Romania
San Marino
Serbia
Slovakia
Slovenia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
UK
Ukraine
Vatican City

AFRICA
Botswana
Burkina Faso
Lesotho
Malawi
Mali
Mauritius
Namibia
Rwanda
Senegal
Seychelles
South Africa
Swaziland
The Gambia
Tunisia
Morocco

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Bahrain
Iraq (Kurdistan only, entered from Turkey)
Israel
Japan
Jordan (if you enter on the ferry from Egypt)
Kuwait
Oman
Palestine
Qatar
South Korea
Taiwan
The Maldives
UAE
Yemen

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Brunei
Fiji
Kiribati
Malaysia
Marshall Islands
Micronesia
New Zealand
Palau
Samoa
Singapore
Solomon Islands
Thailand
The Philippines
Tonga
Tuvalu
Vanuatu

VISA ON ARRIVAL

AMERICAS
Cuba (well, I got a visa on arrival, but I came on a yacht…)

EUROPE
Armenia
Turkey

AFRICA
Benin
Burundi
Cape Verde
Comoros
Egypt
Kenya
Mauritania
Mozambique
Sierra Leone
Tanzania
Togo
Uganda
Zambia
Zimbabwe

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Jordan
Lebanon
Nepal
Sri Lanka
Syria

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Burma (but only valid for border regions)
Cambodia
East Timor (though no longer available on land border with Indonesia)
Indonesia (though not available on land borders with East Timor and PNG)
Laos

That’s over 150 countries where you can get in without asking prior permission.  Now here’s the naughty list:

PRIOR VISA REQUIRED

AMERICAS
Suriname (letting the side down there somewhat)
Cuba (but I doubt they’d turn you back)

EUROPE
Belarus (no surprise there – they still have the KGB)

AFRICA
Cameroon
Central African Republic
Chad
Congo
Cote D’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of Congo
Djibouti
Eritrea (best obtained in Jeddah – next day delivery)
Ethiopia (best obtained in Nairobi – same day delivery)
Gabon
Ghana
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Liberia
Madagascar (but it’s free, so can’t complain)
Niger
Sao Tome & Principe
Sudan (best obtained in Cairo – same day delivery)

ASIA
Afghanistan
Bangladesh
Bhutan
Burma (for travel into interior)
China
India (AND now requires you to leave for 60 days between visits!)
Iraq (for travel beyond Kurdistan)
Kyrgyzstan
Mongolia
Tajikistan

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Australia*
Papua New Guinea
Vietnam*

*visa obtainable on arrival at airport with prior permission over internet

LETTER OF INVITATION (+ PRIOR VISA) REQUIRED

AMERICAS
N/A

EUROPE
Azerbaijan (no LOI required if visa bought in Georgia)
Russia

AFRICA
Algeria*
Angola*
Equatorial Guinea*
Libya (AND you must pay for a ‘guide’)
Nigeria*
Somalia*

THE MIDDLE EAST/ASIA
Iran
Kazakhstan
North Korea
Pakistan
Saudi Arabia*
Turkmenistan
Uzbekistan

SE ASIA/OCEANIA
Nauru

*To make matters worse, these visas can only be obtained in your country of origin (although it is possible to get a Nigerian visa from Ghana and an Algerian visa from Mali if you’re lucky).

Right.  That’s it.  If there are any mistakes/updates/excuses you’d like to make (this is pretty much all off the top of my head), please comment below.