China Sea Ping-Pong or How Not To Enter China

After having the most comfortable Japanese experience on my way to Tokyo – bento box with Yamazaki whiskey on the bullet train to Tokyo I spent a few days catching up with old work colleagues and friends and re-acquainting myself with the Tokyo I lived in for 8 months. Somewhat comfortingly but strangely Tokyo seemed almost completely unchanged versus when I left in 2008.

One of the few new sights was the Tokyo Sky Tree a 630m TV tower with shopping plaza and observation decks giving a stunning panorama over the metropolis. At the end of our stay we headed to Haneda airport for our 1am flight to Shanghai.

I had visited Shanghai earlier in the year in January on a multiple entry visa and planned to use the second entry on this trip – or so I thought. Arriving in Shanghai at 0430 in the morning and getting first to immigration I was told that the visa was no good.

On the visa is had an ‘Enter Before’ which I expected was for the first entry but was actually for all entries – effectively an expiry date for the visa. Oops!!

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Enter Before is expiry – well out of date!

The Chinese immigration authorities weren’t minded to grant me an emergency visa, a fact no doubt re-inforced by me telling them I wanted to travel around for a month but with no firm itinerary or bookings!

After a couple of hours of people coming and going and looking at my travel documents and passport I was told the first flight back with same airline to Japan was at 0830 to Osaka. Having no sleep and not many good choices I got the ticket.

I was escorted out to collect my bag, and through to the checkin desk skipping myriad lines on the way. Back through immigration side channels and down the gangway to my return flight – first to board.

I joked to the immigration official that although I didn’t get VIP treatment on the way in I certainly was getting it on the way out – we had a laugh and he wished me well.

Another 3 hour flight later I arrived back in Kansai airport to very polite questions as to why I had visited China for only 4 hours. A single man with a backpack who had done an overnight run to China – must have stuck out like a right dodgy case to customs. I didn’t need them to send me back to China and become stuck in the airline version of limbo!

Once in Osaka I gathered myself and was counting my lucky stars that the entry refusal had happened from Japan and not at a dusty border town on the train from Mongolia as was the original itinerary. On the upside there are far worse places to have to spend a few extra days than Japan.

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