Officials in southeast asia. OMMMMMMM....

23. May 2023, Tuesday
5° 58' 36" N, 116° 3' 44" E

The nice thing about a holiday trip is the fact that you usually never come into contact with the authorities of the selected holiday countries. You stay in the selected country for 2, 3 or 4 weeks and the visa on entry is valid for at least that long. 

The situation is different if you are on a circumnavigation or a trip around the world on your own and often want to spend months or even years in one country. One is then, for better or for worse, dependent on the friendliness, inefficiency, incompetence or laziness of the officials. Sometimes it seems like a sudden, out of nowhere blow to the back of the officer's head is the cause of massive memory loss, until you realize...this is perfectly normal, he or she just doesn't know any better. It seems they don't suffer from amnesia, the gray hard drive in their head is not erased... It was never programmed!

Example visa extension in Kota Kinabalu.

Massive and imposing, the immigration building rises towards the sky. A whole microcosm has formed here. Everywhere there are fixers offering their services. Photographers hang a rag on the wall, and the photo studio is ready, "agents" who offer their services in exchange for money in the unmanageable flood of documents, others have brought a photocopier with them and offering their services to help stem the flood of bureaucracy. So that everything is correct, you also need a local "guarantor" in the case of a visa extension. You can also buy it here for the equivalent of 20 euros. 

Once you have cleared all these hurdles, you enter the temple of the immigration authorities. Now it's getting really exciting. At a large table sit 3 to 4 ladies in uniform guarding huge stacks of what appear to be important documents. The  “highly trained specialists” ask about our request and why we want this visa extension. We present documents and confirmations, the officers examine them with one eye and send us on to the next. 

It's 9 o'clock in the morning! 

The other lady tells us that we have to fill out one of the heavily guarded documents from the other 4 ladies' table, but that we need an agent and a "guarantor". So we got the document, back into the hustle and bustle at the entrance, find agents and guarantors for cash, fill out applications, get a stamp on the documents from another office and back where we were before. Now we can finally join the line of those waiting. 

Woohoo, what a success! 

At around 2 p.m. it is finally our turn and we are told that we have to go to another office.

As respectful guests of a country, we also follow this request and wait again to find out that we should come back the next day because it's over for today. Well, finally, with the help of a friendly and helpful officer, it worked and we received our visa extension.

The list of such inefficient bureaucracies is endless in many tropical countries. Even the smallest task becomes an insurmountable intellectual challenge for the local official.

Another example:

We would like to anchor in Gaya National Park. We ask for a permit in the marina. They don't know anything either and call the park administration. No problem. Rangers are there and issue the permit for a fee. Ah, wonderful!

We anchor in a lonely bay, happy to be in nature again after all the hustle and bustle in the city. Around midnight we hear a call. A boat of the "Park Ranger" stands next to Odin with blue lights and asks us for our permit … at midnight. 

We explain that we have the info from their main office, we get the permit from them. Negotiating, explaining, laughing, nothing helps, the six bored officers insist that we leave the anchorage at midnight because of the danger. If we had a permit it would be ok. 

What logic!

So we weigh anchor in the middle of the night and motor back to Kota Kinabalu. We stay a few days in the marina to take care of the necessary documents. 

On Saturday I visit the office of the park administration which the “important” rangers gave me. I find out that I'm in the wrong place here, but have to go to the main office on the other side of town. But this won't be open again until Monday. 

Monday we are there and the ladies don't know what we want from them. They send us in the opposite direction to another office of the authority, but they don't know what to do with us either and send us back to the office where we were on Saturday. 

After several officials from the deep valley of the unsuspecting tried to send us back to the previous office I was about to lose my patience, but at the same time, I remember that in Southeast Asia there is no point in losing patience, then those affected immediately become stubborn. 

My advice: Never raise your voice in Southeast Asia, but always remain calm and friendly. Finally, after many discussions and phone calls, one of the officials finally managed to find a solution to our problem.

We can pay directly to the park rangers on site.