We finally arrived in Almaty on the 2nd September only to discover that the Chinese embassy in Kazakhstan is the hardest place to enter on earth. They should keep nuclear weapons there. People spend days queuing only to be told that they are now at the back of the queue, or that they are at the wrong door, or that they forgot to pick up a ticket and have no place in the queue. Some Australians who spoke perfect Mandarin were just told to go away. We tried a travel agent that had been recommended but he said that it was now impossible for him to get visas. We eventually found another travel agent who said that US$500 should be able to get one, but when he rang up his contact they said that this 'superb' deal had stopped in mid August. We investigated sending our passports by DHL to friends in HK who would try and get the visa for us, but all the travel agents said that they needed to see our HK entry stamps in our passport or pass our ID card information to the Chinese embassy. Even this inspired idea was doomed to failure and we also risked waiting 10 days and failing anyway. We also didn't want to do anything that would get us into trouble in China.
By now it was the 6th September and we were left with a horrible dilemna; either carry on back to Europe or fly over China to either Pakistan or India, neither option being ideal. We cursed the Olympics, we cursed the Tibetan protesters, we cursed the Chinese government, we even tried blaming each other but when we enquired about air tickets to India another outrageous idea popped into our heads...........
The following morning we were on an Air Astana flight to Bangok, followed by an Air Asia flight to Macau and a Hydrofoil to Hong Kong. Two days later we had a proper Chinese visa and then 3 days after that another Kazakh visa so that we could re-enter Kazakhstan. After a surreal 10 days in HK visiting friends and scaring them to death by just turning up at their houses with no warning, we landed back in Almaty on the 18th September and on the 20th we were back on our bikes. This has to be one of the most expensive 'visa-runs' ever!!!!!!!
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