Family and friends often tell us how happy they are for us - we're "living the dream!"
Generally speaking, they're right. Generally speaking, our smiling mugs on Facebook are accurate representations of our emotions and generally speaking, we are enjoying this whole travel thing. Twelve countries, four continents, 385 days and counting - generally speaking, we can't complain.
But nothing is perfect. Honestly, some days this whole travel thing just sucks. And more often than not, even if it doesn't suck it's a constant mental endurance test requiring seven tons of patience, two dozen ounces of flexibility, and acknowledgement that you are never in control.
Like today, for example. We were attempting to pre-arrange our Thai visas so that we wouldn't have to come back through Vientiane on our way into Thailand. Every blog and web site we read said it was easy peasey - get there early, have your passport photos and photocopies ready, have 1000 baht in hand, take your number, fill out your application, turn it in, come back the next day to pick up your passport. It would be a time investment with all the lines, but the process would be straightforward.
We borrowed bikes from the hotel, found a photocopy shop, found a money changer, and were on our way...
We knew that we had to go to the Thai consulate which is a separate building from the Thai embassy. Unfortunately, our hotel map labeled the embassy as the "consulate" so we still wound up at the wrong building. Fortunately, the embassy had a helpful map indicating the location of the consulate. Unfortunately, the street names didn't really match the map's street names. We also failed to notice that the embassy was closed. (That's called foreshadowing - it will be important later.)
After a lot of wandering and some vague help from locals who did their best to understand our questions and wave us in the right direction, we found the Thai consulate.
The gates were closed and locked. The grounds were empty. Where was the giant line we were promised?
A nice man came over and offered to make us photocopies. "No, we have photocopies - we just need to submit our forms." He replied, "Closed today - holiday. It will open at 830 tomorrow. Do you need photocopies?" No, thanks, still don't need photocopies. We don't need a tuk-tuk either. But thank you.
We stupidly believed our hotel manager last night who said there shouldn't be any holidays causing the consulate to close. We stupidly didn't check the handy Vientiane Thai embassy web site which clearly indicates that May 13 is a holiday and the embassy/consulate are closed. We stupidly thought we were being smart, showing up on a Tuesday instead of a busy Monday. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Now we are stuck in Vientiane for yet another day - another bloody hot day - while we try to take care of business on the busy day after a holiday, while our friend's vacation days whittle away, while we invest even more money into the city where we'd planned to spend two days at most, while all we want to do this afternoon is complain in a blog post and watch a table-tennis championship on television and listen to the afternoon monsoon rains pour...
Pretty dreamy, eh?