Ahh, Sydney, Australia, the next stop on my “F**k It” World Tour. Earlier in the year—June 29th to be exact—I finished my teaching contract with an English training center in my home of Shanghai, and with that, I had the next 3 months to do nothing but travel before securing another job.
By mid-August I made trips to Wenchang, China to view my first ever rocket launch, spent 5 days in Hong Kong with a friend, and made a big solo trip to Dubai, which turned out to be one of my dopest adventures ever. It was paradise; I went wherever I wanted at any time just as long as the price was reasonable, alah, my “F**k-It-Just-Go” World Tour.
And then came the time to travel to Sydney, Australia, but my plan to explore the “down under” didn’t start off as smooth as I had hoped. Actually, I didn’t even plan it at all.
Trouble in Paradise: Getting to Sydney, Australia
Before landing in Sydney, well, I had actually planned to tour India for 4 days. I bought roundtrip plane tickets to New Dehli, booked a hotel—paid upfront, mind you—and was thoroughly excited to finally see the Tahj Mahal. And then the day arrived.
I showed up at Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, made my way to the check-in counter, and WHAM: “Do you have a visa?”. “Sure, my Chinese visa is right here”. “No, do you have a visa for India? You need one”. F@#! Trouble in paradise.
The entire thought of getting a visa to India had completely slipped my mind. COMPLETELY. I asked about visa on arrival; nope, their airport supposedly didn’t offer it. Then I checked online, to which I discovered that I’d need at least 3 days for processing. To add icing on the cake, the flights and hotel were both non-refundable. I was s**t out of luck.
There were two options: just take the loss—a 3700 RMB ($550) loss—and head back home to plan for another day, or, still hop on the plane to Hong Kong, of which I had a layover, and buy a ticket to another region that would cost less than flying from Shanghai. This was my “F**k It” World Tour, so of course I chose the latter of the two.
By mid-afternoon I landed in Hong Kong, researched cheap places to visit, and finally decided to hit Sydney, Australia, a travel destination down the line on my bucket list. “F**k it”.
More Trouble in Paradise
I applied for an instant visa document online and bought a cheap one-way ticket to Sydney, Australia from an agent counter at the airport. Why one-way? Because the agency was charging a ridiculous price for the return trip, even though it was listed significantly cheaper online.
I had about an hour and half before the flight left so I figured I check-in first then buy my return ticket and book my hotel. Silly me.
At the counter I was questioned as to why I didn’t have any luggage to check-in—it was winter in Australia and they thought I needed more clothes—a ticket of out Sydney, nor a hotel booked, even though I told them my India story and that I planned to book both right after checking in. They weren’t buying it.
Afterwards they decided to call an Australian immigration officer to come and investigate. I had been officially flagged.
The immigration officer arrived promptly and immediately started asking questions. He was very polite but ridiculously thorough, so much so that it was annoying. He started off asking the same questions: where I was from, what was I doing in China, why I was traveling to Sydney, and what did I plan to do there. Then came the heavy hitters: he requested to see some type of bank statement or proof that I had enough cash for my trip, and to see a teaching certificate of some sort from my time in China.
This was getting aggravating. I didn’t have any teaching certificate so I wound up pulling up some pictures of myself with colleagues and students from my previous job. Check. I had yet to exchange my Chinese Renminbi to Australian Dollars so I showed him a bank statement from an app on my phone. Check.
The next task was purchasing a return flight, booking a hotel, and exchanging cash. All were done within the next half an hour. Finished, right? Wrong!
By the time I arrived back at the immigration officer he was accompanied by a colleague, to which I had to explain my story and answer questions ALL OVER AGAIN. What’s more, I had already missed my flight and would have to take the next trip out that left an hour later should I have been approved.
After a long while of examinations they had finally approved me to hop aboard my Qantas flight to Sydney. Finally, I could relax.
The Last Bit of Trouble
Nine hours later I was thrilled to have arrived in Sydney, Australia. It was pretty cold but not freezing, and the scenery surrounding the airport was stunning. I made my way to the front of immigration, handed over my passport, and less than a minute later, was told that I needed to speak to a security officer. Sh*t!
The officer asked all of the SAME questions AGAIN. This time I was rather visibly annoyed, but I managed to stay cool. After a long bout I settled with this: “Look, I’m only here for 5 days. I just want to do some sightseeing. You’ve seen my return ticket and my hotel is booked. I’m also a travel blogger. I plan to take a lot of photos and videos and put them on my blog. If you want, I could show it to you”.
Just then the officer whipped out an Ipad and replied, “Yeah, I think you should do that”, as if he didn’t believe me.
I typed in the address to the homepage of my blog and after spending less than 2 minutes in a room to inspect it, the officer came back and said I was free to go.
Welcome to Sydney
I wound up arriving at my hotel—The Capsule Hotel—in the early afternoon and crashing the entire day. Not a bad way to sleep, though, right!?
Ah, welcome to Sydney!