I recently joined a small upstart firm developing some pretty interesting CE products. We're traveling to Shanghai in a couple of days to meet our manufacturing partners there. I've never been to China before so I'm pretty excited about going. Not particularly looking forward to the grueling 12-hour flight down there though; already started charging all my gadgets to keep me entertained or at least distracted the whole way.
alight with the glow from charge indicator LEDs
Turns out that flying to China is a bit more complicated than any place I've traveled to before. For one thing, unlike flying to the US where you can usually get away with just signing a visa waiver while on the plane, you actually have to get a visa made at the local chinese consulate. Naturally this can't be done too simple or too convenient.
The best way to deal with the bureaucratic rubbish is by downloading and completing an onerous multi-page application form, which when it comes down to it is not substantially more horrid than the paperwork you do when you fly into the US from Europe.
The Chinese Embassy here has its visa consulate office in a separate building; a plain white house that looks to have been a private residence until recently. The lawn facing the street sports an assortment of trees and flowerbeds, and a half-empty concrete lined pond in which the wind causes a very old and algae covered leather football to gently drift about.
Inside the sensation of being in someone's house is underscored by a comfy couch and coffee table arrangement in front of large picture windows overlooking the garden. The wall decor is somewhat spartan, however: Numerous magazine racks each holding one copy of a glossy brochure irresistibly titled China's Tibet. The stories about Happy and Prosperous and Sensible Tibetans who Collaborate and Behave Properly are beautifully illustrated with lush photos of snow covered mountaintops and smiling children and monks. Of course.
I picked up an informative leaflet about the evil Falun Gong movement, which to Beijing is evidently as Psychiatrists are to Tom Cruise.
In the comfy consulate couches sits people completing and carefully double-checking their application paperwork. There's the sound of coins being handled: People are counting the wads of cash they are bringing to pay for the visa stamp service, which runs to about USD 180 for a visa good for 12 months. (Credit cards not accepted, sorry). There are helpful directions to a bank with a cash machine less than half a mile away.