How I had to Leave Indonesia and got stuck in Kuala Lumpur for Visa problems
This is a story of how I almost lost my Dutch citizenship without noticing, how I had to use all my knowledge about a MotoGP driver to escape from the border patrol in KL and how I got locked up in my own country without being able to leave. This is also a story on how bureaucracy is increasing and how it is becoming a serious problem in the western world. While the amount of travelers and digital nomads that are constantly moving from country to country and crossing borders are getting into trouble. Know the rules, avoid these situations and make sure that this story will not become your story.
A little over half a year ago, I was in China, Beijing and had just heard that I was accepted for a 6 month internship at one of the leading co-working centers in the world – Hubud, Bali.
The internship company that I had to apply for arranged my sponsorship and most of my visa papers. Everything seemed taken care of and after a double check by myself and a visa agency I believed that I had nothing to worry about.
It was Saturday morning in Bali halfway June. The Internship had nearly finished and me and a friend were in the south. I was trying to call my visa agency who took care of my visa renewal every month. I wanted to have everything sorted out since 7 friends were going to visit me on Monday for 2 – 4 weeks and I wanted to show them around. Normally I get a text or a call from the agency when my visa is about to expire so I can make an appointment to extend. Now, because of a Balinese holiday I knew that they were busy and I didn’t get the call and tried to reach them myself. After a while I got the owner of the company on the other line who said that I could hand in my passport on the day that it expired, which was Monday and he would take care of it and I won’t have any overstay – due to the holiday, they weren’t open in the weekend and so I was pretty lucky, I thought. I finished my breakfast / lunch and didn’t think about the problem until I got my next call, the visa agency owner. He had a friendly voice and a Balinese accent but I heard a tone of worry in his voice in which he apologized. “I’m sorry mister Jaime, but we just found out that Indonesia will not extend your visa anymore and you will have to leave the country before Monday.” Apparently they made a mistake and told me the last time that I still had 2 extensions left. However, they told the embassy that it was my 6th extension the last time and so I had to leave the country, today or tomorrow.
My friend helped me and in the little coffee place where we had fast WiFi, we booked a ticket to Kuala Lumpur. I even got a little excited since 3 of the friends who were visiting were staying there and so I could surprise them and take the same flight back to Bali. Little did I know that this phone call would result in almost losing my Dutch citizenship and a lot of trouble in the next coming months..
We went to a ticket office close by to book my returning flight with the same company as my friends booked. And there I noticed that everything was not as easy as it seemed. I didn’t have my passport with me but knew everything by heart after years of traveling. After I told the expiration date of my passport, she told me that I couldn’t book this return ticket. How could I forget? I wasn’t aloud to travel the last month in Indonesia and now I had to leave the country!
After endless calls with the visa agency owner who knew everything concerning passports, visas other regulations in other countries, we made a plan. I would leave tomorrow, see my friends, and on Monday, I would take my friends to the airport, go to the embassy, ask for a new passport and leave to Bali with my brand new passport as soon as possible. The Visa guy expected a new passport to take about 3 days but wasn’t sure about the embassy in KL.
And so I left, no problem at the airport, I saw my friends, we had an awesome night, and I went to the embassy after they left to Bali. I had a driver pick them up and bring them to the villa and my Indonesian friend who I was having breakfast with arranged the rest.
Walking through Kuala Lumpur which is an amazing city I was actually starting to enjoy myself. I decided to walk to the embassy which was a bit longer than an hour but it gave me time to think what else I had to do and how I ended up in this situation. I had a good feeling about it and the embassy was easy to find and when I arrived at the desk there was a nice lady who spoke dutch fluently. I explained the situation and she said it was no problem to get a new passport, my confidence grew and I already saw myself reunited with my friends in Bali. Until she said the words; “it will only take 2 – 3 weeks to get a new passport.” She saw my confidence disappearing again and quickly added; “but you can also get an emergency passport which you can get in 24 hours.” That’s more like my plan, I thought, not knowing what she would say next. “To apply for an emergency passport you need some kind of proof that you need to leave this country, the case with your friends is a personal reason and therefore, not enough. However, if you have a flight ticket from KL to abroad, than it’s enough.” My head was spinning, I remember not being able to book a flight because of my passport situation and now she was telling me to book a flight in order to resolve my passport situation? But I had to do it, I couldn’t risk not seeing my friends who came to visit and whom I hadn’t seen in a year.
I wanted to leave the dusty Dutch embassy full of people shouting because I couldn’t hear myself think and decided to just get a hotel in the area and try again tomorrow.
I was walking outside and found a small hostel on the internet which was supposed to be inside a little mall. While I was searching in the busy traditional shopping mall, full of clothes, carpets, offerings and headscarves, I found a little shop offering cheap flight tickets. And instead of going to the hotel, I went there to check if they’d give me a ticket without a passport. The answer was no, I had to get my passport first and then book a ticket with them back to Bali.
From them I also heard that the hostel closed 3 years ago and so I took a taxi to the city center and booked another one. At the hostel I spend the whole night on the internet figuring out ways to solve my problem and trying to connect to people with similar experiences.
Someone encouraged me to go back to the little ticket shop in the mall and explain the whole situation, then they might give me a ticket. Since this seemed to be my only option at the time I woke up early the other day and returned to the ticket shop desk, explained the whole situation and asked if they could help me. “No problem, I just need a little bit more cash from you” He said smiling from underneath his mustache. I was desperate, stuck in Kuala Lumpur while my friends were in Bali visiting me and this was my only option, so I said yes, bought the ticket, returned to the embassy and applied for an emergency passport. A few days later I was on my way with my new pink emergency passport with Bali as my destination!
At the airport waiting for my stamp in my little brand new girly passport I was refused and told to walk with two guys who came walking towards me. Their serious faces turned into a smile and if you didn’t look at the uniform, size of their arms and the automatic rifle that one of them was holding, they actually looked quite friendly. They put me in a room where I waited for about an hour until I was fed up with waiting, I tried to walk out of the door where a guy was standing with another huge rifle (They had guards for me?!) and he told me to wait inside because the guy was still praying. He was praying? These situations would only happen in Asia right? The situation felt too surreal for me, and it was almost as if I was a national criminal even though all I wanted was to see my friends in Bali. At that moment the person in charge came outside with two other guys who immediately started to look at my passport and discuss loudly in Malay, no words were said to me which made me feel even more like a criminal. They also had uniforms on, but you could clearly see that they had a higher function than walking around with huge guns just to scare me. Their uniforms, complete with badges and shoulder patches looked more like that of an army general, but instead of green, these were more light blue.
One guy who was obviously the youngest of the three turned to me and asked if I was following MotoGP and if I was a fan of Valentino Rossi, with eyes that clearly showed that he was actually quite excited to talk to me. The others didn’t really pay attention to what he was doing and kept on discussing, one now using the computer to proof the other wrong. I had recently read an article about Valentino Rossi from a friend who is a big fan and knew that his manager just quit, information that the guy I was talking with already knew. However, the little information I knew about the MotoGP star seemed to excite the young man and he was asking me more questions about where I was from, every time going back to his bike obsession, “Do they have a bike track in the Netherlands?” “Does your family ride bikes?” “Did you ever ride a racing bike before?” The other two seemed to have given up whatever they were trying to do and asked me for help. When I looked over the desk and saw what they were working on I couldn’t believe my eyes.
The person in charge explained in poor English that the stamp and proof when and if I entered Malaysia legally was in my other passport which the Dutch embassy punctured with 3 big holes to make the passport, and everything in it invalid. And so they had to put a new stamp in my emergency passport which was actually against the rules, but because they liked me (the youngest especially), they could ‘arrange’ something for me. These words sounded like something three corrupt border patrol guards would say and I started to be afraid that this was gonna cost me again, or that something else was about to unfold. However, this was the least of their worries and the discussion that they had since they came in was not about getting money from me, or using the huge guy outside with the automatic rifle to beat me up. When I saw the page in my passport and their questioning faces looking at me I saw their efforts to write the words ‘previously old passport’ and the capital of Bali ‘Denpasar’. They had no idea if these were the words they needed to write and how to write them and they made a mess underneath my newly, not totally legally acquired stamp, that they already put in!
My heart started beating again and it felt like it didn’t for the last hour or so. I helped them out being very polite and helping them with their English phrases, somehow still scared that they’d change their mind and still decide to knock me out and take my cash. But none of those things happened and I got their phone number and was told with a smile that if I got in trouble I could call them. Not sure how these guys could help me solve any problem but I was thankful for the stamp which got me into the flight to Bali which would later reunite me with my friends.
The rest of the flight was without any trouble and even when I arrived in Indonesia with my little pink passport with weird stamps I didn’t have any problems. It wasn’t until two months after when I applied for a real passport when problems started piling up again. Apparently, if you are a Dutch citizen and born and raised in the Netherlands, it’s not always that easy to get a new Dutch passport.
To be Continued…
Read about it here