I've been a little behind in posting any updates for a while, mostly because I wanted to wait until I had secured my Chinese visa before commenting on the process. I've heard millions of horror stories about how difficult getting through all the bureaucratic red tape can be and I was determined not to believe any of it and forge on unhindered.
According to the Chinese Embassy, they will only take visa applications in person or through a 3rd party broker. Its an effective way to subsidize other vendors or completely screw with the schedules of the lucky people who live in the few cities across the country that host a Chinese Embassy, as they require your presence for hours and days at a time. After shopping around to find the cheapest option (after all, they all promise roughly the same service), I went with CSCA Visa Mail Service. I sent the documents in on September 27th and they handled the whole process within 5 business days (all in all it was a 10-day process) and cost $323.97 for two visas and FedEx shipping. Not too shabby. They were good at keeping me updated about when they received my application, when it was being processed, and when it was being shipped back to me. Plus, now I have a full page visa glued into my passport ready for me when I fly into Beijing on November 6th.
Currently my passport is sitting in the mail waiting to be delivered to the Vietnamese Embassy. I'll have loads to write about that once I get confirmation of the process. I'm having a bit of anxiety about the whole thing since I leave home on October 24th and if I don't have my passport back in the mail by the 23rd its going to be awfully difficult to leave the country. More to come....
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