The tunnel goes on but I can see a dot of light at the end now!
I did think that visas and vaccinations were all done and dusted now... but not quite. Flying over China because I cannot get the Chinese visa means that I will get to Vietnam a month earlier than my visa is timed for. I've been doing so much rushing about recently that this thought only recently occurred to me, as I was riding my bike the other day. So I visited the Vietnamese Embassy this afternoon where at first I was told to come back tomorrow because consular services are only available in the morning. While I kicked myself at the gate in the freezing rain for not having fully grasped the opening hours on the website a few hours previously, a kindly gent of distinctly oriental facial features appeared and questioned my business. As I described my woeful tale the oriental features softened, and a moment later he had opened the gate and invited me up to the visa office where he entered into spirited conversation (one presumes it was Vietnamese) with the visa lady behind the glass screen, who had been the one, I think, to have informed me a few moments earlier via the intercom, that her office was closed. Their brief discussion was amicably resolved and I was handed a new visa form and advised to return with the passport, completed form and £25 fee to issue a new visa. Result! I can do that next Monday when I get my passport back from Scott's Visa Agency with the Belarus visa in it. What could possibly go wrong?
The Vietnam Embassy was actually very conveniently situated in Kensington on my way back home from the Masta Travel Health clinic near Oxford Circus, which I had also visited today to get a vaccination against Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE), one that both my practice nurse at the GP surgery and I had both overlooked. Our focus had been on South-East Asia which is chock-full of deadly diseases like typhoid, cholera, rabies, malaria, hepatitis A&B, Japanese Encephalitis... you name it! I'm protected against all that lot, but we forgot about TBE which is prevalent much closer to home: eastern Germany, Poland, Belarus and Russia, as well as much of Scandinavia (where I was last year, in high summer camping wild in the woods, blissfully ignorant that I was putting myself at highest possible risk of contracting a potentially fatal brain damaging disease) and Austria where it is so common and widespread that all children are routinely vaccinated like ours are for MMR and TB. The second jab must be given at least two weeks after the first, by which time I should be in Berlin, so now I've got to find a clinic there and make an appointment.
I shall be jolly glad on 5th April when all I have to do is JBP!