Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hanoi Trip 2014 – Day 1

It was September 2009 when I first visited Vietnam (see the blog post here) but I only stayed one day in Hanoi. My only purpose that time was to experience the Halong Bay cruise. So after five years, I decided to come back and spend more time in the country's capital. Good thing I have some colleagues/friends who accommodated me very well and were so kind to provide me a quick but wonderful experience in this beautiful city. I landed on 27th of June at around twelve in the afternoon and since I didn't get much sleep, I made a quick nap in the hotel before meeting the guys.


The hotel I chose was very close to the Vietnam office so I was able to see it and for the first time, meet the rest of the guys. I have known Ha, Son and Cuong during our onsite project in Oman. So, I met Tu, Tung and incidentally, Elena was also there whom I've already met in Dubai office (she is from Russia office). Another guy, Dung, was out of the office that time but I was able to meet him the next day. After that quick "hi and hello", Tu accompanied me to walk around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake.


Hoàn Kiếm Lake is historical lake in the central Hanoi. The name means "Lake of the Returned Sword" and it is one of the major tourist spots in the capital. Tu and I took one round of walking and the sight of each step was marvelous. The calm lake was so beautiful that the reflection of the trees and a small light from the sun created a scene of magnificence. The dead big turtle was also on display and Tu told me that there was one remaining huge turtle inhabits the lake.


After more than an hour, we came back to the office. After few more minutes, their office hours were finished so it was time for dinner! Haha. Unfortunately, Tung was unable to join us for some reason. So we went to this restaurant and ordered some foods. But most importantly, an overflowing beer was required. The place was filled with customers and our table was also filled with beer! When they say 'Cheers!', you have no choice but to lift your mug and drink even though you just drank a minute before that. The foods were good but I think the beers were better; it was my first time to taste a black beer.


There was a stage that was setup during that time and of course with a stage, comes performers. There were singing and dance numbers. See the video above as a sample of what you can expect in this restaurant.


After that sumptuous dinner, the night wasn't done yet. We went to this karaoke bar and sang our lungs out. The difference of their karaoke bar in Hanoi is that you have to list down the songs that you want to sing and give it to a staff so that they can load it into your room's video system. They didn't have a prepared list of songs where you can select and choose a number. Nevertheless, we still enjoyed that singing moment. Our song selection included classic, boy band and love songs.


Oh no, the night didn't end yet after that, Ha, Elena and I went to a bar to have some cocktail and enjoy music. The bar's name was 'The Bank' and it was packed with a lot of people. Their DJ was a foreigner but the sounds and lights were great and flashy. And yes, after that, we got tired and sleepy so we decided to call it a night. Besides, my day 2 in Hanoi required me to wake up early for a road trip.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How to Apply US Visa from UAE


I was blessed to be granted with multiple entry tourist visa valid for ten years. The steps were not that hard but make sure to have your documents and references ready. Actually, I have two friends who informed and advised me that it is easier to apply visa in US Embassy in Abu Dhabi than the consulate in Dubai. So it's up to you where you want to make your application but in my case, I followed their suggestion.

So below are the steps on how to acquire tourist visa. Be reminded that these are based from my experience and their procedures might change.
  1. Make sure you have a passport picture that was taken not more than six months. Information on the correct photo can be found here: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/general/photos.html. Prepare a scanned copy of it and use the photo tool on this website to crop the required size and face dimension.
  2. Complete the online application (https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/). They call it DS-160 (Non-immigrant Visa Application). I would advise to prepare your resume and refresh your travel history. The application form will ask you about personal data, travel plan, family information, education, employment history, income and countries you have visited. After completing the form, it will give you unique number and a barcode.
  3. Next is to pay the visa application fee and make an appointment. Visit the page https://usvisa-info.com/. You will need to register and input all your details and I think the unique number from DS-160 form will be needed. On this step, you will be asked to pay and choose your preferred location of passport pickup.
  4. Lastly, make sure to arrive on your appointed date, time and location. I would advise you to go there one hour before your appointment and make sure to wear semi-formal attire.

On your date of appointment, make sure to have the following requirements:
  • A passport that is valid for at least six months.
  • Also, bring your old passport. It might contain stamps from other countries that you have visited.
  • Bring passport picture.
  • Bank statements for the last three months.
  • Letter from your employer stating position, start date and salary
  • Letter from your employer establishing purpose of travel.

In my experience, to be prepared, I brought all other important documents such as transcript of records, diploma, employment certificate and birth certificate. Though these were not required, it is still better to have them ready if the consul will ask for it. There were chances that they will still require further documents, proof and information.

So that's it, it isn't that hard right? So good luck to your application!

 
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