27 January 2008

Effective Immediately

As of January 1, 2008, the visa fee for non-immigrant visas to the United States will increase from $100 to $131. Don't worry, your Uncle Adolf and Aunt Mercedes from Europe can still visit for free--this only applies to nationals of those countries who require a visa, like Lesotho, Paraguay, and Chad. Why this might be of concern is the likely retribution many countries will seek by raising their own fees accordingly. It already costs US citizens (and US only) $100 to visit Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, China, Bangladesh, Syria, Azerbaijan, and I don't know where else. Personally, I'm not planning any trips to Azerbaijan, but the other two of the last three *are* on my itinerary (and I just barely missed Bolivia's fee, which was recently implemented). I just found this out today, so I may even skip Bangladesh--does anyone know if it's worth $100? I guess daily expenses will be low enough to compensate. But I could also dump more time into India--no loss there. And I also found out that Sri Lanka is free (unlike Myanmar) and still relatively safe in the touristy sections. So, decisions decisions as usual on the road, and always, sadly, pathetically, money-related. Paul Theroux sometimes pokes fun at penny-pinching backpackers like myself, but when all you have are pennies, you have to pinch them hard, indeed (and, unlike him, I haven't already published a dozen books). The Japanese government did help my cause by finally refunding the tax I paid there last year (yay for the yen, by the way!), but I am steadily heading toward Europe, where cash will drain away faster than a yodel echoes.

All that is filler, because I have nothing interesting to report from the tourist hell of Thamel, Kathmandu. The day after arriving, I decided to treat myself, for the first time, to one of those half-day spa packages the ladies and metros are always raving about. For about $60 (including tax and tip), I got a full body massage, facial, manicure/pedicure (I had the option of either this or a BBQ lunch!?), haircut, and access to the jacuzzi (not working, of course), sauna, pool, gym, etc. Very nice, and all this at the palatial Le Meridien resort. Out front is a large pipal tree beneath which Keanu Reeves achieved enlightenment in the movie "Little Buddha". Next time, I want to try the full-body "wrap".

I also had my head completely shaved and my beard and mustache trimmed.

1 comment:

Jhenn said...

you shaved your head!? wow!

And I haven't received any of my taxes/pension/airfare back yet!!! GAH!