Monday, May 18, 2015


I never really wanted to go the United States. Getting a visa back at the US Embassy in Manila is legendary for the rate of denial and horror stories by those who have tried their luck and failed. My policy has always been: “If you don’t like me, I don’t like you either” but then there was this one boring day in Seoul... I decided to apply for a visa at the US Embassy there, and given how South Koreans can enter the US visa-free, the process was way easier and perhaps, arguably, viewed with less bias.

Blame it on history. Filipinos are rather notorious for overextending Uncle Sam’s welcome. The modus operandi is to get that six-month stamp on your passport. After six months, they never leave. Hence, the birth of the term TNT (tago-ng-tago), which roughly translates to “always hiding” -- from immigration officers, that is. It was kind of smooth sailing at the immigration for me today, though. The lines were long, but when I got my turn I was only asked why I’m here and when do I leave. Stamped: 6 months.

Customs was a different story. The Latino officer asked a lot of questions. Why am I here? Where am I staying? What is Airbnb? What do I do for a living? He let me pass, but I forgot to write my flight number on the Customs form. That’s when he called me back, wrote B on the form, and asked me to go through another Customs lane where the other Latino officer just wondered why I only had a backpack with me, concluded that I was a light packer, and then let me go without further ado. Next stop: LAX FlyAway!

The only downside of the FlyAway bus is if you take it during rush hour. It took us more than an hour to get to Union Station. By the way, you pay for the bus fare at a kiosk right AFTER you alight at Union Station. If they do that in the Philippines, the company will go bankrupt after a month because no one will ever pay. I mean, hello, how easy would it be to just quickly cross the street and pretend you never got on the bus. Union Station is nice. I had a major tourist moment there taking photos.

A ride on the Metro would cost you around USD1.70. Since I am staying for almost a week, I decided to purchase a 7-day pass for USD25 which also covers some of the bus lines. If you are staying for a week, I suggest you do the same and then abuse the Metro even if everything is within walking distance. You have to make that 25-dollar deal work hard for you. But as many locals would say, their Metro is not that extensive. Of course, these locals have not been to Metro Manila. LA Metro is fine by me.

First impressions? As I already told some friends: “lots of Asian faces; lots of Spanish dialogue.” What is there not to love? This city is just so culturally diverse, and so far everyone I have encountered has all been nice and willing to help. Of course the city is not without its jerks and morons, but I haven't met them yet, nor would I necessarily have to. The plan is to chill and meet friends, some of whom I haven't seen in more than a decade. With a city as laidback as LA, it would be hard not to chill. Me likey.

2 creature(s) gave a damn:

Anonymous said...

You applied for your US visa in Seoul? How was the process? What documents did you present and how much did you pay?

ihcahieh said...

@Anonymous - I think the amount is pretty much standard across the board. If there was a difference, it should have been minimal. I prepared the same documents I would have presented in Manila, except that I additionally had to include proof of residence in Seoul, which came in the form of my Alien Registration Card. The guy who interviewed me just asked questions. I volunteered my Seoul-based bank certificates but he said it wasn't necessary. In the end none of my documents were even verified.

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