“The most interesting stories are found between the pages of one’s passport”
Well, I am being repetitive, because I said that already. In this previous post about the 5 most interesting visas on my passport.
But in the same post, I had also mentioned that visas are different from entry/exit stamps. A visa is what you need to enter a country, and it may be obtained in advance, upon arrival, or as an Electronic visa. On the other hand, an entry/exit stamp is what the immigration officer gives you, to mark the date that you entered/left the country. So, its 2 different things altogether.
So, what’s so unique about entry/exit stamps? A lot actually, if you realise that an entry/exit stamp is also one of the ways that countries tend to showcase a little bit of their culture to the visiting tourists.
So, I went back to my passport again. To check through all the entry/exit stamps that I have collected over the years. Some of them were boring, with nothing except the date and a sign of the immigration officer. And some of them were totally unreadable – mostly countries in the middle east where the entry stamps are usually in Arabic.
Put these aside, and there were indeed some really interesting stamps. And here are 5 of my favorite, quirky, interesting entry/exit stamps on my passport.
P.S: Is there a name for a guy who collects entry/exit stamps on his passport? Like a numismatist collects coins?
Further Reading: I did not include a particular country in this list, which gave me an entry stamp for just 20 minutes! Just so I could smoke a cigarette. Click here for one of my most weirdest entry stamp stories.
Well, Bhutan is that one rare country which always gives me immense joy to hold an Indian passport. While most of the world has to pay an exorbitant amount of money to enter Bhutan, Indians get in visa-free. In fact, we don’t even need an entry/exit stamp, since Bhutan is visa-free anyway. (Just like Nepal, which I once crossed without even knowing that I had crossed an international border)
Or wait, is it possible to get an entry or an exit stamp for Bhutan? I wanted to try. So, on one of my motorcycle rides out of Bhutan and back to india, I tried to ask the soldier at the border checkpoint in Phuentsholing if I can get an exit stamp. He was flummoxed, because in his own words, “this was the first time that an Indian guy had asked him to stamp his passport.” But I persisted. I knew there was an exit stamp that was reserved for non-Indian visitors. I asked him to give me one.
He finally relented, convinced that he was talking to yet another nutcase from India.
Further Reading: If you are planning to ride a motorcycle from India INTO Bhutan, click for my experience at Phuentsholing.
I think island nations have the most interesting entry/exit stamps! Mainly because they use this as an opportunity to showcase a bit of their culture. Like Palau rightfully did.
When I landed in Palau, I had no other plans than to visit the famous jellyfish lake. But as most of my travel plans usually turn out, the jellyfish lake was closed. I spent a few days in Palau wondering what else I could see.
I did find a few things to do eventually in Koror, the capital of Palau. And the most beautiful among them was visiting a Bai, the traditional community home of Palau. A small, yet elegant, design which is where most Palauans still meet.
And it was only when I left the country, that I found out how integral a Bai was to the Palau culture. After all, it was featured right on the exit stamp!
Further Reading: As part of my personal project to write a Shakespearean Sonnet to every country in the world, Palau was one of the first countries where I did it. Click if you would like to read a sonnet for Palau.
I remember studying back in school about the Dodo. But it was only when I reached Mauritius that I found out that this extinct flightless bird was once endemic only to the island nation of Mauritius. (Maybe it was mentioned in my school textbooks, but I have a notoriously sieve-like brain)
Mauritius had no human occupation for thousands of years, because it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere. It was the Dutch who settled here in 1634 and started the human influx. The sudden increase in the amount of people meant that forests had to be cleared and animals – including the dodo – were killed for their meat. The dodo being quite stout and slow, were easy preys. And by the end of the century, they were completely extinct.
In the modern world, there are no remaining dodo skeletons any where in the world, and this innocent flightless bird is completely erased from history. But Mauritius maintains their legacy with a small homage to the dodo bird on its entry and exit stamp.
Further Reading: If you are planning on visiting this beautiful island nation, read my account of a road-trip through Mauritius island.
Like the Dodo was endemic to Mauritius, the coco de mer is endemic to Seychelles. But the difference is that this plant was extinct there for a while, and has recently been reintroduced.
Commonly called sea coconut or double coconut, this plant produces the largest wild fruits. A common mature fruit can weight between 15-30 kg, and the largest one recorded was a whopping 42kg!! The seed itself is amazing heavy, which can weight up to 17 kg.
Since the coco de mer is endemic to the islands of Praslin and Curieuse, I never got to see it for myself. (I only visited the island of Victoria). But I had a little relief when I saw it on the entry and exit stamps of Seychelles.
Further Reading: I am yet to pen down my experiences in the Seychelles, but you can sure check out my sonnet to Seychelles, if you are into poetry.
The Balkan Countries
The European Union has a single visa policy, so whichever country I enter, I get one entry stamp. And then another exit stamp when you leave the EU region, regardless of how many countries in the Euro zone I had just visited.
But this became really interesting when I visited the Balkans. Balkans are an amazingly gorgeous region of the world, and I have had the pleasure of backpacking extensively through this region. Almost all of the countries in the Balkans are gearing up to join the European Union, so they have standardised their visa and immigration processes according to the EU. Which means that I could enter these countries with a multiple-entry Schengen visa, but since I am technically leaving the EU, I would get another entry/exit stamp on my passport.
One that looks exactly like a EU stamp!
So, by the time that I was done backpacking through the Balkan region, my passport had a series of entry/exit stamps (they took up nearly 6 pages!) which all looked exactly the same! With a couple of minor differences. The country was differentiated by a capitalised alphabet on the left (like H for Hungary, HR for Croatia etc), how I entered/left was differentiated with a transportation symbol on the top-right (A car for road entry, train for rail entry, and a plane for flight entry), and the border post written on the bottom-right.
Further Reading: My favorite spot in the Balkans? Definitely Kotor in Montenegro. Check out this amazing gem.
There you go. That’s the 5 most interesting entry/exit stamps that I have seen so far. What about you? Any other interesting ones that you would like to share?
This post is part of my travel stories about Visas and border crossings. Click here to check out other amazing border and transit stories.
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