Thursday, April 8, 2010

At The Customs

The last time I flew was in 2007.  I was so caught up with my daily transactions that time sure passed so quickly. 

As I was talking about flying, some funny stories pop up on being stopped by custom officers.  

At one time, my friend was travelling from Malaysia to NZ with a packet of bak kwa (bbq dried pork).  She knew that NZ does not allow fresh products into the country because they might carry diseases.  She wanted to try her luck anyway.  She declared the bak kwa but the officer would not allow it through custom.  It should be thrown away as she was told.  "It's such a waste, I'll eat them all right now," she said as she munched and munched while the custom officer watched.

A lady was searched and found a big packet of yellow powder in her bag.  She was stopped at Sydney Internationl Airport.  My husband and I were guessing that the yellow powder looked a lot like turmeric.  The officers were quite frantic and called the fire department, perhaps thinking it was an explosive substance.  After some time, the authority announced that it was a type of food additive.  I bet they were embarrassed to say it was just turmeric.

And, of course we were stopped a few time in Australia and once in the US, not because we were carrying prohibited food.  They were particularly fussy about our passports i.e from an islamic country.  They flipped those pages like crazy and made photocopies of all of them.  Many travellers don't really know the importance of declaring what are in their bags especially medicines, food etc.  You will get an instance fine of A$220 if you do not declare.  Even if you're just carrying 1 apple.  That would be a very expensive apple!

Do you have any "at the customs" story?

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uLi.佑莉 said...

So terrible experience seems...So far I am fine at the customs lo. May be I didn't travel to western country le ^^

gus said...

Haven't got the chance to travel overseas. The only customs I go through occassionally is the duty free customs at Labuan Airport; my liquor and me.

manglish said...

hahahha i love tat bak kwa story....let's see ohhh i had one, but not funny, and it happened in our own country not anywhere else, the custom officers were randomly picking up ppl and i just got back from Bali, all burnt and probably look like an illegal indonesian with my unkempt moustache and kena called into the room 1st time leh then they ask me wat i do, i told them, haahha u shud see the look on their face, anyway it taught me a lesson, to avoid hassle, dress decently at the custom....and i threw away all my maggie cup noodles in melbourne airport...

Wenny Yap said...

After munching and munching so much 'bak kwa' that day, I guess she must be really turn off by it now ... hahaha!

Anyway, whenever it comes to the customs, I always worry without fail eventhough I don't carry any prohibited items. Phobia!

I still remember during my trip to China in 2008 when I caught the flu. I was crossing back from HongKong to Guangzhou and got stopped by the customs due to my fever. Luckily I had popped some aspirins about 15 minutes before and my fever subsided quite abit. If not, I guess it'll be QUARANTINE la!

Anonymous said...

US authorities are tightening custom checks in recent years and it can be quite a hassle travelling there. I know Australia and NZ is pretty strict with foodstuff being brought into the country.

I have an interesting encounter with the customs when I stepped into Israel a few years ago. We don't have diplomatic ties with them so those people searched our bags really carefully. My friend's luggage was unfortunately picked for search....and she had to re-pack everything nicely after her stuff were rummaged through. My luggage was spared but a guy picked on my wallet and kept on scanning that thing. all my years of travelling, I have never been asekd for my wallet for scanning! Those who have diplomatic ties with them were given a special lane to pass through without all the hassle and delay our group encountered.

Shingo T said...

Hi Ai Shiang!
Me sneaking some time from work to take a break and catch up with a few blogs here.

I only have 2 custom story.

(1) The Johor custom where I saw one police officer checking the bags of someone, and after he saw vitagen in the bag, he took a bottle out to drink. Gosh, as they say, our policemen sure are "thirsty".

(2) The custom at Colarado, US. First time I enter using my Malaysia passport, and felt interrogated. Was asked my office phone number and I told him I can't recall. When he said "How can you not know your office number?", I retorted back "That's because I don't call myself".


Ai Shiang said...

I think all customs have their own drama whether or not in Asia or western country.

Liquor and you should be alright if you stay within limit, right?

I think not only have to dress properly, also don't wear cap and don't appear nervous. Otherwise they will stop you.

Does Quarantine mean you will be stopped in HK for a couple of days?

Mei Teng,
I thought you can't travel to Isreal with Malaysia passport? Did you've special arrangement before you were there? I watched a couple of Isrealis movies, the city is all full of militaries or some sort of police on the watchout for terrorists, that's a rather scary lifestyle.

Shingo T,
Thanks for the entertaining stories. No.2 is particularly funny. what was the officer's reaction when you told him you don't call yourself often? I hope he wasn't pissed :o)

HappySurfer said...

Yeah, Mei Teng, I thought Israel is one country Malaysians are not allowed to visit. I believe it's printed on a back page. Have the rules changed I wonder.

Shingo, thirsty, alright.

When going to the US west coast, I was told to avoid entering thru LA because that's a very busy airport and checks are more stringent.

Anonymous said...

You can only enter for pilgrimage purpose. Not for normal sightseeing. Beautiful spite of what's being reported in the news.

Superman said...

Haha. I remembered last time when in Uni, my friend's parent went to Adelaide to visit their son and it is around Mooncakes Festival. They brought mooncakes and didn't declare it. They were fined AUD500!!! Really expensive mooncakes which they don't even have the chance to smell it. Sigh...

Lily Riani said...

mine was super silly, i went to london with cousin and 5 of her kids as nanny. when packing to come back, i forgot to pack my small alarm clock - no handphone during those days lar. thus, i dump the small tiny clock into my backpack.

guess what, when scanning my bag, they thought it was a bomb (i forgot abt the clock completely), next thing i know, policeman was surrounding the isle and they open my bag gently and declare - its a clock. my cousin saw thing and burst out laughing.... MALU

Ben said...

Passing through custom can be a nightmare but thinking back the effort those overzealous custom officers put in especially on suspected terror... I can not disagree that their action somewhat make me feel safer especially on-board the aircraft. Sometime I pity them also, people complaint them when nothing happen and condemn them when something happened. Tough job.

Bananazക said...

Family trip to Perth and my sister-in-law got 'stopped' but customs as they need to check the milk powder of her infant son.

A friend's colleague who happens to be a Singh was forced to untie his turban in USA. He was on an incentive tour and that was a month later after 911 tQ.

fufu said...

i was forced to pay 220 >< because i forgot to tell i had the chinese herbs with me too T.T shit!!!!!!!! but anyway i had earned back the money by picking strawberries... ><

Alice Law said...

Hi, am swinging by from Bananaz!

How hilarious it's the custom misinterpreted tumeric powder as explosive, can't stop laughing...LOL!

Bananaz's experience also very funny! Untied a Singh's turban, I can imagine!

Thanks for giving me some good jokes, have a pleasant week ahead!

Ai Shiang said...

It might be possible for other ports to stop at other airports beside LA. Don't know why most airlines from Australia all have to stop in LA. I have it.

Mei Teng,
Thanks for the info. Something interesting and new. I thought all Malaysia passports are not allowed in.

That's a lot for mooncakes. I bet your friend already can buy very good mooncakes with that $500 fine.

Thanks for the entertaining comment. I laughed!

You do have a good point there. Sometime they are over reacting but they are only doing their job. Besides, they have so many passengers to check.

Ai Shiang said...

My 3 in 1 tea satchels got confiscated as well. They have milk powder in them.

It's an instance fine for not declaring.

Alice Law,
Thank you for stopping by. Glad that you enjoyed this post :o)

HappySurfer said...

Are we still stuck here "at the customs"? LOL! Just kidding..

Happy Monday and a wonderful week ahead, Ai Shiang.

kenwooi said...

all my custom experience had been good so far.. went to UK, brought medicines but went thru.. =)

alison said...

so far i'm good with the customs, no funny stuff in bag. the one i can't even remember which airport, my husband had to buka buka because of the "beep" metal detector... it was his shoe! so had to open shoes and passed. no lah, didnt buka all lah! :P

Pete said...

It is a big risk not to declare food stuff when entering NZ and Aust.......someone told me one lady in her tour group was fined for bringing in one apple!

foongpc said...

Haha! Munching away at the bakkwa while the officers watch? That's funny!! I think I rather throw them all away! Haha!

I was once stopped for having in my hand luggage a bottle of hand sanitizer. You know, I had to carry one to prevent H1N1. They threw my expensive bottle away! Sob sob!

Lesson learnt : Check to make sure all liquid products bigger than 100ml to be placed in check-in luggage and not in hand-carry luggage.

Ayie said...

so far none and great that i don't have such encounters

gina said...

There was once, I told a travel mate not to bring her diet pills to Australia because, it's a holiday! You don't need to go on a diet! She insisted and she declared she brought herbal pills in her luggage. When the customs opened her bag to check, she behaved erratically by giggling like a psycho which rendered her - probably high on some weed. She was taken into the interrogation room. Thank God we have so much time to spare before our connecting flight.. otherwise.. imagine the agony. Enough said. Nobody should travel with people who has the least consideration for other people traveling with them.

Ai Shiang said...

*thumbs up!

I recalled we needed to scan our shoes too in LA.

NZ and Aussie are very strict on fresh produces.

She didn't throw the bak kwa away because we can't get bak kwa in NZ, jus eat it lor.

Good for you :o)

Aiyah, why gila-gila like that. It's very important to stay alert otherwise passengers will end up interrogated.