. This is a mad gathering around tiny little windows with lots of pushing and shoving. I finally get someone to take our passports, then I see them get put on the bottom of the pile. Sigh… we might be here awhile… Once we finally get our exit stamps, we get back on the little carts, and drive to China. Then we go through Chinese border patrol and customs. Things are much more organized on the Chinese side, straight lines and every is actually standing behind the little yellow line! There is a funny thing on the desk that says “how’s my service?“ and there are little buzzers with a smiley face and a grumpy face. I’m dying to push one, but am afraid that either way I’ll get in trouble- if I push the happy one, I might have to explain what the officer did that was so good (like let me through with contraband??), and if I hit the grumpy face, he might keep my passport! So, I just look ahead stoically while the guard spends at least 15 seconds making sure my passport photo matches my face! It was a long 15 seconds….Finally, we get another cart and get taken to a place where another bus is waiting to take us to Nanning. The whole process takes about 2 hours, and there are always people yelling something in Chinese and we just feel completely clueless and lost the whole time. Welcome to China!
I see the signs for Nanning and we stop at a local looking bus station. We get off, get our bags, but then notice that half the bus is still onboard. Luckily we were able to print out the address of our Nanning hotel while in Hanoi, so Jeff shows it to the bus attendant and she says, “no!” We figure that means put our stuff back on and then the bus pulls away! After about 30 more minutes, we realize that we were in the industrial part of Nanning before, because we are awestruck by the Las Vegas style lights on all the high rise building
. Talk about some bling! Whole buildings had light shows going on, there were Chinese words in neon- it was something to see! Finally we get to the “real” bus station, grab our bags and are soo happy to see one sign in English - “Tourist Information”. And the guy speaks English! So we get him to write the name of our hotel in Chinese we can show it to the taxi driver. He indicates that there are taxis outside, so we go out expecting to see a line up. There is not one single taxi! Eventually we cross a 4 lane main road to hail one from the other side, show him our piece of paper, he nods and away we go! We pull up to a very fancy looking hotel, with porters and a huge modern lobby. A hotel like this would cost at least $250 in the US, we paid $40! We were so happy! We dropped our bags in the room and went to find out how we were going to get to Guilin the next day (our real desired destination). The travel office lady didn’t speak English so she not so helpfully gave us the phone number to the train station (or maybe bus station, we weren’t sure). HA! Like they were going to speak English!! Finally we got the front desk lady on the phone and she said she would call for us so we should go see her in 30 minutes. Then we went in search of food (since we had not eaten since breakfast and it was now around 9pm). The hotel had a huge banquet style restaurant. We sat down, opened a menu--all in Chinese. The ladies went scrambling and came up with an English menu, then she stood there waiting while we tried to decide what to eat
. There are no descriptions, so we just point to “dumplings” and “fried rice with beef and peppers”. Bell peppers is what I thought we were getting, but the food that came was so hot I was sweating after 2 bites and had to wait for the dumplings. Food in Laos, Vietnam and China all just comes when it is ready, so you share everything --just start eating whatever shows up on the table first! And even though we were in a fancy hotel restaurant, the bill was still less that $5 (With 2 beers, too!). We went back to the front desk where “Ribi” was going to meet us to tell us about getting to Guilin. She had the train departure times, wrote “Guilin” in Chinese on a piece of paper so we headed up to our rooms where a hot shower and air conned room awaited us! Next stop, Guilin!
I quote that from the Lonely Planet Asian phrase book about China--and I couldn’t have said it better myself (except maybe I would use the word “planet“ instead of “world“!)! Everywhere else we have traveled, there has been someone, somewhere that speaks English, and we can usually make out the signs or they have them translated in English. China has much less of everything that makes it “Easy” for non-Chinese speakers to travel here. We traveled on a 12 hour busride that should have been 8 from Hanoi, Vietnam to Nanning, China. Comfortable, but I cannot read on a bus due to motion sickness, so I am completely sick of my iPhone play lists!! At the border crossing, we knew things were going to be difficult--there was no one to explain things to us, so we just follow everyone else. Basically we had to get off the big bus, grab our bags, they put a little tag around our necks (all in Chinese, but we assume it says “lost foreigner, if found send to Nanning”) get on little carts (Houstonians will understand the reference-carts like they had at Astroworld to get you from the parking lot to the park,) and you go get your exit stamp from the Vietnamese border patrol